Thesis Fest #10: Pi’s New Name

Agency is central to Life of Pi, and Pi begins using strong forms of agency early in the novel. In Chapter 5, Pi goes into a lengthy discussion of his full name (Piscine) and how it was often mispronounced. Out of shame and a fear of ridicule, Pi comes up with an ingenious solution: he will control the destiny of his name. Instead of waiting for his name to be mispronounced, Pi takes a more proactive approach. The process he goes through to rename himself is illuminating as a study of Pi’s agency.

The first solution Pi mentions is to simply be known as “Ravi’s brother.” This solution is ultimately thrown out because “following in someone’s shadow wasn’t my escape” (22). By naming himself in relation to someone else, Pi recognizes that he loses part of what it means to be an individual.

The plan he comes up with–to creatively show teachers he wants to be called Pi–requires a lot of action. His fear of humiliation drives him, on the first day of class, to go to the board and write on it without being told to. This event, however, does not only represent an extremely agentic first day of school. It also represents the beginning of Pi taking control of his story. With the success of his plan, Pi has successfully renamed the main character of his story.

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