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Life of Pi

Life of Pi

by Yann Martel

Suffering Theme

Suffering brings out the best and the worst in Life of Pi's characters. On the one hand, the characters care for each other when they very well could have killed each other. On the other hand, suffering drives a few characters to murder and cannibalism. There's a moment in the book when the protagonist catches a dorado fish. To subdue it, he beats it with a hatchet. He says, "I felt like I was beating a rainbow to death" (2.60.31). Whoever or whatever causes suffering in this novel – God or a bizarre sequence of events – the characters' musings and fortitude through it all recall the sheen and flash of a rainbow.

Questions About Suffering

  1. Does Pi's suffering on the lifeboat have a redemptive quality? Does he come away wiser? Or does his suffering simply scar him?
  2. Do the characters in this novel do evil things because they suffer? Or would they have done evil things anyways?
  3. Why do you think Pi rarely talks about losing his entire family in the shipwreck? (He at least talks about that loss less than Richard Parker and day-to-day survival.) Is it too painful? Does he talk about it by not talking about it?
  4. Certainly Pi's religious backgrounds help him slog through all this suffering. But what about his love for science and zoology? How do those interests come to his aid – if at all?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.
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