Study Guide

Pi's Father in Life of Pi

By Yann Martel

Pi's Father

Pi's father, Santosh, carries the banner of the New India. This means he stands for progress, not religion.

He cares about the business of the zoo and worries about losing Pi to religious fanaticism. Pi's father says at one point:

"Progress is unstoppable. It is a drumbeat to which we all must march." (1.27.11)

Certainly Pi's father is a lovable guy: devoted to his business and family, intelligent, and though impatient with Pi's religious experimentation, ultimately kind. Pi's father is also pretty wise. When the priest, imam, and pandit fight over Pi, Pi's father says, in defense of Pi,

"I suppose that's what we're all trying to do – to love God." (1.23.55).

He's practical, pragmatic, and a successful zookeeper.

In a way, Pi's father acts as yet another teacher for Pi, though more pragmatic than spiritual. Although it's perhaps a dramatic and traumatizing lesson, Pi does learn about the danger of predatory animals from his father. Or, rather, he learns about the danger of "the animal seen through human eyes" (1.8.5).

Pi's father wants to impress upon his boys how ridiculous it is to see predators as cuddly creatures instead of man-killing beasts. So he has the boys watch as a tiger devours a goat. It's bloody and unsettling. As Pi says,

"Life goes on and you don't touch tigers." (1.8.25)

In the structure of the novel, though, these early lessons – whether from Mamaji, Mr. and Mrs. Kumar, or Father Martin – all come to Pi's aid in the lifeboat. "Don't touch tigers" seems just as important as the others.