Life of Pi is a story full of adventure, animals and spiritual symbolism. It begins in the Indian town of Pondicherry. An anonymous author meets an elderly man named Francis Adirubasamy who tells him that he has a story that will make him believe in God. Although skeptical, the author is highly intrigued. The subject of the story is Pi Patel, who is now living in Toronto and the author discovers, willing to share his story.
Pi is named after a pool, the Piscine Molitor in Paris, France. As a child, he is the subject of ridicule because, at school, children turn the pronunciation into “pissing.” Soon the teachers are inadvertently pronouncing it wrong as well. His salvation comes when he enters a new private school. When the teacher calls on him to state his name, he instead goes to the chalkboard and writes his full name, underlining PI and comparing it to the mathematical symbol. The trick works and from that day forth he is called Pi instead of “pissing.”
Pi’s father opens a zoo in the local botanical gardens in 1954, and for Pi it is paradise. He says that although people think animals are better left in the wild, they are actually better cared for in the zoo. He says that people no longer favor zoos, stating that issues with freedom afflict both zoos and religion.
Pi says he was born a Hindu and will always consider himself Hindu. However, while vacationing at the age of fourteen, he comes across a Catholic church and becomes intrigued with the image of Christ on the cross. He cannot understand the idea that God would sacrifice his own Son for the sins of ordinary humans. The priest, Father Martin, explains to him that Christianity is about love. Pi decides to become a Christian and is told by the priest that he already is.
About a year later, Pi explains he became Muslim. While exploring the Muslim quarter of his hometown, he ran across a Muslim baker who excuses himself in the middle of a conversation to pray. Pi is fascinated by the man kneeling on his prayer rug. He asks the baker about Islam and is told it is about the Beloved. Pi decides he will practice Islam, Christianity and Hinduism simultaneously.
Because of the political unrest in India during the 1970s under the rule of Indira Gandhi, Pi’s father feels that he must sell the zoo and travel with his family to Canada along with some of the animals. Pi, his parents and brother Ravi sail aboard a Japanese vessel named the Tsimtsum. During the night, Pi awakes to a loud noise and goes upstairs on the deck to investigate. The ship is caught in a dangerous storm and appears to be taking on water badly. Pi attempts to return downstairs, but the stairwell is under water. During the commotion, he is thrown overboard by the sailors to a lifeboat.
The lifeboat falls to the ocean and a zebra jumps from the ship onto the lifeboat, breakings its leg in the process. Pi sees the zoo’s tiger, Richard Parker, swimming towards him and encourages him to enter the lifeboat, immediately...