Life of Pi

Life of Pi

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The Tsimtsum Symbol Icon
Tsimtsum is the name of the ship that sinks on its passage across the Pacific, drowning Pi’s family and leaving Pi stranded on a lifeboat. The word “tsimtsum” (or tzimtzum) describes an idea from the Jewish Kabbalah teachings of Isaac Luria, a rabbi and mystic who is mentioned elsewhere in Life of Pi. The concept of tzimtzum says that God withdrew or contracted his infinite light in order to create the universe. This purposeful concealment left “empty space” for the cosmos and free will. The ship’s sinking can then be compared to God withdrawing, leaving Pi alone to become an independent person with a strong faith. Pi is exiled from his loved ones and also experiences a religious abandonment, as God allows him to undergo such suffering, but tzimtzum implies that such experiences are necessary to grow in faith and independence.
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The Tsimtsum Symbol Timeline in Life of Pi

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Tsimtsum appears in Life of Pi. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 35
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Pi and his family left India on a Japanese cargo ship called the Tsimtsum, departing on June 21st, 1977. Pi describes his mother’s sadness at leaving India, and how... (full context)
Chapter 37
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Pi begins the narrative with the Tsimtsum sinking. Everything is chaotic, and Pi is alone in a lifeboat. He sees a Bengal... (full context)
Chapter 43
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Pi assures himself that someone knows about the sinking of the Tsimtsum and that rescuers will be arriving soon. He imagines being reunited with his family in... (full context)
Chapter 62
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...The day passes uneventfully, and Pi realizes that it has been a week since the Tsimtsum sank. (full context)
Chapter 95
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...when they were called to Mexico and instructed to interview the lone survivor of the Tsimtsum, to find out more about why the ship sank. (full context)
Chapter 99
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...challenging Pi’s story and return to their real directive, which is finding out why the Tsimtsum sank. (full context)
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The officials ask Pi some technical questions about the nature of the Tsimtsum’s sinking. Pi says that the crew was unfriendly and often drunk, but he can give... (full context)
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...two stories they preferred. He reminds them that neither story explains the sinking of the Tsimtsum, and neither really matters for the officials’ business. Okamoto and Chiba both agree that the... (full context)
Chapter 100
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The author then gives Okamoto’s report of the interview. Okamoto says that the Tsimtsum possibly sank because of an engine problem, but he admits that the cause of the... (full context)