Study Guide

Life of Pi Mortality

By Yann Martel


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The protagonist in Life of Pi battles death for so long, his relationship with death becomes very complex. Death is the thing he must push as far away from himself as possible. Death is also part of life, and our protagonist begrudgingly admits this fact. He seeks death. He runs away from death.

By the end of the novel, our protagonist might as well have dated death. They love each other, but used to hate each other. They've broken up a couple times. They've gotten back together. They're together but seeing other people.

Questions About Mortality

  1. Think about Pi's relationship with death at different points in the novel. How does he view death at the end of his ordeal? During it? What about when lives in Pondicherry?
  2. Agree with us, just for a second, that there are three orders of being in Life of Pi: divine, human, and animal. How does each type experience death? Do these orders of being overlap?
  3. Pi fears despair more than death. Why is this? How can an emotion scare him more than the end of his life?
  4. Upon leaving the carnivorous man-eating island, Pi says, "I preferred to set off and perish in search of my own kind than to live a lonely half-life of physical comfort and spiritual death on this murderous island." What does Pi mean by "spiritual death"? How could that type of death be seen as worse than physical death?