A character can be a person, an animal or any figure in a literary work. Characters are essential for the plot to progress as they reveal ideologies and themes of the book. Yann Martel’s novel Life of Pi has characters that demonstrate his philosophy of life as well as an understanding of faiths. Some major characters have been discussed below.
Characters in Life of Pi
Pi or Piscine Molitor Patel
Pi is the protagonist of the novel and the entire story revolves around him. At first, he is an unreliable narrator. He recounts his naming during school years, his early life in India as well as his relationship with family and friends. The story takes a turning point when he journeys from Pondicherry Zoo to Canada. Pi experiences are the philosophy of religion with a quizzical outlook toward life. Pi depends on his love stories, highlighting his observation of religions and his survival skills. he demonstrates his ordeal with the animals, especially the tiger in the boat.
The journey is of two hundred and twenty-seven days in the Pacific Ocean after he loses his family. He is forced to break his vegetarianism, eat fish to survive. His journey with animals helps him during his voyage. He learns about human and animal nature and instincts. The major plot is learning to befriend, Richard Parker, a tiger. Through Pi, the reader gets to know the virtues of faith, survival and religious harmony. His character also discusses life, the existence of God, the dilemma of religious harmony and the difference between human and animal instinct.
Richard Parker is a Royal Bengal Tiger. His name is mixed up and confused with Richard Parker on account of a clerical error. However, Pi finally names him to facilitate his one-side communication. A bulky bodied fierce animal, Parker stays with Pi during his travel ordeal through the Pacific Ocean. Although Parker kills other predators, he remains a faithful and loyal companion to his human friend, sensing that he is the source of food and safety for him. In front of Pi, he acts as a tamed animal and protects him from other predators. Thus making Pi ponder over animal existence and thinking. When Pi tells the alternate version of his story to the officials, he uses Parker in his narrative. Parker’s character shows strength, resilience, and loyalty despite being a wild animal.
The author hears about Pi when he meets Francis Adirubasamy at a coffee shop in India. Francis offers him to tell Pi’s story to strengthen his belief in God. To verify the story and accounts of the voyage, he meets Pi in Toronto and gets all the details of his voyage. He also writes the Author’s Note at the beginning of the novel to share his thoughts with his readers about the event. Although he shares the narrative space with Pi, as a visiting writer or a narrator, he never reveals his true identity at any point in the storyline. Perhaps, Yann Martel wrote a fictional account of his own travel to India.
A former hotelier and animal lover, Santosh is Pi’s father and his teacher. He owns a zoo and serves animals. It taught him various skills unknown to other people around him. During his time at Pondicherry Zoo, he teaches survival technics to his sons. He also instructs them to be kind and caring towards wildlife. He is not a practicing Hindu himself, but he does not discourage the religious choices of Pi, making him reflective and deeply philosophical.
Gita is Pi’s mother. She also a teacher, instilling the love of books in him. In contrast to patriarchy, she holds her ground through her softness and feminine quality of persuasion. Despite being raised as a Hindu with Baptist education, she does not follow any religion. However, she questions Pi’s decision of three religions and asks him to reconsider his choice. She goes missing while traveling across the Pacific Ocean. In Pi’s alternate version of the story, she takes up the form of Orange Juice on the lifeboat.
Francis Adirubasmay Pi’s father’s friend. He teaches Pi swimming as a child, gives him his first name Piscine Molitor in the memory of Piscine Molitor pool in Paris. Pi calls him Mamaji, (maternal uncle in Indian language) out of respect. He narrates a part of Pi’s story when they meet at a coffee shop by chance. He remains as a father figure to Pi.
Satish Kumar is Pi’s biology teacher in Pondicherry’s secondary school. He is the main influence on Pi’s skepticism for his atheistic beliefs. When he encounters polio-virus and falls sick, his miseries lead him away from God. Hence, he only believes in scientific knowledge and facts. Pi accepts his atheistic views as another part of faith. Pi is also inspired by Mr. Kumar’s command over his subject Zoology.
Ravi Patel is Pi’s elder brother. He chooses sports overstudies, unlike Pi. He enjoys popularity in the school and berates Pi for his choice of following multiple religions. He even bullies him after their encounter with various zoo animals.
Father Martin is a Catholic priest who introduces Christianity to Pi. Although he gives the message of love, he disagrees with Pi for following various other religions along with Christianity. He shares almost the same opinion as Hindu pundit, Satish Kumar, the Muslim mystic regarding Pi’s religious choices.
The Frenchman and the Cook
The Frenchman and the cook are known as Hyena. The Frenchman, who is also blind, appears both as human and animal. He confesses about his cannibalistic activities. He demonstrates madness when he tries to kill and eat Pi. He is later killed by Richard Parker, the tiger. There is speculation that the Frenchman and Cook are the same people.