Life Of PI Summative Assessment Martel introduces and interesting sets and settings Displays the content of story interesting tones of surrealism, comedy and reflection. Provides an escape from the social acceptance of sex and violence by placing the reader in a world filled with allegorical representation with animals and religion. Idea: Martel suggests through the allegorical representation of Richard Parker’s instincts and Pi’s spirituality, that humankind can not survive without the other. We as people need reasonable doubt, but also must venture our imaginations into the unknown.
This in itself provides the spark of life for mankind. A sense of belonging with the world through faith and God and the need to know more ensure the survival of the human race. Martel’s “Life of Pi”. A furry tale that will make any cynic or pessimist put a smile on their face. A novel whose limits span the Pacific Ocean and reach towards God. A story that encompasses life in itself and celebrates it with elements of nature and survival. Yann Martel, the author of Life of Pi provides a set and setting that brings us out of our familiar surroundings of skyscrapers, concrete, and subways, to the vast pacific ocean.
He brings into the story a strong presence of the main character’s spirituality towards god and a rich and diverse zoo in the town of Pondicherry. Above this Martel brings in a larger than life curious cat named Richard Parker, who isn’t so much a cat, but a man-eating tiger whose premise is to light a figurative fire under the bottom of our protagonist Piscine Patel, better know as Pi. All these physical and religious elements of Pi’s journey of survival add a thick richness that allows for a sense of adventure, beauty, and diverse story telling.
But beyond giving us interesting settings, Martel has succeeded even more in the tones of his writing. Funny, surreal, and reflective, Life Of Pi always keeps his readers in awe and wonder. But besides the main themes and interesting settings, Martel succeeds the most by representing the story through the allegorical representation of Richard Parker and Pi through the main topics of Faith and Reason. It is interesting to see how these two belief systems drove the book to success, without including many of the popular topics of sex and violence that fill the media in today’s fast paced world.
By depending on these two timeless themes, Martel has succeeded in also creating a timeless novel. It is easy to see how faith and reason has accounted for the much deserved popularity that this inspiring story has gained in the last few years. One of the main needs of readers today, in such a fast paced world, is ever changing settings rich with descriptions that fill the senses. By moving the setting from the flower filled Pondicherry Zoo, to the vast expanses of the Pacific Ocean, not a second is lost in describing Pi’s physical surroundings and the effects they have on him.
By creating these different locations and environments, the reader is taken on a journey of the visual senses that is one of the reasons why this novel is so easy to fall in love with. The story begins with the narrator traveling to the small town of Pondicherry, “a tiny self-governing Union Territory south of Madras” in India. From here, the story actually begins. Martel instantly hooks the readers into a colourful world of animals at the Pondicherry Zoo and describes them playfully; “ What can you expect beyond a low wall?
Certainly not a pit with two mighty Indian Rhinoceroses… And when you turn your head you see the elephant that was there all along. ” and also describes the landscape; “It was a huge zoo, spread over numberless acres, big enough to require a train to explore it… You must imagine a hot and humid place, bathed in sunshine and bright colors. ” From here the reader is personally immersed with the animals and physically absorbed into his descriptions of the Pondicherry Zoo. From the Zoo, the physical setting then takes place onto the vast South Pacific Ocean.
One would think that normally, an Ocean does not have much to offer in terms of uniqueness and diversity of landscapes, but the ominous and visually infinite horizon provides the perfect setting as a figurative limbo in which Life of Pi takes most of its time in and also forces the protagonist to change and grow. It is in this setting where Pi goes against all personal beliefs and kills for survival, where he learns to tame his wild companion, Richard Parker and above all else, solidifies his belief in
God, which further allows him the strength and will to survive. The ocean provides the main setting of the novel, and is beautifully described in one excerpt quoting the book: “The wind blew with a faint, warm breeze and the sea moved about kindly, the water peaking and troughing like people dancing in a circle who come together and raise their hands and move apart and come together again, over and over. ” From here, the beauty of the ocean is clearly depicted as a ritual of sorts; a simile for religion and a metaphor for the cycle of life.
It is through these descriptions that Yann Martel provides such an effective delivery of the power of his settings. From the above quote in the last paragraph, it’s easy to see Martel has a majestic and mystical way with words. He describes objects with a sense of spirituality that allows for beautiful metaphors, but where an effective delivery of settings provide a rich and colorful understanding of Pi’s surroundings, an even more effective way that Life of Pi captivates its readers is through the specific writing styles and tones of the novel.
For a boy mostly stuck out at sea on a lifeboat with a tiger, Life of Pi is at times is surreal, amusing, and reflective. Upon Pi discovering an island, surrealism takes the drivers seat for the bulk of this setting; “I made an exceptional botanical discovery… In the near distance I saw trees… The island had no soil… Who had ever heard of land with no soil? ” and along with a mysterious island with no soil, even more far fetched was that it was only inhabited by Meerkats. MEERKATS!!!! Who would have thought this was to be even remotely true? That is what I beheld in one glance, hundreds of thousands of meerkats—more, a million—turning to me and standing at attention, as if saying, “Yes, sir? ””. You can also see upon building of this surreal island, Martel playfully describes Pi’s newly acquainted fuzzy friends. “They took to my barging without any offense, making room for me like a good-natured crowd. I felt warm, furry bodies against my ankles as I looked into a pond. ” It is these two tones that run throughout the novel that allow the readers to simply enjoy the way Martel conveys certain situations and settings.
Along with the playfulness and surreality, one of the most important tones of this book is the personal reflectiveness that becomes a result of Pi’s long, wandering voyage at sea . In being stuck at sea, Pi searches within himself to grow and find the will to survive. Such quotes as “I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. ” and “You dismiss your last allies: hope and trust. There, you’ve defeated yourself. Fear, which is but an impression, has triumphed over you. In these two quotes, Pi comes to a self-realization upon his circumstances with Richard Parker and how the act of fear in itself leads to self defeat, but then provides resolve through the quote; “So you must fight hard to express [fear]. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don’t, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you. In quotes like these, Life Of Pi shines like a beacon of light through a dark fog, not only displaying joyful tones of surrealism, but supplies thought provoking lines that allow the readers to reflect upon themselves. It is these tones in Life Of Pi that the readers appetite for substance is truly nourished, but who is to say that a good story needs violence, sex, drugs, adultery, and every other negative aspect of the social norms that plague society today? It’s easy to say that the needs of readers today should have these themes present, but Life of Pi is a testament to what readers truly vie for.
In terms of the content it is not so much the content itself, but how the content is presented. Western Culture is abundant with images of sex and drugs, meaning they have become the social norm. Us, as humans, are faced with these real world issues every day, on the news, through TV, and even read in the News Papers. What Martel understands is that in times of moderate social acceptance towards sex and violence, we as people not only need an escape, but an escape from the social norms of the self-centered and superficial reality of Western Culture.
Martel provides that escape from this widespread social acceptance by presenting the content of Life of Pi as an allegorical representation of the two main characters Richard Parker and Pi. Richard Parker symbolizes instinct, survival and knowledge. Pi represents faith, religion and spirituality. By pitting these two characters with each other Martel shows that humankind can not survive without both of these aspects working in a co-existing relationship. We as people need reasonable doubt as a means to knowledge, but also must venture our imaginations into the unknown providing the need for faith and religion.
This in itself provides the spark of life and assurance of procreation for mankind; a sense of belonging with the world through faith and God and the need for survival through the gathering of knowledge. By creating a symbiotic relationship that keeps one another alive, Parker and Pi show that spirituality and knowledge work hand in hand, providing a delicate balance of reason and thought, of instinct and spirituality. “I had to tame him. It was at that moment that I realized this necessity. It was not a question of him or me, but of him and me.
We were, literally and figuratively, in the same boat. We would live – or we would die – together “. In this statement alone, Pi sums up his relationship with Parker and gives symbolic meaning to the main themes of Faith, Reason and their co-dependent relationship. “I had to tame him. ” is in reference to Pi taming his primative behavior, or even more so, bringing it out for his own survival. It is after this that he is forced to kill animals for his own good. This is very hard for him to do, because he is Hindu and a practicing vegetarian, which would go against all of his personal beliefs.
By “taming” his animal side, Pi becomes more of a rounded individual who realizes that faith alone will not allow him to survive. By creating a novel that not so much goes against the social norms of drugs, sex, and violence, but stands out for not glorifying these human traits, and in turn glorifying the beauty and majesty of the animal kingdom and Pi’s surroundings, Yann Martel has gone against the grain, so to speak, and has created something that is accessible and enjoyable to read for the masses.
Through delivery of playful tones and surrealism to ruminative moments of personal reflection, not only has Life Of Pi shown the beauty of our furry mammalian cousins, he has made the very things that have driven the human race for thousands of centuries two major topics in his story; Religion (faith) and Survival (knowledge). Drugs, sex and violence now become irrelevant, because of these two main timeless themes presented throughout the story. He has figuratively thrown out the temporary and introduced the timeless. So, when asking one self; ”In the modern day world, is widespread public acceptance of violence and sexual themes justified? How would you answer? The belief is that of course it is justified. Sex and violence have always been a part of our culture, dating back to ancient Roman times. It is part of what makes us human, which truly does show our animal side. To repress the natural expression of these two instincts would only have negative effects, so we must express our thoughts about sex and violence through art. If not, where would we? In person? On the street? Towards a stranger? We should express ourselves creatively no matter what the content, as to let our desires run free.
One of the beauties of living in a modern, free country is that we can write about these things. People may not find this attractive, but the act of connecting our instinctual side through art is sometimes more beautiful than the art itself. Maybe Life Of Pi was trying to say this all along? It is not so much a question of whether or not these themes are justified, but a question of balancing our primitive behaviors through the act of expression i. e. “the better story”, because without art, all of us would still be animals. -Alex Bershadsky