Life of Pi Part 1 (Toronto and Pondicherry) Chapters 1 - 9 Summary

     The novel opens with the unknown narrator, who is in a pursue of a good story for his next book. He hears about a man who has an interesting life story, and decides to interview him. The rest of the novel represents the narration of that story.

     Chapter 1 starts with Piscine Patel, who talks about his studies in Toronto and reasons of choosing sloths as the subject of his zoology thesis. He says that sloths are calm, quiet and introspective, and gives a brief information about their lifestyle, concluding that their demeanor accompanied with imaginative lives out of scientific reach, remind him of God.

     Then he recalls the memory of still unknown event and mentions how much he misses Richard Parker. Although there is still no clue who Richard Parker is, later in novel you will learn that he is actually not a person, but the Bengal tiger who got a human name due to paperwork error. He says that people in hospital in Mexico were very kind to him, as well as curious about his case, wanting to take a picture with him. Then he jumps forward, to the next memory of his first dinner in Indian restaurant in Canada, when a waiter, after seeing him eating with fingers, asked him "Fresh off the boat, are you?" which struck Piscine so hard that his hands started to tremble. It becomes obvious that he was involved in some kind of sea accident, but there are still no hints about what actually happened.

     Chapter 2 consists of the intrusive narrator's description of a small man living in Scarborough, with dark complexion who wears winter jacket during a mild autumn.

     Chapter 3 goes back to Piscine. He says that he was named after a swimming pool, although his parents hated water. Their friend, Francis Adirubasamy, whom Piscine called Mamaji to express affection and respect, was a great swimmer and the champion of South India. He was the one who taught Piscine to swim and inspired Piscine's parents to give him the name.

     As a young man, Francis went to France to study. Since all of his stories involved swimming, he shared a story about swimming pools in France, which were all dirty except for one pool, Piscines Molitor, both indoor and outdoor pool with clean water, wooden cabins, a bar and beach with a real sand. The description struck Piscine's father so much that he decided to name his child after this beautiful pool.

     Piscine then jumps to 1954, introducing the zoo his father kept, describing all the animals and the atmosphere of the zoo. To convey how hard it was to run a zoo, he compares it to the hotel, where guests are rude and complaining, never checking out of it, where food is prepared for each guest who never leave a tip. However, to him, the zoo was a paradise on earth, for its beautiful animals who graciously lived their lives, despite stories where a zoo is considered a prison with unhappy animals deprived of freedom. Piscine finds it ridiculous and has a good explanation for it. Animals are territorial, and once they obtain the territory, they consider it home. In the zoo, their territory is enemy-free space no one will invade, so they can relax. In wilderness, animals are forced to fight constantly for their territory and food, which is never ending battle. To support this claim, Piscine mentions several cases of animal escaping zoo only to come back to their cages where they feel secure.

     Chapter 5 jumps to Piscine's name again. He explains what nuisance he was facing in school for the way his name is spelled. Children were teasing him by inventing jokes which involved word "pissing," as the pronunciation of his name was painfully similar to this word. In order to prevent it, as soon as he was admitted to secondary school, he decided to present himself in a way that would bypass the association of urinating by writing his name on a board, "Pi Patel," adding π = 3.14. Just when he thought that he did a great job by introducing himself that way, his older brother Ravi, who attended the same school, approached Pi and asked him about his new nickname, "Lemon pie."

     Chapter 6, another intrusive narration about cooking skills of the man who obviously lives Western lifestyle although he is from India.

     Chapter 7 goes back to Piscine's narration. He talks about Mr. Satish Kumar, his biology teacher who inspired him to study zoology. Mr. Satish Kumar was a regular guest in their zoo, but Pi was too afraid of his authority to approach him. However, on one occasion, he did it and learned that he was actually an atheist who found religion "a darkness" in comparison to science where everything is clear. Pi was puzzled with this, hoping that Mr. Kumar would stop saying such things before he started questioning his faith. This memory leads him to another subject of narration- Man. He finds humans the most dangerous animals in the zoo. Animals have their ways but mean no harm to anyone on purpose, while people not so rarely come to hurt animals for no reason whatsoever. He mentions many cases of poisoning and injuring animals just for fun, where some animals died. To draw attention to human wickedness, Piscine's father placed signs pointing to a place where his visitors could see the most dangerous animal in the zoo. Curious people would follow the signs only to find a mirror behind the curtain.

     However, Pi believes that his father knew about one animal even more dangerous than humans. It was Richard Parker, a Bengal tiger. In order to prove it, he insisted his children to watch the tiger catching live goat and killing it, so that they would never forget about it. That made Pi's mother, Pi and Rave very upset, but it obviously achieved the aim.

     Chapter 9 is about the distance which animals tolerate. Pi says that the key of zoo keeping is to make animal tolerate the presence of human, therefore it is important to diminish the animal flight distance, mentioning that his father did not have any technique for this, except for guessing what was on animal's mind at the given moment.

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