First-person Narration in Life of Pi

Junfang XU


Life of Pi is the masterpiece of Canadian writer Yann Martel(1963- ). Since it was published, the book has been warmly received by the audience, and is on the list of the most popular world classics. Its huge success is closely connected with the unique narrative techniques Yann Martel employs. This paper tends to explore its homodiegetic first person narration. Specifically, the hero/narrator Pi in the intradiegetic level recalls the shipwreck he goes through many years later, in particular how he survives the accident; while a mask narrator in the extradiegetic level supplements and verifies intradiegetic narrative, and guides readers to make their own judgment and take proper ethical position. As a whole, inside Life of Pi there are two opposing tendencies: one is the realistic portrayal of the testing voyage after the shipwreck; the other is the apparent uncertainty as the telling of the story is constantly subverted and denarrated. Thus a tension is created, and the whole work has a fantastic and surreal coloring. These two opposing and contradictory tendencies, I believe, are related to Martel’s aesthetic ideas: the top priority for an artist is not the actuality of a story but the imagination and life within. 

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