Similes & Metaphors in Life of Pi: Quotes & Examples

Similes & Metaphors in Life of Pi: Quotes & Examples
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  • 0:04 What Are Similes and…
  • 0:50 Metaphors
  • 2:08 Similes
  • 3:54 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
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 simile and metaphor from Yann Martel's story of a boy's survival at sea with a tiger as his only companion, 'Life of Pi'.

What Are Similes and Metaphors?

'You ain't nothin' but a hound dog' is an enduring lyrical metaphor sung by Elvis Presley to rebuke a former lover by comparing her to an animal. A metaphor compares two things that are not generally thought to be alike in a way that provides a description. Elvis is telling his former lover that she needs to stop hanging around like a dog. A simile is like a metaphor except that it makes a comparison using the words 'like' or 'as.' In Yann Martel's Life of Pi, metaphors and similes are used to describe Pi's adventure as he's stranded on a lifeboat for 227 days with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker after the ship carrying his family and their zoo sinks. Let's look at some examples of metaphors and similes from this novel.


In the first part of the book, Pi sets the stage for his terrible experience at sea. When describing himself, he says, 'I have nothing to say of my working life, only that a tie is a noose, and inverted though it is, it will hang a man nonetheless if he's not careful.' Describing a tie as a noose is Pi's way of describing how work is capable of destroying your life if you let it.

After Pi is rescued and released from the hospital, he is criticized by a waiter for the way he devours his food. He explains, 'My fingers, which a second before had been taste buds savouring the food a little ahead of my mouth, became dirty under his gaze.' Pi compares his fingers to taste buds as he eats with his hands as he did on the lifeboat.

Pi says, 'Memory is an ocean and he bobs on its surface.' Comparing his memories to the ocean describes how huge and overwhelming his thoughts of his ordeal are for him.

Pi flashes back to his childhood in India. Pi simultaneously practices Christian, Hindu, and Muslim religions. When the religious leaders from all three of these confront him, Pi says, '. . . my smile had frozen into a mask of horror.' It did not literally turn into a mask, but he compares it to one as he tries to hide how uncomfortable he is in this scenario.


Similes are used to describe Richard Parker. The tiger has made his home underneath the tarpaulin on the floor of the lifeboat. Pi wonders if the tiger can burst through the tarpaulin to surprise attack him. He decides, 'Richard Parker could shred it with his claws with a little time and effort, but he couldn't pop through it like a jack-in-the-box.' Comparing a tiger to a jack-in-the-box is a simile because the word 'like' is used to connect the two dissimilar things.

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