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Yann Martel: Life of Pi

Yes, I know. I was a bit put off by Martels insistance -- but I found the book to be less of religion, and more of the theory of the worlds religions.

Maybe you can add some insight here for me... My book club and I are trying to determine why Buddhism was not more strongly represented. Could it be because Hinduism predates Buddhism? Though the hyena represents Islam, the orangutang represents hinduism and the zebra, christianity... I am not finding any relative symbolism to Buddhism. We are debating that it may be the Pi's journey itself, as Buddhism does not pay allegence to the 'outer' God but the God found within, and the spiritual journey to know truth...

I would love to know the thoughts of any Buddhist out there!
First off, I'd like to say I'm a younger reader at 17. I've gotten the impression that most of you are older. Despite this, I really enjoyed this book on several levels, especially the philosiphy and the incredible writing style although unfortunatley i don't have nearly the novel experience some of you have.

I also somewhat struggled with the beginning. Not because the content was dull or not engaging, but mostly because of the hype around the story. I wanted to get into the thick of it as quickly as possible, and because of this I'm afraid I've missed some important aspects of the book. Second reading soon, I'm sure.

The entire second part of the novel was very hard to put down. His description was stunning and vivid. The emotions, the senses, the relationship with his feline companion were all done masterfully. He hooked me along for the ride, and by the algae island I was convinced and caring for this character. The only flaw I found here was the physical description of the lifeboat was not solid for me - I found it shifting back and forth for all sorts of scenarios in my head.

I doubt many people can complain about the ending, is was brilliantly done and pleasently surprising. Kept me thinking all night, and then some. And so I stumble upon some discussion boards!

My current views on this tale: The second story was true, just as the first was true. Martel's aim is to show how these religions share the same god, yet interpreted differently. From that tangent I thought about how Pi's first tale as a glorification of the 'real' tale is similar to the way legend and lore is passed down, as well as religion. It made me think about the way the bible was formed, if it was indeed easier for people to believe in miraculous events and if compartively something not so miraculous was the base of its premise. Or even if it is not easier for people to be believing, but WANTING to believe just as the two agents enjoyed the animal story.

Pi was Richard Parker, yet they were seperate entities and Pi lived in fear of the inner animal and watched him with a fascination and fear. The blind frenchman is unmistakably the chef. In Pi's blind enounter he reinforces how much the frenchmen loved food, how he seemed so fixated on such a thing. Through his own blindness, Pi could not feel himself as richard parker destroying the chef who killed his mother.

Right after killing the chef, they stumble upon their island oasis. what this is and how it relates to the second 'real' story is somewhat over my comprehension right now. I feel that I missed some strong connection with the teeth in the tree, perhaps some religious aspect. I remember reading desciption in Pi's second story that referred to something 'acidic' as well as mountains of dead fish, just as was mirrored on the island but I can't remember the context. Ideas, anyone?

When the crisis is finally over, the animal instinct of Pi dissapears without needing to return again. Everyone sheds a tear for their favorite 450 pound kitty/mental fixation.

And of course,the final sentence of the novel where they mention the animal story despite claiming they refute it underlines the theme of the novel as I see it. There are many truths, but we like to believe the most fanstatic over the others.
I love your interpretation and thought provoking analysis, but I saw several things differently.

Because I see this story in its entirety as an allegory, I dont believe there is a 'real' story and an 'unreal' story. It is one allegory, a metaphor in storyline. I find that represented in several elements. The use of the name of Pi, as one element.

The character, Pi, represents two related concepts weaving the storyline together. First, his full name of Piscine Molitar meaning as "the pool the Gods would have delighted to swim in" and the use of the shortened Pi, a number both infinite and irrational.... Much like all religions, dont you think?

As the storyline states, no animal is any more dangerous than another, I believe they are connecting the raft bound animals to the religions of Islam, Hindu and Christianity as I expressed in a preceeding entry. The colors of the animals represent these religions. As each animal/religion is confined to the raft, each knowing only its own reality and essentially eating each other alive in survival of the fittest. How like our own experience on Earth.

In this, I see Richard Parker as representative of God. King of the animal kingdom and highest force of each religion. Upon the destruction of each animal/religion, the mass of the book depicts Pi alone with God, drifting in the sea of unknown fate. I think Pi represents our human drive to understand God, as Pi wishes to know Richard Parker - at times to love him while fearing him, attempting to control him and frequently making ammends to him. It seems not unlike the human struggle with our concept of God.

In any interpretation, it is a rare story to be so full of magic.

The entire work could be summarized in Pi's statement, "The world isn't just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesnt that make life a story.?"
Laurah said:
Maybe you can add some insight here for me... My book club and I are trying to determine why Buddhism was not more strongly represented. Could it be because Hinduism predates Buddhism? Though the hyena represents Islam, the orangutang represents hinduism and the zebra, christianity... I am not finding any relative symbolism to Buddhism. We are debating that it may be the Pi's journey itself, as Buddhism does not pay allegence to the 'outer' God but the God found within, and the spiritual journey to know truth...
Gosh, your digging deep!
Could you please explain that thing with the animals representing the different religions? Someone also mentioned a color connection but I've to say I don't get it.
Rosie said:
One of his major points was "all religions are true," which as a Christian I must respectfully disagree with.

For a Christian, his/her religion is true.
For a Hinduist, his/her religion is true.
For a Muslim, his/her religion is true.

So in a way, all religions are true, because everyone who believes in a religion believes his/her religion is true. Everyone says their religion is the truth, which makes all religions true. (Maybe it didn't come out so well).
The one who believes, decides what is true true for him/her.

I finished reading "Life of Pi" today, and the only thing I remember asking myself through the book was; How is this story supposed to make one believe in God? That’s the reason I read it in the first place, the other reason was the big hype around the book.

I believe in God, but I didn’t get why someone who didn’t believe in Him, would do so simply by reading this book. I still don't see the necessity of "promising" "It'll make you believe in God". Why did the author do that?

Overall it was an average read. It might just be me:). I think one needs to go a little deeper to really really like it, and dwell a little and all that. But I'm just not in the mood.

As of, which of the two stories were true, the religious-me would say the animal-one, the pessimistic-me would say the other. So I'm actually not sure.

However, I liked the "incident" where the pandit, imam and the priest "discussed" religion. I think that tells us what everyone of us feels about other religions. I have seen this in reality too, that two people with different religious background start fighting on whose religion is the right one. Quite irritating and very absurd!!! As though, it's nothing else to talk about, and that their actually going to come to a conclusion.:rolleyes:

"I was named after a swimming pool"- I found that to be quite funny. :D

Gizmo, I don't know about the colour connection, but I do know that orange is the colour of Hinduism, green of Islam, I think white is linked to Christianity, not sure there, (correct me if I'm wrong).
Just started this, and am surprised that no one mentioned how beautiful the language and imagery is. Am only a handful of chapters in, but so far am impressed.
Finished reading this one a couple days ago, and I'm still chewing on it. Ashlea, you're right, the language is beautiful in that I felt it truly conveyed to me what it would be like to be lost at sea like that. At times I felt the desperation Pi must've felt; so often you see movies about being lost and they go from the plane, ship, whatever right to the island. I can't imagine being floating on a vast sea with nothing in sight, and the author makes you feel it yourself.

I actually felt disappointed when Pi started telling what he called the real story at the end. I kept hoping he was just making that up and that Richard Parker would somehow come back again. However, after thinking about it, I think the ending not only represents the outlook Pi had on different religions, but it's also a great reflection upon human nature. We read about the violence involved with these animals in dismay, yet then we see that humans are entirely capable, in fact prone, to the same types of reactions and instincts.

I love animals, and I thought the book also did a great job of describing the ones involved, especially Richard Parker. That combined with the awesome descriptions of what Pi did for survival made this a page-turner for me.
Finally finished this, I kept getting distracted by girly fantasy. At any rate, I found some parts of the middle a touch tedious, as if at some point I was not involved in the story as much as analyzing the author's performance. But, it was a worthwhile read and very thought provoking. I'll be thinking about it for awhile.
Ash, I'm listening to the audiobook at the moment. I loved the zoology part, and his religious predicament is so funny! I loved the part his parents grappled with the notion of him wanting to get baptised and getting a prayer mat! :) I didn't agree with all his zoology views, but it was very informative.

I bought the book last year and loved it. A very clever book that left you thinking long after you put it down. Struggle for survival, faith, tragedy and love, it has it all.
Can you imagine being on a small boat in the middle of the ocean for three days with a tiger and not knowing it was there??? One time I was on a small boat in the middle of the ocean with a tiger and I knew it was there in, like, thirteen seconds.
my thoughts

Just found this thread, though it started a while ago. I really enjoyed this book. I missed all the hype so I came to it with an open mind. It did lose me slightly at the point where you find out it's a carnivorous island - I want to believe, I really do, but I struggle with some elements of magic realism. Apart from that I thought it was fantastic, and I can see why the whole island bit was there, I just didn't enjoy it as much. Whoever it was that mentioned bats - yeah I thought that too.

I loved the story of the three religious leaders meeting. I thought that was a wonderful way to look at Pi's beliefs, and very funny. I also really enjoyed his descriptions on the mentality of animals and how you should deal with them. I thought that rang true and was as insightful as some of his thoughts on religion. I thought the comment about making you believe in God was just a storytelling technique, designed to draw you in. I didn't take it literally or personally. It definitely makes you think about God anyway.

I didn't want to believe the second story, but after the island I found it the more plausible. Reading other people's ideas on both these versions being true in different ways made me think about my own reaction again and I guess I'm reconciled to it now. Saying that they are both true makes sense and somehow makes the second version more bearable.

Reading everyone else's thoughts has made me want to re-read this book. Thanks!
Okay, I've finished this today. I just read the whole of this thread to see the comments already posted, and here's what I feel.

The animal story is true. At least that's what I thought and firmly believed until I read someone quoting Pi saying how the Japanese will never meet RP because 'he's hiding in a place where you'll never find him'. Now I'm not so sure.

My reason for doubting the 2nd story is simply practical - a lot of details went into the RP story, with descriptions on what he ate throughout the journey. The second story ended after he killed the chef. The niggling feeling I got was what happened after he killed the chef? What did he eat? In the animal story, he found food on the carnivorous island, which explained what he ate for close to a month, helping to keep him alive. The second story didn't suggest anything he might have eaten to stay alive for the same period of time.

Anyway, if the other story is true (i.e. Pi is RP), then it seems to me that Pi and RP is the Booker Prize-winning equivalent of Calvin and Hobbes. Minus the stuffed toy.

I just finished this book today.....Wowzer!

I'm still trying to absorb it all, and I think I'll benefit from a re-read or 10.

I'm not too knowledgable of religion, so a lot of that symbolism or references went above my head. :rolleyes:

As for which story is the true one - the animal one or the other one - I'm undecided. :rolleyes: I definately preferred the animal story though. :D

The one part that I am stumbling over..... right before Pi and RP (I love the name :D ) come to the island, Pi "speaks" with RP (hallucinating, I assume :confused: ). When he is talking with RP, RP confesses to having killed a man and a woman, and also hints that RP is French (he has a French accent apparently :D p. 248). Then Pi meets another blind castaway (or hallucinates it), who doesn't really say anything about himself. However at the end, when Pi is talking to the agents, the agents refer to this blind castaway (rather than RP) as being French, and having admitted to killing a man and a woman. :confused: (p. 311). So is the blind castaway, still a part of his hallucination about talking with RP? :confused: There must be a connection between RP and the other blind castaway. :confused: Also doesn't this blind castaway try to kill him ("His hands reached for my throat"; '"You're damn right your heart is with me!" he said. "And your liver and your flesh!" p. 254-255), right before RP kills him. :confused: This makes it seem like the second story is the true one - as the cook was French. In the second story when Pi talks of killing the cook, he said "I ate his liver. I cut off great pieces of his flesh".

Also, like someone else posted in this thread, there are hints that RP is the animal side of Pi, that was brought out by the tragedy of the sinking ship - and that now Pi is rescued, that part of Pi (RP) is no longer necessary, and is "hiding somewhere you'll never find him". (p.317).

Hmmm, I'm rambling a bit. :rolleyes: To try to get any deeper meaning out of it, or to try to see how it all fits together, I definately need to give it another read. :)

But I think that the story was so well written, and was an interesting story in itself, that not being able to fully get the author's message or understand all the symbolism doesn't detract from the book at all. At least not for me. :)
marlasinger said:
I just finished this book today.....Wowzer!
It's official... you're the smiley queen of TBF, marla!

Personally, I interpreted Pi's dialogue with the French speaker like this: it was a french sailor all along (it wasn't established in the first story that he was in fact a chef - from the sunk ship, no less). When he first heard someone answering him, Pi thought he was hallucinating. He thought another part of his consciousness is talking to him (i.e. gone mad). He played along, and when the voice said he didn't take vegetables, he went 'waitaminute, this is actually RP.' More chitchat, up to the point where he suddenly realized that it wasn't RP after all, but another castaway. Then of course, came much violence and gnashing of teeth.

Actually, I had thought Pi had really gone nuts until he said he saw the remains of the french castaway on the lifeboat.

So, the French accented voice was all along the french sailor, and was never RP. Again, this is my interpretation.

Re ending - Another way of backing up the animal story as the truth is taking things at face value. The second story was told to appease the Japanese investigators because they didn't believe the first one. "Pi has gone thru a lot, please why doesn't everyone start believing him? It's so sad..." [sniff sniff]


But I agree with you - regardless of the truth, the novel was a joy to read.

direstraits said:
It's official... you're the smiley queen of TBF, marla!
Lol - thanks!

Personally, I interpreted Pi's dialogue with the French speaker like this: it was a french sailor all along (it wasn't established in the first story that he was in fact a chef - from the sunk ship, no less). .....

That makes sense - I didn't even think of that.
That would explain what the agents say in the end.

I do wonder though, how the story would have been told, if Pi hadn't been temporarily blinded. It was when he was blind that the French castaway appeared - so to me it is likely that it is a hallucination, or some part of the second story (with the French chef). It could have been all in his mind, but if Pi were able to see, then we (the readers) would know for sure if the French sailor existed. It's as though that part was thrown in to put some doubt on the first story, and also strengthen the likelihood of the second story being true.
See, that's exactly what I was wondering (whether the french sailor existed), until the part where Pi regained his eyesight and saw human remains of the french sailor onboard the lifeboat.

Life of Pi

New member--first post

I was drawn to this site by a need to discuss The Life of Pi. I was deeply moved by this novel and was wondering if there's anyone out there wanting to discuss it, too.
There's a 5-page discussion already started here.

It was a book of the month discussion, but anyone can jump in at any time and resurrect the discussion.

Welcome to the forum.
Wonderful Story

I read this a few months ago and loved it the whole way through. The scene with the religious leaders meeting Pi's parents was very funny and meaningful. As for the alternate version of events told by Pi at the end, seeing as how they're both fiction, I don't think Martel intended people to pick one as "true" (even within the context of the novel), but instead to illustrate a point. That point has been well discussed earlier in this thread about the two ways to look at religious and/or fantastic phenomena, so I don't have anything to add about that other than I think generating this exact discussion was Martel's desire over "picking the right one," which seems to miss the point.

In fact, I'm so gullible I actually believed the story was true; his author's note and the chapters in italics did a good job selling that, but I should've been a little more skeptical, I guess... Still, I was giving Pi the benefit of the doubt, and when someone goes to great lengths to say they're telling the truth, I tend to believe them. Martel really pulled the wool over my eyes until a friend of mine said "dude, you've been had!!" I think the good job he did in selling a fantasy as reality is one reason he won the Booker. Of course, he's also a good writer, and it's just a great read all around, so that doesn't hurt...