Foreshadowing in Life of Pi: Examples & Quotes

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In this lesson, we will define and examine examples of foreshadowing from Yann Martel's ''Life of Pi'', the story of a boy and a tiger who are stranded at sea.

Background and Definitions

'I have a bad feeling about this' is a common line used to foreshadow something chaotic by several characters throughout the 'Star Wars' series. Foreshadowing is when an author hints at events that will occur later in the story. It is generally used to build suspense. In Yann Martel's Life of Pi, Pi is an adult looking back at the worst experience of his life. While immigrating to Canada from India with his family's zoo, the ship sinks. Pi and a Bengal tiger are the only survivors who float in a lifeboat for 227 days before they are rescued. Let's look at some examples of how the author foreshadows some of these events.

Pi as an Adult

In the first chapter, Pi is a man living in Toronto who has survived a terrible ordeal. We don't yet know that Pi lost his family while emigrating from India when we read the first sentence, 'My suffering left me sad and gloomy.' From there, Pi introduces himself, starting with his education at the University of Toronto where he studied zoology and religion, focusing on studying the three-toed sloth 'because its demeanour -calm, quiet and introspective-did something to soothe my shattered self.'

Pi hints that he has lost everything that mattered to him in India when he says, 'I love Canada…. Anyway, I have nothing to go home to in Pondicherry.' The reader suspects that somehow having nothing left in India is related to surviving the terrible ordeal.

Adult Pi doesn't tell us who Richard Parker is, but he says, 'Richard Parker has stayed with me…I miss him. I still see him in my dreams. They are nightmares mostly, but nightmares tinged with love.' We haven't yet learned that Richard Parker is a Bengal tiger that is stuck with Pi on a lifeboat after their ship sinks. Whomever Richard Parker is, he stirs up strong, mixed feelings of terror and love.

Further, we learn that Pi needs medical treatment and his electrolytes are out of balance after his ordeal. Pi has a strong reaction to a waiter saying, 'Fresh off the boat, are you?' This would indicate that whatever happened to Pi involves being stranded at sea.

Warning About Tigers

Flashing back to his childhood in India, Pi remembers when his father, the zookeeper, decides that he needs to teach Pi a valuable lesson. 'I'm going to show you how dangerous tigers are,' he continued. 'I want you to remember this lesson for the rest of your lives.' Pi's mother is horrified that the lesson is about withholding food from the tiger for 3 days and then putting a live goat in the pen. Pi learns how powerful and dangerous a hungry tiger can be, which seems random, but is a valuable experience for a boy who is later stranded on a lifeboat with one.

Moving to Canada

Another example of foreshadowing occurs after describing Pi's father's decision to move from India to Canada. The narrator says, 'Things didn't turn out the way they were supposed to, but what can you do? You must take life the way it comes at you and make the best of it.' This is a clear indication that moving to Canada is not going to turn out as planned.

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