In the first part of Life of Pi, Pi Patel tells the reader about important memories from his childhood before the ship accident and his adventure as a castaway at sea. It is from these memories that we see a real development of Pi’s character; we come to better understand his thoughts and standings on life, religion, and the knowledge he gained from his family and others. One of his many musings about religion and the integration of it into our lives appears in Chapter 22, where he describes the end of two individuals lives.
Both see a white light overtaking them. One person recognizes that it is God, in one form or another, overtaking them and drawing them in from their moral life, and they become believers. The other stays stubborn in his scientific reasoning, and dismisses the white light as a visual phenomenon that is caused by a lack of oxygen to his central nervous system. Pi does not necessarily dismiss either as false, but claims that the scientific person “lack(ed) imagination and miss(ed) the better part of the story.
This is precisely one of the major ideas of Life of Pi, that despite what life throws at you, you can choose how you perceive reality and make a better story out of it, should you choose to do so. Pi sees religion as one of the greatest ways to engage the human imagination and take full advantage of life. It would appear as though Pi is claiming that even if religion isn’t true, it is more exciting to live your life as though it were than to live with the mind of an atheist, that there is a “better story” through a life of religion.
And this may well be true, that belief in a higher purpose is more fulfilling than belief in our existence being a natural phenomenon devoid of God. But if you choose religion to be your “story,” then does it truly become reality? In the case of Pi, he tells us that we can shape our reality. But to truly analyze this statement, we must define reality. Though Pi suggests that reality is a truth based on personal perspective, common sense affirms otherwise.
There is reality, in the sense of what truly has taken place, and there is what people believe, they can be unified or separate of one another, but to be both would be a paradox. If there were no reality underlying life, then we would need no judicial systems in the world, for certainly if the accused believes they are innocent, then we should not dare call them false by the convictions of our own reality. No one could lie either, for reality would be relative to perspective and one cannot expect his or her own reality to align with the other party’s reality.
Furthermore, we could not chastise children for stealing from one another, for they truly believe that they should take what they want, and we must not punish them for simply living out their own reality. There is much “meat” lacking in Pi’s statement, but such is to be expected in his case. It is important to consider one fact in all that he says-the story’s setting is during his childhood. For one so young in the world, he speaks rather firmly on some considerable matters, of religion and how to live a fulfilling life.
Pi talks as though he had lived a lifetime-worth of social and religious observations that give him qualification to speak so adamantly. Yet he is not stubborn, or narrow-minded, he simply has faith in himself. This mindset of faith in self can be expected from a person of any religion, which includes Pi since, basically, he has created a religion of his own, one that involves the idea of incorporating other religions. More importantly, children also hold this view, a belief in their own perspective.
The story with the animals is certainly the more preferable story to read. If the book were made from the second story, it would be quite boring. But this is not to say that the second story is not the better one. Yann Martel simply chose to write the first one with more embellishment and elements that create a good story, a more positive story of steadfast courage and personal triumph. He wrote the second story to sound blockish, horrid, and unpleasantly real.
The second story is the reality and the first one is Pi’s askew take on reality. I do however think that if you incorporate the first story into the character of Pi in the second story, therefore making the second story more “story-like” by giving Pi characterization, the second story would be the better one, and the most real. It would be a tale of a castaway, who must endure the mutilation of other castaways, one being his mother, at the hand of a deranged Frenchman, who evidentially dies, leaving the boy alone in the lifeboat.
But through all of this, the boy imagines that he is sailing on an incredible journey with animals, and they see many wondrous things, and through his struggles comes to look back on the journey as the one with animals, and not the horrid truth. Ah, but wait-that is the true story of the Life of Pi, the third story, the one that is not told explicitly but is instead derived by the combining of truth and perspective to mold an ultimate reality.
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