Life of Pi

Human Truths Discovered in Life of Pi: People’s lack of faith - Life of Pi introduction. Man’s inability to believe anything out of the norm. Impossible vs implausible Man’s incredible will to survive Two-hundred twenty seven days. One man. One tiger. With as little as twenty six feet separating the two, Pi’s life seems to be nothing more than a fading ember whose end only time can elicit. With what could be classified strictly as a series of incredibly unfortunate events, the Indian boy’s journey to Canada is transformed into a horrific tragedy, as the ship he is sailing on sinks into the depths of the pacific ocean.

With little chance of survival, Pi’s faith in God along with his will to survive are put to the ultimate tests. Presumably, Yann Martel’s story would be one which simply tells of success over great odds – but this is not the case – instead, it presents a miracle unparalleled by any phenomenon one could possibly fathom. The accounts of such spectacular experiences, as some may assume, provoke more than just a simple fascination within the reader’s minds; they expose a certain truth about humanity and the nature of people.

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Martel’s inspiring novel, the Life of Pi, not only captures readers with an extraordinary tale likely to “make you believe in God”, it reveals numerous truths about human beings in today’s society by addressing questions of faith, isolation, and a man’s will to survive(VIII). Faith can be defined as two things really: the first, as having complete trust in someone or something, and the second, as having strong belief in God or the doctrines of a religion (Dictionary. com). Although the definitions may appear as two seemingly detached possibilities, in essence they are much the same – at least for Piscine Molitor Patel.

With a scientifically advancing world however, faith is a quality which has undoubtedly dwindled from the mindsets of many individuals; so-called factual evidence, numbers and statistics are all what replace it in order to build the foundation for today’s individuals’ way of thinking. With his main character being a man of three religions – a Hindu, Muslim and Catholic – it is evident that Martel believes the dying presence of true faith is an area necessary of addressing.

Interestingly enough, this issue is predominantly exposed within two conversations Pi encounters: the first taking place in the beginning of the book when he meets his biology teacher, Mr. Kumar, at his father’s zoo. [Pi:] “Religion will save us,” I said. Since when I could remember, religions had always been close to my heart. “Religion? ” Mr. Kumar grinned broadly. “I don’t believe in religion. Religion is darkness. “Darkness? I was puzzled. I thought, Darkness is the last thing that religion is. Religion is light. (29)

Within this short snippet of conversation, readers are immediately presented with the issue of religious belief. Mr. Kumar, a biology teacher and presumably devote atheist, is one who parted with god during his childhood days at a time of great sickness. He appears to be one of the many symbols Martel uses to support the scientifically expanding world, as his character is developed into an individual whose capacity for belief is based off of “clear intellect, close attention to detail and a little scientific knowledge”(30). What is interesting is the way in which Mr. Kumar describes religion.

Darkness, within this context, depicts the unknown – a field of uncertainty for which no logical explanation can be given…. basically, an area of irrationality. This is an important connection readers are urged to make, as Martel’s whole intentions are to present the idea that religion is often viewed as something irrational due to scientific explanation. In order to make this connection to the real world, Martel presents a number of characters within the book who simply lack the ability necessary to make “the leap of faith”, towards both religion and the belief of the events which took place(70).

The second conversation which takes place, where the question of belief is again presented, occurs in the later stages of the book when Pi is being interviewed by two Japanese investigators. [Mr. Okamoto:] “Mr. Patel, we don’t believe your story. ” “… I’m amazed. Why not? ” “It doesn’t hold up. ” “Tigers exist, lifeboats exist, oceans exist. Because the three have never come together in your narrow, limited experience, you refuse to believe that they might. ” (332) Although this snippet is only a fragment of the lengthy conversation which takes place, it effectively captures the essence of the undermining issue – the lack of faith.

As it was previously stated, faith is a matter which can exist really in two forms; the first being strong belief in god, and the second as having complete trust in someone or something. Unlike Pi’s encounter with his biology teacher, where readers are presented with the religious aspect of the matter, the investigation with the two Japanese officers introduces this issue in an entirely new light. It is imperative to note, as Pi does towards the end of his argument, that the events which took place during his 227 day journey were far from impossible.

Implausible, perhaps, would be the right word used to describe his struggle across the Pacific Ocean, however, without the presence of faith it becomes increasingly difficult for individuals to make this distinction. This is the problem observed within character such as Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba; they “stumble at mere believability” and so, are unable to accept Pi’s original story(330). Evidently, this is one of the truths which Martel seeks to establish throughout his novel, the idea that within society is the diminishing presence of true faith. I was horrified. I had no idea a living being could sustain so much injury and go on living”(142). Often times it is said that the sheer strength of life’s force surpasses the tenacity of any other physical impulse, with the fear of death pushing the limits of one’s body and mind to inconceivable heights. Although the will to survive is often presented as a seemingly over-exaggerated matter, no-one is capable of understanding how incredibly strong a hold they will establish on life once faced with the possibility of extinction.

This is an important connection readers are urged to make, as the idea of something being irrational relates to perhaps the most significant symbol in this novel, the main character – Pi. Pi’s name is far more than just a shortened version of the truthfully humorous name he was given at birth, it acts as a symbol of the entire nature of the novel; his nickname is literally a constant created in order to make sense of an irrational ratio. Just as it does in mathematics, Pi’s name is used within the novel as a means of rationalizing the highly unlikely events which take place.

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