Visvaganthie Moodley

University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Wits School of Education


 South Africa



Symbols and symbolisms across literary genres are powerful rhetoric devices used to enhance not only writers’ style, but to convey richness in meaning that transcends narrative descriptions. However, as its interpretations are context-bound, it causes anxieties for the under-proficient language teacher who, firstmost, requires deep specific content knowledge to drive instruction and enhance cognition amongst learners. Using qualitative descriptive case study, this paper aims to provide specific content knowledge by examining the literary use of symbols, symbolisms and significance in Yann Martel’s ‘Life of Pi’, which has been prescribed as a set book for Grade 12 school-exiting learners in South Africa, for the year 2017 onwards. The paper will – by analysing arbitrary, cultural and personal symbolisms and significances, mostly through psychoanalytical lens – unravel covert meanings and messages in cultural, religious and environmental contexts whilst simultaneously showing how these are pivotal to understanding major themes in the novel.


Key words: Life of Pi [Novel], literature, symbols and symbolisms, significance, context, themes, specific content knowledge, higher order thinking

Symbols, Symbolism and Significance in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi: Specific Content Knowledge for Teacher Development