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These early chapters often outline important elements of Pi's education: Chapter 4 is the zoo and freedom chapter.
Pi tells us Pondicherry entered the Union of India in 1954. Not long after that – with civic achievement following civic achievement – Pondicherry gets a zoo. And Pi's family moves from Madras, India to Pondicherry after Pi's father buys the zoo.
Pi loves growing up in the zoo. Who wouldn't? Well, maybe members of PETA.
Then Pi launches into a discussion of religion, freedom, and zoos: the gist being animals are really free in zoos and religion actually frees the believer. See "Themes: Religion" for more on Pi's rant. We're not sure anyone has ever talked about zoos, freedom and faith all in the same breath.