Pi Patel is an unusual boy. The son of a zookeeper, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of animal behavior, a fervent love of stories, and practices not only his native Hinduism, but also Christianity and Islam. When Pi is sixteen, his family emigrates from India to North America aboard a Japanese cargo ship, along with their zoo animals bound for new homes.
The ship sinks. Pi finds himself alone in a lifeboat, his only companions a hyena, an orangutan, a wounded zebra, and Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger. Soon the tiger has dispatched all but Pi, whose fear, knowledge, and cunning allow him to coexist with Richard Parker for 227 days lost at sea. When they finally reach the coast of Mexico, Richard Parker flees to the jungle, never to be seen again. The Japanese authorities who interrogate Pi refuse to believe his story and press him to tell them "the truth." After hours of coercion, Pi tells a second story, a story much less fantastical, much more conventional-but is it more true?
Life of Pi is at once a realistic, rousing adventure and a meta-tale of survival that explores the redemptive power of storytelling and the transformative nature of fiction. It's a story, as one character puts it, to make you believe in God.
Yann Martel, the son ofdiplomats, was born in Spain in 1963. He grew up in Costa Rica, France, Mexico, Alaska, and Canada and as an adult has spent time in Iran, Turkey, and India. After studying philosophy in college, he worked at various odd jobs until he began earning his living as a writer at the age of twenty-seven. He lives in Montreal.
One could very well argue that Life of Pi tells the story of boy named Piscine Molitor Patel who becomes stranded on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with non-other than Richard Parker, a four-hundred pound Bengal tiger. However, I believe that Life of Pi tells a much deeper story, one that can be felt only by those that make an effort to understand it and its message. Yann Martel begins the story with the tale of how he came upon such an incredible story himself. The tale, as the story goes, was ¿one to make you believe in God.¿I believe that many would agree in saying that Life of Pi is not a book to be read, put down, and never touched or thought about again. I myself found the book to by long, drawn-out, and rather pointless after first reading it. It wasn¿t until I began to discuss the book with my peers and look deeper into story¿s overall message that the book suddenly caught my interest. I found myself with an astonishing amount of questions and curiosities about the plot and the unimaginable amount of connections between different aspects of the story.Life of Pi focuses on the life and journey of Piscine Patel. Having being teased through grade school about his curious name, he decided from the moment he escaped the harsh judgment that he would no longer tolerate being made fun of. From his first day as a freshman in college, Piscine Molitor Patel became known as Pi.Pi was raised in Pondicherry, India where he was constantly surrounded by the residents of the Pondicherry Zoo. His father being the owner of the zoo, Pi absorbed a great knowledge of the animals and their behaviors which would later play an important role in his survival.One of the conflicts Pi faces as a boy is his confusion when he finds himself being scorned for simultaneously practicing Christianity, Islam, and Hindu. I think that a lesson can be learned from Pi¿s simplistic view of religion as a young boy. He simply wanted to love God. Why is it viewed as wrong to consider the similarities between religions rather than their small differences that set them apart? Could it be that the choice of religion itself is simply the choice of perspective and way of looking at religious beliefs when in reality, all religions share the same basic principle, to love God?Pi¿s father is ultimately the one that speaks up against Pi¿s religious practices. He speaks of how the Patel family is a modern family. Pi¿s mother struggles to explain to her son why it is considered wrong to practice more than one religion. I feel that Mrs. Patel, in some ways, agreed with Pi but was forced to deny it and offer support to her husband¿s reasoning. Although the Patel family has its good and bad qualities, it is a strong, caring family. Ravi, Pi¿s brother, is the typical big brother. The two brothers argue and taunt each other often, but one could never doubt that they care for each other.When Pi¿s parents announce that the family will be moving to Canada, Pi feels both sadness at leaving his beloved Pondicherry behind and excitement for the mystery of the new country. After the long struggle of arranging new residence for the animals, the Patel family sets off for Canada aboard the Tsimtsum, a Japanese cargo ship. When Pi awakes to a loud noise one night, he leaves his cabin to investigate. He soon discovers that the ship is sinking and is forces over the side of the ship, into one of the bright orange lifeboats.Pi finds himself stranded somewhere in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger, anorang-utan, a hyena, and a wounded zebra. It is not long before the hyena brings the zebra¿s life to an end. Orange Juice, the orang-utan, soon becomes defensive and acts out against the hyena. While Orange Juice is able to overpower the hyena at first, the animal soon meets its fate, leaving Pi with no company other than a bloodthirsty hyena and a Bengal tiger. The hyena soon meets his match when Richard Parker, the large tiger, has had enough. Pi is then left alone with Richard Parker, his companion that would soon prove to save his life.After two-hundred twenty-seven days at sea with Richard Parker, Pi finally touches land on the western coast of Mexico. Pi soon finds himself in a hospital where he is restored to health. While staying in the hospital, Pi is visited by two Japanese transport ministers. The men are looking to find a reason to the ship¿s sinking. However, when Pi tells the men of his journey, naturally they are baffled and do not believe that such a feeble boy could survive so long aboard a lifeboat with a four-hundred pound tiger. Pi then states , ¿¿ I know what you want. You want a story that won¿t surprise you. That will confirm what you already know. That won¿t make you see higher or further or differently¿¿ (302). I feel that Pi proves such a good point here in saying that people often refuse to believe anything beyond the expected. We search and dream of miracles, but if one appeared before us, we look away and say it simply can¿t be so. Pi proceeds to retell his story, this time replacing the roles of the orang-utan, the zebra, and the hyena with his mother, a wounded sailor, and a cannibalistic cook. Pi, himself, takes over the role of Richard Parker. The concept of the animals simply being representations of human beings opens up an endless amount of wonder and curiosity to the reader. Which story was true? Did Yann Martel intend for there to be a correct version of the story?The amount of symbolism packed into Life of Pi is simply uncanny. The possibilities are endless. Perhaps Richard Parker represented Pi¿s fear or his aggressive side that helped him to survive. Perhaps the three animals that were killed represented the three religions that Pi so faithfully practiced or aspects of each that died away leaving only one common aspect, the love for God, which may have been represented by Richard Parker. Aside from the animals, a common motif found in the story would be the color orange which may have represented life or survival. Pi speaks of how the lifeboat, the whistle, the sunset, and Richard Parker are all brilliant shades of orange and how each one helped him to survive in some way whether it was survival itself or the inspiration needed to maintain his will to survive.Aside from Life of Pi¿s endless symbolism, I found myself questioning the point of the book. What was Yann Martel trying to reflect to his readers? I believe that although there are countless possibilities, the book focuses on faith and belief. We believe what we choose to believe. We have the power to change what we believe, but all too often, we are too blinded by common belief to pursue our own. Life of Pi has changed my entire outlook on the way we think and what we, as people, believe. I suspect that it has had the same effect on many before me and will continue to affect the many that follow, but everyone is their own person with their own opinion. Everyone will take something different away from this book, and everyone will have their own interpretation of it. Though, those that simply do not try to understand, never will. Life of Pi is somewhat like a hidden treasure; one must search and solve its riddles before finding the enchanting treasure of knowledge and understanding that it holds.
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