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LIFE OF PI - CHAPTER NOTES
Piscine laments to the reader the difficulty of his unusual name. Unfortunately, his schoolmates (deliberately), and even his teachers (accidentally), pronounce Piscine as Pissing. He advances to secondary school, in the shadow of his older brother Ravi who is popular and athletic. On the first day of school, in every class as roll was being taken, Piscine rushes to the blackboard and introduces himself as Piscine Molitor Patel - Pi Patel. He illustrates his name with the Greek letter pi and a drawing of a circle bisected by its diameter. To Pi’s delight, the name catches on.
There are several religious references in this chapter. The first is Pi’s reply to a pizza guy, “I am who I am,” which is how God replied to Moses. Next, he lists several followers of Jesus who were known by more than one name to illustrate how life changes can accompany name changes. Finally, he compares the taunting he was subjected to in school to the persecution of Muhammad in Mecca.
It is important to Pi to establish himself in his new school. He is not athletic like his brother, who he compares to Kapil Dev (captain of India’s World Cup cricket team, 1983), but he is clever and knows how to train animals/humans. He repeats his lesson about his new name until it is accepted. In the last paragraph of the chapter, Pi defines himself with his new name.
The name Pi carries much meaning. In math pi is an irrational number, but though “irrational,” it is used to understand a great deal about the universe, logically and rationally. Pi will experience “irrational,” unbelievable things in Part 2 that he explains, logically and rationally. The number represented by pi describes the relationship between the diameter of a circle and its circumference. Pi will describe the relationship between his linear journey and his cycles of faith. For more on the significance of “Pi,” see Symbolism / Motif / Imagery section.
Once again the author interjects giving the reader particulars about the adult Pi’s cooking skill. He also notes that Pi has a “reserve of food to last the siege of Leningrad.”
The character of the narrator is developed further with each of the author’s commentaries. The siege of Leningrad lasted 900 days between September 1941 and January 1944 during World War II. Food was so limited that hundreds of thousands died of starvation. Why Pi would hoard so much food will become apparent later in Part Two.