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Life of Pi Essay

Life of Pi is a novel written by Yann Martel and
published in the year 2001 by Vintage Canada. Martel’s inspiration was revealed
in a 2002 interview with PBS, Martel said “I was sort of looking for a story –
something that would direct my life.” He began to discuss how he was
lonely and through religion, he discovered a new direction in his life which
lead him write Life of Pi. In Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, the
main character Piscine Patel, known to all as Pi, is an Indian boy who has been
stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for 277 days. Pi’s mentality is
beginning to change but through his religion is he able to remain sane.
“Religion will save us”,
Pi, who is narrating the story, goes on to say that religion had always been
close to his heart. In Life of Pi, through adverse situations, one’s religion
is the most significant factor which helps them survive. Pi uses the teachings of
Islam, Hinduism and Christianity to help him through his journey by helping him
remain sane, possess hope and depict Richard Parker as a god – like figure.

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In the novel, there were several moments of the
story where Pi had encountered traumatic and horrifying events which could have
lead to a loss of individual’s sanity and hope. In the novel, Pi used his religious
beliefs and his faith to keep him distracted. Pi uses his teachings to allow
him to fight insanity and hold the truth which he believes. “I practiced
religious rituals that I adapted to the circumstances – solitary masses without
priests… They brought me comfort, that is certain. But it was hard, oh it was
hard.” (Martel 231). This quote explains how his rituals and teachings have helped
him adapt to the circumstances and allowed him to remain sane through the
hardest of times. His religious beliefs are allowing him to have non-erratic behavior
and remain sane at all costs. Another example is shown when Pi laid his hands-on
fishes and his religious beliefs helped him remain sane throughout. “I laid
hands on so many fish that my body began to glitter from all the fish scales
that became stuck to it. I wore these spots of shine and silver like tilaks,
the marks of colour that we Hindus wear on our foreheads as symbols of the
divine” (Martel 217). This quote is expressing how Pi remained sane through his
silver like tilaks, which Hindus wear on their foreheads as a symbol of divinity.
Pi accepted the fact that fish scales were on his body and he remained sane
through his religious beliefs. Throughout the novel, Pi was in circumstances
which may have led him to insanity. Through his religious encounters and
beliefs, he could cancel out everything going on in his life and was able to
remain sane.

Piscine Patel was lost at sea for 227 days with
a Bengal tiger. Through his time, he was beginning to lose all hope, but
through god and his religious beliefs, he could possess hope which he needed
for survival. Belief towards religion allows individuals to obtain further
knowledge and hope which may help them through their toughest times. In the
novel, Pi is having difficulty believing he could survive but through his
religious beliefs, he remains hopeful and continues his journey. Religion is a
key factor which drives Pi’s motive and allows him to continue going. “I
was giving up. I would have given up— if a voice hadn’t made itself heard in my
heart. The voice said, ‘I will not die. I refuse it. I will make it through
this nightmare. I will beat the odds, as great as they are… I will put in all
the hard work necessary. Yes, so long as God is with me, I will not die. Amen”(Martel
163). This quote is expressing how Pi is beginning to give up and has lost all
hope, but through god he is able to fight for survival and do anything to beat
his odds. Pi has a deep connection with god and religion. This connection
allows Pi to possess all the hope which remains. ‘Jesus, Mary, Muhammad and
Vishnu, how good to see you. Come to the lifeboat. Do you hear this whistle?…
Swim, swim! You’re a strong swimmer. It’s not a hundred feet” (Martel 107).
This quote is showing how all these important figures of Pi’s religion are
giving him hope and allowing him to fight for survival. All these divine figures
are giving Pi a sense of hope and belief. There are many moments in the novel
where Pi feels hopeless but through his religious figures and beliefs he idolizes
and possess, he is able to remain hopeful.

In the novel, Life of Pi, Martel uses symbolism
to tie in important parts of Pi’s life. Richard Parker may be a clear
representation of a god or faith in the novel. Throughout the novel it was
shown that Pi had a hatred and love for the tiger. Pi mentions that “It was Richard Parker who calmed me down. 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.”
(Martel 179) God like figures in human’s lives are meant to be both feared and
loved. Pi had the same relationship with Richard Parker. He helped Pi be scared
and calm when required, which helped him survive his journey. Similarly, Pi
always saw Richard Parker as someone who isn’t human, but nevertheless, Pi
notices that “it was not so much the speed that was impressive
as the pure animal confidence, the total absorption in the moment. Such a mix
of ease and concentration, such a being-in-the-present, would be the envy of
the highest yogis” (Martel 201) Pi’s ability to be in awe of the non-human
qualities that Parker has, is similar to how humans are often in awe of a
god-like figure. This certainly helps show how Richard Parker is in fact, a
totally distinct figure from Pi. Throughout the novel, Richard Parker was shown
to be a representation of a god-like figure to Pi and helped Pi in his ability
for survival.

Religion is the belief or system which is
designated towards behaviours and practices. Religion is a major theme in Life
of Pi. Pi focuses on different stories and theories from each faith. Pi
believes that belief is more important than the whole truth. It was seen how
Pi’s religious and spiritual attributes grow throughout the story. In the
novel, Life of Pi, through adverse situations one’s religion is the most
significant factor in the ability for their survival. Pi had witnessed this as
his religions helped him remain sane, possess hope and helped him depict Richard
Parker as a god-like figure which in turn helped him survive his journey. Religion
helped Pi throughout the novel, which developed him as character of faith. Religion
is putting faith in something outside of this world, it is an explanation of
things we cannot understand. In his journey, without religion, it would’ve been
close to impossible for Pi to survive as religion had brought Pi comfort and
sanity through the hardest of times.

 

 

 

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