HE LIFE OF PI IS A JOURNEY TO ENLIGHTENMENT. IT IS WRITTEN BY A NON-RELIGIOUS AUTHOR, YANN MARTEL, WHO IS A PROPONENT OF SECULARISM. IN INTERVIEWS ABOUT THE BOOK, MARTEL SAID THAT THE STORY WAS WRITTEN FOR THOSE WHO DISBELIEVE (ESPECIALLY AGNOSTICS)
[Sample Argument for Paragraph One; You must write your own argument that is different from this]:
The Life of Pi is a journey to enlightenment. It is written by a non-religious author, Yann Martel, who is a proponent of secularism. In interviews about the book, Martel said that the story was written for those who disbelieve (especially agnostics). The author’s preface to the novel describes that it will make you “believe that there is a God.” But critic Gregory Stephens goes further than this. In his essay “Feeding Tiger, Finding God: Science, Religion, and ‘the better story’ in Life of Pi,” Stephens argues that the book appeals to two different types of readers – agnostics and true believers. He contends that the story depends upon this liminality of approach and that it’s positioning midway between faiths, continents, boyhood and adulthood, fact and fiction, and animal and human is what gives the tale its great power and effect (Stephens). This essay takes up some of the questions asked by Stephens and attempts to answer them more thoroughly by looking at specific examples of passages from the book. It argues that having to establish faith outside of a church or an “institutional” context makes Pi understand something about what real faith is. Pi learns “faith and love of God through the lens of a physical world depicted as wondrous, brutal, and deeply mysterious.” (Pamela Cooper). For Pi, the body of the animal is both an “agent of God” and a sign of “unexpected cruelty” (Cooper). The novel argues that a central component of a story that makes us believe must relegate human beings to the sideline and put animals back at the “center of our secular and religious imagination.” But this essay also shows the importance of the balance of religion and science, as necessary components of believing in God. This is simply put in Gordon Houser’s view that the two central themes of the Life of Pi are that “that all life is interdependent, and that we live and breathe via belief,” a statement that encapsulates everything from God’s providential designs to the fragile nature of ecosystems and modern chaos theory (Houser). Finally, this essay argues that religion is made clear by the close connection in this novel between religion and storytelling. As Cooper puts it, in some sense, believing in God involves a willingness to suspend disbelief and to listen to fantastic stories, many informed by religion, or at least some element of faith and spirituality. Pi’s worst enemy on the lifeboat is not the Bengal Tiger, but fear and despair (loss of faith). He uses prayers to God’s and also Richard Parker himself in order to maintain faith. This is underscored by Pi’s experience on the carnivorous island, which he lands on, near the end of his ordeal. The island has been viewed as a test of not only Pi’s faith, but also the readers’. To believe in such fantastic islands is to suspend imagination, but also to be captured and transfigured by Pi’s story itself. At the end of the book, even the insurance agents who are trying to find the “real” story admit that the story with animals is the “better” story. Pi replies “that’s how it goes with God.” For Pi, “imagination is the agent of faith” (Cooper).
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In your paper you will come up with examples (passages from the book) that illustrate each one of these points. You will use these examples (block quotes) in order to structure your paper. Please cite block quotes correctly and then go in depth into describing them. You will also (when appropriate) bring in at least 3 critics who have written about The Life of Pi. (See the examples below).
Please also staple your paper, include a creative title, and page numbers. I will also be looking for a complex, interesting, and well-articulated thesis in paragraph one.
I will not accept papers that don’t have these features.
Papers should be minimum 7 pages. There is more than enough information to write 7 pages on this topic.
Aspects of religion in the novel that you should include (use at least 5 of the following, and you must include 6, 7, and 8):
- Pi learns “faith and love of God through the lens of a physical world depicted as wondrous, brutal, and deeply mysterious.” (Pamela Cooper).
- For Pi, the body of the animal is both an “agent of God” and a sign of “unexpected cruelty” (Cooper).
- But this essay also shows the importance of the balance of religion and science, as necessary components of believing in God. This is simply put in Gordon Houser’s view that the two central themes of the Life of Pi are that “that all life is interdependent, and that we live and breathe via belief,” a statement that encapsulates everything from God’s providential designs to the fragile nature of ecosystems and modern chaos theory (Houser). Find examples from the novel that deal with the relationship between science and religion and analyze these in depth.
- This essay argues that religion is made clear by the close connection in this novel between religion and storytelling. As Cooper puts it, in some sense, believing in God involves a willingness to suspend disbelief and to listen to fantastic stories, many informed by religion, or at least some element of faith and spirituality. Find examples from the book that deal with religion and storytelling.
- Pi’s worst enemy on the lifeboat is not the Bengal Tiger, but fear and despair (loss of faith). He uses prayers to God’s and also Richard Parker himself in order to maintain faith. Find examples from the book to illustrate this point. Passages. Close readings.
- This is underscored by Pi’s experience on the carnivorous island, which he lands on, near the end of his ordeal. The island has been viewed as a test of not only Pi’s faith, but also the readers’. To believe in such fantastic islands is to suspend imagination, but also to be captured and transfigured by Pi’s story itself. What is the significance of the carnivorous island? Find passages from this episode to help you answer these questions. Use passages and close readings in your answer.
- Something about the interaction between Pi and the insurance agents. Significance of this scene?
- Conclusion. Nice. Long. Really show me what you have learned about religion in the Life of Pi.
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Criticism of the theme of religion in The Life of Pi:
Title:Life of Pi, by Yann Martel
Author(s):Pamela Cooper (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Canadian Novelist ( 1963 – )
Source:Booker Prize Novels: 1969-2005. Ed. Merritt Moseley. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 326. Detroit: Gale, 2006. From Literature Resource Center.
Document Type:Work overview, Critical essay
At its core, Life of Pi is a religious novel. Specifically, it explores faith and love of God through the lens of a physical world depicted as wondrous, brutal, and deeply mysterious. The linking of religion and physicality–especially the diverse physicality of animals–is established at the start of the novel, when the adult Pi describes the double major of religious studies and zoology he took for his bachelor’s degree at the University of Toronto. He then launches into one of his long disquisitions on animals–their characteristics, behavior, and enigmatic spiritual import: “Sometimes I got my majors mixed up. A number of my fellow religious-studies students–muddled agnostics who didn’t know which way was up, who were in the thrall of reason, that fool’s gold for the bright–reminded me of the three-toed sloth; and the three-toed sloth, such a beautiful example of the miracle of life, reminded me of God.” In Pi’s twin obsessions–God and animals–Martel encapsulates the broad intellectual endeavor of the novel: to critique reason as a limited way of approaching the world and to explore the intertwined powers of faith, love, and imagination.
Pi’s religious intensity leads him first to Hinduism–a religion filled with gods and goddesses in animal form. Through shapes like those of Ganesha, the elephant-headed god of good luck, wisdom, and learning, Pi apprehends the world and his place in it: “The universe makes sense to me through Hindu eyes. . . . for everything has a trace of the divine in it. . . . The finite within the infinite, the infinite within the finite.” He also falls in love with Christianity and Islam, whose visions of disciplined compassion make sense to him as well. In his innocence, Pi disregards the fundamental differences among these three religions and moves happily through the creeds and rituals of each. His eclectic faith disconcerts both his family and teachers, and the novel makes gentle comedy out of the concerned yet limited perceptions of Pi’s parents and his theologically opposed gurus. To their insistence on the impossibility of such multiple commitments, Pi offers transparent simplicity: “Bapu Gandhi said, ‘All religions are true.’ ‘I just want to love God,’ I blurted out, and looked down, red in the face.” Invoking the name of the former Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi and his philosophy of nonviolence, Martel gives his hero an apostolic character; he centralizes love as a value and implies the power of faith to overcome apparent impossibilities.
In the novel, the marvelous body of the animal becomes both an image of God and a sign of the inexplicable cruelty of the world. Besides the three-toed sloth as a kind of divinity, the zebra is used twice in the novel to suggest the miraculous powers of nature and the force of love. Just before the Patels depart for Canada, Pi finds himself in the company of two men visiting the zoo, both named Mr. Kumar. One Mr. Kumar is a baker and Pi’s mentor in Islam; the other is a teacher and a rationalistic atheist. In a moving, sweetly comic scene, these two identically named yet philosophically opposed father figures are united in their wonder at a zebra eating carrots from their hands:
Mr. and Mr. Kumar looked delighted.
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“A zebra, you say?” said Mr. Kumar.
“That’s right,” I replied. “It belongs to the same family as the ass and the horse.”
“The Rolls-Royce of equids,” said Mr. Kumar.
“What a wondrous creature,” said Mr. Kumar.
“This one’s a Grant’s zebra,” I said.
Mr. Kumar said, “Equus burchelli boehmi.”
Mr. Kumar said, “Allahu akbar.”
This moment captures the spiritual import of the physical body and suggests enchanted apprehension of that body as a means of philosophical and theological reconciliation among people.
A zebra appears again early in part 2 and becomes the focus for one of the most violent and disturbing episodes of the novel. As the Tsimtsum sinks, Pi is thrown into a lifeboat by some sailors, and a massive zebra, “leaping with the grace of a racehorse,” lands in the boat with him, shattering its leg. What follows for the zebra is a terrible ordeal, as it is mauled by the hyena and gashed in its side. Virtually disemboweled, it clings to life, and Pi comments: “I was horrified. I had no idea a living being could sustain so much injury and go on living.” Here the zebra suggests martyrdom to the apparently senseless brutality of life. Martel uses the zebra’s suffering to emphasize the Christian virtues of patience and love. Earlier, as Pidiscusses Christianity with the priest Father Martin, he fails to comprehend the meaning of Jesus’ death: “Why not leave death to the mortals?” asks Pi. “Why make dirty what is beautiful, spoil what is perfect?” Father Martin’s reply is simple: “Love.” In the brokenness of the world, the novel implies, love and the endurance of pain have deep spiritual meaning; the adult Pi honors the suffering of the zebra by remembering it daily in his prayers.
Pi’s beleaguered normality shows itself in his pragmatism, as he goes about using the scant resources of the lifeboat to build a functioning world for himself. He constructs a makeshift raft, in order to place some distance between himself and Richard Parker; he learns to use the solar stills in the survival kit to obtain fresh water; he learns to fish and to slaughter sea turtles for their meat and blood. Although the novel insists upon the limits of rationality as a tool for understanding the world, Pi’s good sense and practicality stand him in good stead throughout his ordeal. His greatest trials, though, are psychological and spiritual. He finds his worst enemies to be despair and fear, and his true strength emerges in his efforts to combat these: “I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. . . . You dismiss your last allies, hope and trust. There, you’ve defeated yourself. Fear, which is but an impression, has triumphed over you.” Pi fights hard “to shine the light of words” upon the face of such dread. The lists that he makes–inventories of the contents of the lifeboat, schedules of his daily activities–become achievements of character and faith as well as ways to organize space and time. Through his listsPi orders chaos, anchors himself, and fights his fear. Through his prayers he maintains a sense of God’s presence despite his terrible solitude.
In Pi’s struggle with fear, Richard Parker plays a crucial part. The central section of the novel is built on an ultimately hopeful and optimistic paradox. Although the tiger’s presence seems to spell certain death for Pi, Richard Parker is actually a source of life; in his relationship with the animal, Pi finds a sense of usefulness and the comfort of interdependence. As he observes: “It is the irony of this story that the one who scared me witless to start with was the very same who brought me peace, purpose, I dare say even wholeness.” Awestruck by Richard Parker’s “overwhelming presence,” Pi marvels at the animal’s imposing beauty: “He was incredibly muscular, yet his haunches were thin and his glossy coat hung loosely on his frame. His body, bright brownish orange streaked with black vertical stripes, was incomparably beautiful, matched with a tailor’s eye for harmony by his pure white chest and underside and the black rings of his long tail.” Gripped by wonder at the sheer spectacle of the tiger, Pi perceives the need to tame him as the only way for them both to survive. He decides for cooperation rather than enmity: “It was not a question of him or me, but of him and me.” This choice is a turning point for him, as he realizes that he needs Richard Parker to stave off despair–“a foe even more formidable than a tiger.” In Life of Pi, hope and faith inhere in an unlikely relationship: a dangerous wild animal enables a vulnerable boy “to go on living.”
Pi’s taming of Richard Parker constitutes–along with his fishing activities and management of his meager supplies–the main action of the central section of the novel. Here he draws on his experience with animals and his superior intelligence to assert a kind of power over the tiger. Brains triumph over brawn, and the taming process enables them safely to share the confined space of the lifeboat. The two establish a routine and become domestic partners of a sort. When a whale drifts by and observes them, Pi imagines it sizing him up as a possible mate before concluding that he has a mate already. Their partnership balances Pi within the bleak yet beautiful world he inhabits; it is an act of psychological conservation comparable to those he undertakes in order to preserve food and shelter.
Pi’s battle with the elements, in the course of seven months adrift, eventually takes its toll, however. He goes blind temporarily and lapses into hallucination, imagining an encounter with another castaway and a long conversation about food with Richard Parker. At this point, toward the end of part 2, the narrative leaps into a fantasy realm that challenges the reader by its apparent departure from the predominantly realistic mode of the rest of the novel. Pi and Richard Parker suddenly find themselves on an island made of algae and inhabited only by meerkats. In this green and apparently gentle place Pi recovers, learning to walk again and eating vegetable matter for the first time in months. Yet, the island is not what it seems; when Pi finds fragments of a human body wrapped in the leaves of a tree, he realizes that the island is itself a species of digestive organ that will eventually consume him if he stays. He and Richard Parker set sail again and finally reach the coast of Mexico.
One could read the sojourn on the carnivorous island as a hallucination. The adult Pi anticipates disbelief in his audience but steadfastly declares the episode to be factual. Alternately, one could interpret the episode as a kind of test of the reader’s faith. Having followed Pi’s improbable story thus far, one is asked to make a leap of faith, as it were, into the fantastic. With reason entirely removed from the narrative, readers are challenged to trust imaginative truth and believe in the miraculous: “it’s part of the story and it happened to me,” says Pi.
This idea of faith in the power of the imagination and, by extension, in miracle informs the final section of the novel. Here the mundane world of facts and rational inquiry returns, as the convalescent Pi is questioned by the officious Messrs. Okamoto and Chiba. Another of the odd couples of the novel, the investigators provide some slapstick comedy to the conclusion of the story. In this way they deflect the anticlimax that can weaken the ending of the typical castaway narrative: returning the lost protagonist to his culture threatens a feeling of letdown. With the adventure concluded, the author is required to keep readers interested in the aftermath. Martel uses this becalmed space of aftermath to explore the numinous power of stories and to emphasize the dilemmas of interpretation. Faith is crucial to the workings of both, he suggests.
The two men (perhaps echoing the reader’s response) balk at the illogic of Pi’s story. For Pi, though, faith is an existential principle that trumps reason; he is indignant: “If you stumble at mere believability, what are you living for? . . . Love is hard to believe, ask any lover. Life is hard to believe, ask any scientist. God is hard to believe, ask any believer.” Enacting his contempt for their limited perceptions, he offers the men another version of his story–without the imaginative challenge represented by the animals. This brief version is a much more conventional castaway narrative, with squabbling survivors, brutish violence, and cannibalism. Pi then asks his interrogators: “Which is the better story, the story with animals or the story without animals?” When they admit that the story with animals is the better one, he replies: “Thank you. And so it goes with God.” For Pi, imagination is an agent of faith, and the story, like the miraculous body itself, holds spiritual weight within its incredibility.
Life of Pi ends happily. In fact, the reader has known from the start that Pi not only survived, he went on to thrive in Canada and to have a happy family of his own. Yet, the strongest emotional note struck at the conclusion of the novel is that of loss. Pi still mourns the loss of Richard Parker, whose departure was both spectacular and devastating. On landing in Mexico, Richard Parker leaped from the boat and vanished into the jungle: “I saw his body, so immeasurably vital, stretched in the air above me, a fleeting, furred rainbow. . . . Then Richard Parker, companion of my torment, awful, fierce thing that kept me alive, moved forward and disappeared forever from my life.” Pi is wounded by the tiger’s indifference to him and the inconclusiveness of their parting. He sees it as a “bungled goodbye,” the pain of which has never left him. In Richard Parker’s exhilarating reclaiming of his wildness at the end of the adventure, Martel seems to assert the difference between animal and human. He effectively reiterates the lesson of Pi’s father, who, in the first part of the novel, attempts to teach his two sons, Pi and Ravi, about the ferocity of animals by feeding a goat to a tiger as they watch. Like the three-toed sloth at the beginning of the story, the fierce tiger at its end seems to stand not just for the “miracle of life” but for the enigma of God. Pi’s faith in this enigma sustains him throughout his harrowing experience; the serenity of his seasoned belief informs the life he goes on to shape for himself in a new land.
Title:Review of The Life of Pi
Publication Details:Christian Century 120.3 (Feb. 8, 2003): p34-35.
Source:Contemporary Literary Criticism. Ed. Tom Burns and Jeffrey W. Hunter. Vol. 192. Detroit: Gale, 2005.From Literature Resource Center.
Document Type:Book review, Critical essay
In an arresting narrative voice Pi writes, “I was fourteen years old–and a contented Hindu–when I met Jesus Christ on a holiday.” The boy ends up becoming not only a Christian but a Muslim as well, while remaining a Hindu. His three religious instructors meet with his parents to protest such audacity and soon get into an argument among themselves. Finally his father, who is not religious, says, “I suppose that’s what we’re all trying to do–love God.”
While this may sound simplistic and naïve, it fits with two of the book’s themes: that all life is interdependent, and that we live and breathe via belief. Elsewhere Pi claims atheists as “[his] brothers and sisters of a different faith. … they go as far as the legs of reason will carry them–and then they leap.”
Title:Feeding tiger, finding God: science, religion, and “the better story” in Life of Pi
Source:Intertexts. 14.1 (Spring 2010): p41. From Literature Resource Center.
Document Type:Critical essay
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Copyright :COPYRIGHT 2010 Texas Tech University Press
There are no indications that writing this book represented a Damascus conversion experience for him. Life of Pi is not a conversion narrative per se, but it is in part an ascent narrative (a journey toward enlightenment) that also contains elements of descent narratives. (3) As a secular writer with sympathies for the religious imagination, Martel can pitch his revisioning of comparative religion to readers who have what Salman Rushdie once called a “God-shaped hole” in their heart. (4) These “implied readers” (Iser) would have a hunger for some of the animating power of faith, if not a capacity for blind commitment to dogmatic faith itself.
Reviewing Life of Pi for the Nation, Charlotte Innes describes it as “a religious book that makes sense to a nonreligious person” (25). In similar fashion, the Pequod argues that Martel’s book “achieves something more quietly spectacular” than a literal conversion, or a restoring of one’s faith in God: “it makes the reader want to believe in God. Martel gives the reader the democratic choice: the desire to believe rather than the belief itself” (Ishmael).
Those responses of the secular left contrast sharply with the responses of my first-year students at the University of the West Indies, to whom I have twice taught Life of Pi. For students from a fundamentalist background, it is a challenge to buy into a narrative that proclaims a God that transcends the imaginations of most believers in the three faiths in which the young Pihas been trained (Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam). In analyzing the theme of finding God, I position the text at a midway point between two different kinds of reception: secular readers for whom the notion of religious belief is at best metaphorical, and religious readers who may resist the narrative’s conceit that the true God exists outside the confines of institutional religion.
Life of Pi is suffused by a pervasive liminality. (5) The teenaged Pi is in motion between continents, between faiths, and between childhood and adulthood, which means that the novel is also a bildungsroman. (6) I here focus above all on the text’s and Pi’s location in the contested space between believers and nonbelievers, and on the novel’s attempted mediation between those seeming binary opposites. I ask two perhaps paradoxical questions: In what ways would this be seen by the nonreligious as a religious book with appeal? Put differently, to what degree and in what ways might this text actually give secular readers a desire to believe, even if it does not change their resistance to the trappings of faith itself? Second, in what ways might this text lead religious readers who already believe in God to reenvision that deity, or to worship him, her, or it in a new way?
One of the research questions my students pursued, and a baseline of my own research, was: How does Pi’s religious training prepare him for his ordeal at sea? I have developed three interconnected approaches to the question of how both religious and nonreligious readers might see God or religion with new eyes through the process of engaging Life of Pi. These three approaches to the new vision of God that this fiction is said to be capable of inspiring are:
- revisioning God by rethinking human-animal relations
- the balance of science and religion as a necessary part of believing in God
- the privileging of a good story over either religion or science
A brief summary of what each of these approaches entails is as follows:
- Pigets a new vision of God, and a new faith, precisely by having to worship outside of institutional contexts during the process of trying to stay alive for 227 days on a lifeboat also inhabited by a Bengal tiger. I argue that Pi comes to see God in a new way by becoming not only a companion but a servant to the tiger named Richard Parker.
- Pi’s belief in God is framed within the context of having to balance science and religion. Through this balance Pinot only survives his close encounter with the tiger, but also makes sense of his postmodern journey between nations and faiths.
- Martel’s “better story” trumps either science or religion. The better story is itself an object of adoration, a primary means through which one achieves or glimpses faith. Martel notes, “The theme of this novel can be summarized in three lines. Life is a story. You can choose your story. And a story with an imaginative overlay is the better story.” (7) The religious imagination is often for Martel the best overlay: it entertains us as it ethically guides individual and collective transitions or rites of passage–whether or not we literally believe in a given religious story. These stories are often more appealing than the “dry, yeastless factuality” of science (Martel, Life336). Thus, “believing in God” in some sense is a willingness to suspend disbelief while we listen to fantastic stories, inevitably informed by religion, about a world in which truth is stranger than fiction. As various voices in Lifeof Pi remind us, the better story is the one that includes animals. So an essential component of a story that makes us believe in God is that it decenters human beings. In contrast to commercial culture’s image of humans as closer to machines than to mammals, (8) this better story puts animals back at the center of our secular and religious imaginations.
The problem for readers accustomed to thinking of religions and faiths in the singular–you can only serve one master–is that Pi, as a teenager in India, sought out and received training in three faiths: Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. He took seriously Gandhi’s injunction that “all religions are true” (76). Pi confounded religious authorities by declaring an equal opportunity faith–“I just want to love God” (76). He moves beyond the farcical “introduction to interfaith dialogue” (77) and truly comes to understand what it means to believe in the “one God” (162)–and to love that God in all his or her manifestations–only during his ordeal at sea.
Pi had to be away from other human beings and away from institutional religions that claim ownership of God in order to sight the unity of that God, and to be a “suffering servant” of that God, as true love requires (Isaiah 53:3-7 RSV). But to frame this ascent narrative just as an emerging vision of God that draws on three religious faiths which sustain the castaway during his ordeal at sea would be, while accurate as far as it goes, unfaithful to the novel’s “better story.”
Religion in this text is not presented as inherently superior, but religious stories provide a framework that makes experience comprehensible for many, or provides moral guidelines. Therefore, religious teachings can be considered as “myths to live by” (Campbell) or “metaphors to live by” (Lakoff and Johnson). As a survival narrative (Duncan), Life of Pi demonstrates that the stories constructed out of trauma “are the provisions we need to go on living” (Georgis 166). Their spiritual components can coexist alongside of, and indeed complement, the stories of science, which also have their narrative appeal, but which are insufficient food for the human imagination, especially in conditions of extreme duress. (10)
Dr. Christina M. Carlson
In the book “Life of Pi” By Yann Martel. Yann Martel’s Life of Pi is the story of a young man who survives for months on a lifeboat with a tiger named Richard Parker, while he was traveling with his family and his father’s animals. The novel starts with pi’s youth. Also covering that his family has a zoo in their homeland in India. Pi goes through an important religious in his childhood. He was questioning himself all the time does god exist? Also he was looking for religion to believe in, he was looking for faith and he tried three different religions: Hinduism, Catholicism, and finally Islam.
The agent of God refers to the creatures God created on earth, the ‘Miracle of Life’. Even though animals are precious in religion they are also a gift, in a sense that when someone is hungry, they kill a beautiful creature like a deer, or chicken, and although very cruel, it is life created by God.
“I don’t mean to defend zoos. Close them all down if you want (and let us hope that what wildlife remains can survive in what is left of the natural world). I know zoos are no longer in peoples graces. Religion faces the same problem. Certain illusions about freedom plague them both.” Pg 19
When Pi talks about people frowning at the though of animals being caged up, because limited with their surroundings and trapped in the zoo. But Pi sees this differently, the animals are not only cared for and tended to on a daily basis, but they are out of the reach from predators and most dangerous diseases. The animals are even content with their habitat in most situations. But the illusion that Pi refers to that is similar to religion is when you are “free” you are given the choices, you are put in harms way and life is more dangerous even though you wouldn’t expect this – you would assume you are free. Religion is a guideline for such situations, and helps keeps you on track, shows you the right direction, away from harm so to speak.
“Sometimes I got my majors mixed up. A number of my fellow religious-studies students – muddled agnostics who didn’t know which way was up, who were in the thrall of reason, that fool’s gold for the bright – reminded me of the three-toed-sloth; and the three-toed sloth, such a beautiful example of the miracle of life, reminded me of God.” Pg5
Pi saw in his own life, during his studies, that even humans actions are similar to those of the animals in the world that God created; such as the three-toed sloth which during his zoology studies.
Even though several religions are expressed in the Life of Pi, he accepted them all and understood all of them as well as respected them.
“I felt a kinship with him. It was my first clue that atheists are my brothers and sisters of different faith, and ever word they speak speaks of faith. Like me, they go as far as the legs if reason will carry them – and then they leap.” Pg28
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Even as an atheist, Pi could see their beliefs, that his biology teacher, Mr. Kumar had faith in his beliefs. This not all summarizes Pi’s understand of religion, but also the relation of believing in science is a part of believing in God, whether his teacher realized that or not.
James Wood in London Review of Books, talks about the Credulity of Life of Pi. The examples given in the book expresses the realistic principles and situations that the book represents. An example given by James Wood is when Life of Pi is shipwrecked and reads the manual written by the Navy Seal commander.
“Always ready instructions carefully;”
“Do not drink urine. Or sea water. Or bird blood.”
“Do not eat jellyfish. Or fish that are armed with spikes. Or that have parrot-like beaks. Or that puff up like balloons.
“Pressing the eyes of a fish will paralyze them.”
Some of the examples listed above are given in the story of Life of Pi in great detail. The more detail the story provides the more real the story seems, and therefore more credible the source. The bullet points were written in a way that makes the reader feel like they are reading the same manual.
“It is indeed true that the way we believe in stories is similar to the way we believe in God (though there is an important difference between the idea that believing in God is like believing in a story and the idea that God is only a story). ” JAMES WOOD
When referring to the religion of the story, James Wood explains that it is easy for the reader to believe in the story because it is similar to how humans believe in God. Most often enough it is as children that we here the stories of God through books like the Bible, or Qur’an, the religious books, and that is how we come to the believe that God is real. But even through this story telling James Wood has doubt with the credulity of Pi, and Yann Martel’s story. Although there are several passages in the book that help James Wood claims the store is unrealistic due to the amount of days at sea, and considering Pi’s age during all this is that only of 16.
Jonathan R. Durdan discusses the Analysis of the Psychological Aspects of Survival in Life of Pi that Pi uses the defense mechanism theory is the parallel nature of Pi’s stories. Such as the example of the characters Pi uses to explain to the journalists what occurred during his traumatic experience: Pi’s mother, the cook, the Chinese crewman and Pi’s alter ego.
“Four of us survived. Mother held on to some bananas and made it the lifeboat. The cook was already aboard, as was the sailor.”
Pi starts explaining the story replacing the animals in his first story with humans to give Mr. Chiba and Mr. Okamoto the story they were looking for. In the first story he uses to tell Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba he talks about the hyena eating the zebra’s broken leg, when in reality there would be no reason for the hyena to not tear the zebra apart right then and there. As a reader you would wonder why the cook would be eating the flies if Pi also explains the boat is full of food and water for weeks why would the cook be eating them.
“Yet there he was, swinging his arms and catching flies and eating them greedily. Right away he was in a holy terror of hunger. He was calling us idiots and fools for not joining him in the feast.”
However Jonathan Durdan suggests that the anthropomorphism, the animal characteristics, used throughout description of the story claims that Pi sees the humans on the raft as animals. An explain represented by Durdan is the fact that at the end Pi questions the two gentleman which story they preferred, the one with the humans or the one with the animals.
“In both stories the ship sinks, my entire family dies, and I suffer.”
“Yes, that’s true.”
“So tell me, since it makes no factual difference to you and you cant prove the question either way, which story do you prefer?”
Both men agreed the story with the animals was the better story. Jonathan suggests this question is a realization from Pi that the story of the animals was from his imagination, but also how he was able to survive the whole ordeal.
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Analysis: Life of Pi