“Life of Pi” by Yann Martel

“Life of Pi” is so beautifully written, that I was halfway through the book before I realized that Martel’s masterpiece is in fact, fictitious. According to Los Angeles Times, this book is “a story to make you believe in the soul-sustaining power of fiction.” Wow. Thank you Los Angeles! Way to ruin it. Until that point, I had devoured every last detail, and accepted it without question. I was really quite disappointed in the world when I learned that Pi and his adventure are not real. I liked to think that there was someone out there who loved every religion, and made them all a big part of his life, while most pious people can only handle one religion. I thought Pi’s open heart and ready mind was inspiring, as well as what he survives later in the story. I desperately wanted it all to be real, and I was never going to doubt its credibility until my mother brought up the subject and felt inclined to dash my faith in humanity.

I think the part of the book that really made me believe it was the introduction, which is from the perspective of the author and tells the story of how he found Pi. I’m pretty sure it is cheating to lie during the introduction. Introductions are not supposed to be part of the story; they are supposed to be real, and boring and scholarly. If Martel wanted to start the story before chapter one, I’m pretty sure that is what people call a ‘Prologue’ not an ‘Introduction.’ So he was sneaky. I think Martel wants readers to believe in Pi’s adventure, and he accomplished exactly that.

After I was finished feeling betrayed I realized how genius Martel is. The story he told is entirely fictitious, but I hung onto every single word. I think it was all of those little details that most writers never even know about their characters that convinced me. Those little things like the three religions, a name like Piscine Molitor Patel, and the nickname that resulted. They are so outrageous, that I thought that they could be nothing but the truth. Even though it is a fictional work, it is funny how much it tells us about the crazy and real world around us. I beg to disagree with the Los Angeles Times, because this book does not make me “believe in the soul-sustaining power of fiction” but “the soul-sustaining power of” reality. I am sure that I was not the only one who believed that the story was true, and it shows us that even though this adventure did not happen to Pi, everyone can see it happening. We wouldn’t put it past fate, or destiny, or chance or whatever you’d like to blame it on, to set a little boy adrift with a tiger. (Oops… spoiler alert) I also learned that “Don’t judge a book by its cover” applies to more than just the cover art, but to the reviews and summaries on the back cover. In my mind, I would have never categorized this book as fiction, as the Los Angeles Times did, and I also would have NEVER given “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” a good review, like its back cover did. (you knew it had to be referenced at least once.)

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37 responses to ““Life of Pi” by Yann Martel

  1. evacranch221

    ~Eva Cranch

  2. bemyers4

    Eva, you are not the only one that thought this book was fiction. Until reading your post, I too thought it was a true story, and how sneaky it was of Yann Martel to include that story in the Introduction. I mean seriously, titling a fictitious personal story at the beginning of a novel as the “Introduction” is almost lying to the reader. Then again, he may have just been setting the tone for the story and making it more believable. (Boy did he do that because I was sure fooled!) Regardless of whether it is fiction, I’m going to go on believing that it’s true and continue the magic of the story in my head.
    I also agree with Eva on her point regarding Pi’s ability to love and accept many religions. I find that truly beautiful and a compliment to humanity from the author, in saying that someone would have the ability to be so openhearted and loving of many ideas of religion. One doesn’t see such beauty and openness very often and by writing of someone that expresses this is saying that it is possible. Martel himself may be hoping that someone as accepting as Pi exists and is why he wrote about him. Martel also gave an example of the greed and simple-mindedness present in society in writing of the three religious leaders’ meeting. It made me mad to see three men who had devoted their lives to God quarrel about Pi’s religious choosing. Religion is a very personal subject that must be appreciated and discovered by one’s self. By arguing over the religious choice of another, the God-devoted men degraded religion to something material. Martel’s decision to include this scene displays his own exposure to this fault in society around him. This was a note on society’s inability to see beyond and accept the ideas of others that may be foreign in some way to its own. Martel is trying to expand the reader’s horizon of perspective in describing Pi’s experiences with regards to religion.

  3. meghanamysore

    So far, I too have enjoyed Life of Pi. It is a highly interesting novel, with much to ponder, and is also quite relevant to my own life.

    Firstly, I found it interesting how Martel almost writes about animals as if they do not express or feel the same emotions as humans. Yes, I know that animals can not talk or read or write and do not have the many priviledges that we do as humans, but I do believe that they are not far off from us. Every living being possesses some sort of “humanity” in my opinion. For example, Martel illustrates animals’ inhumanity when he writes, “[An animal that is] being denied its “freedom” for too long…becomes a shadow if itself, its spirit broken. So some people imagine. This is not the way it is. Animals in the wild lead lives of compulsion and necessity…,” and he continues, “[the only two imperatives of the wild are] the avoidance of enemies and the getting of food and water” (16-17). I see Life of Pi as a book about humanity and finding one’s humanity through faith in God. If animals are simply machines, programmed only to think about food and water and only feel threatened when someone comes near their personal space, then what is faith?

    Pi discusses and experiments with faith throughout the first portion of the novel, as he begins to love Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. He says that the greatest reason he believes in God and Hinduism is part of is life is because of the faith written on the foreheads of each and every believer. Though this may not be the purpose of Life of Pi, I see an interesting relevance between “faith” and animals. Pi mentions many ideas of faith, but he does not talk about how faith is also imagination. And in imagination, one can see the humanity in animals.

    Faith has been a large part of my own life, not because I necessarily always believe in God, but because I’ve seen many examples of faith and rituals in this world. My family is technically Hindu, so I’ve been to many temples and I think I’ve experienced what Pi must have, although many a time I come out of a temple feeling father away from God than when I walked in. I don’t consider myself a Hindu, or Christian, or Muslim, or anything, because I don’t understand rituals, much like Pi. I can’t count how many times I’ve been frowned upon by priests and older/experienced men and women in a temple because I did something “wrong” in a temple, like eating with my left hand. But I don’t believe that these “experienced” people are closer to God than I am. I don’t even believe that priests are–in fact, addressing the scene Bridget mentioned above, the detachment of the priests are what convince me that God does not reside in temples.

    Returning to the idea of animal life connecting to God, I would like to address how “socially inferior animals” become the stars of the show, in relation to Pi’s questions about Jesus. When Pi thinks about Jesus dying, he says that He is much weaker than the Hindu gods. I think the scenario of the socially inferior animals becoming the superior can help to explain the godliness in Jesus’s sacrifice. And this is where animals teach us lessons about humans, and God.

    Finally, to finish this long and rambling post, I will say that I have also experienced the closeness with God that Pi feels. Like Pi, I can only feel God when I’m alone, without the world, or the highly-ritualed men and women and priests to distract me. In this, I begin to understand that God is a very personal thing, which is what Martel might be trying to say. Religion, in the end, can only be experienced when the rest of the world is asleep. It’s not wrong to experience this alone, away from the mosque or church or temple or whatever, because in this moment of “alone,” there lies unity.

    P.S.–Sorry for the incredibly long post, and I hope I didn’t bore anyone. 🙂

  4. Life of Pi, as everyone else has already mentioned, is highly engaging and extremely interesting. In fact, I do not think I have ever read another book like this novel, due to its intricate plot and the author’s captivating voice.

    There were several parts in the novel that particularly stood out to me. The first of which is when Pi is describing his father’s clever sign at the zoo that reads, “Do you know which is the most dangerous animal at the zoo?” The narrator describes, “There were so many eager, curious hands that pulled at the curtain that we had to replace it regularly. Behind it was a mirror” (31). I found this very ironic, though at the same time quite true; one would think that of all the creatures in the zoo who would threaten the safety of others, it would be one of the massive mammals like the lions or elephants. Growing up, we are always taught that certain animals are dangerous, when in fact we are the most dangerous species of all. In the novel, Pi’s father’s sign goes to show that perhaps the “free” creatures of this world, humans, are more threatening than those who are entrapped.

    I agree with Meghana, as I too am not particularly religious, though at the same time I still believe in some God out there, somewhere. I have never attended church in my life, but I don’t believe you have to attend church or practice certain religious rituals in order to believe. This is what Pi is trying to do in the novel – to simply love God, whether it be through Christianity, Islam, or Hinduism. As Bridget mentioned previously, I was also angered by the argument that broke out between the three religious leaders over which religion Pi should choose. Martel writes, “‘Yes! Practice – singular!’ the wise men screamed in unison. Three index fingers, like punctuation marks, jumped to attention in the air to emphasize their point. They were not pleased at the unintended choral effect or the spontaneous unity of their gestures” (68-69). Although the three men come from completely different religious backgrounds and practice very different rituals coinciding with separate systems of beliefs, morals, and values, their unanimous outbreak proves how mankind is one species, despite varying perspectives and opinions. We can argue for hours over something as small as one only being allowed to choose one religion to worship, but in the end, as Pi realizes in the novel, why does it matter? Pi can still love God through all the religions, as he finds a way to access this love through the various aspects of each set of beliefs. One should not have to declare himself to a certain set of values for life, for as Pi describes, the ultimate goal for everyone is to simply love and worship God or some other higher power of one’s choosing. I admire the main character’s courage to branch out to everyone in the world and to embrace the beliefs of many different people.

    ~Maia Lee

  5. akulawiec

    As many of my group members have pointed out, Yann Martel’s Life of Pi is clearly a though-provoking novel. Topics as diverse as bullying, animal treatment, and spirituality have been touched upon in merely the first quarter of the book. However, what I, and several of my group members, find to be a most intriguing aspect of Life of Pi thus far is the concept of religious faith.
    Like Meghana, my family technically belongs to a religion. In my case, it’s Catholicism. Hence, I have been to many churches and have had many opportunities to try to wrap my mind around the idea of religion. I have observed many different formalities during mass, but time and time again, I am confronted with the insensibility of the formalities. For example, I have seen people cross themselves with blank eyes and I have heard people sing songs full of “Halleluiahs!” with completely uninterested tones. Worst of all, I have heard priests read passages of the Bible aloud in boring, droning voices that, clearly, no one in the church comprehends. When faced with such indifference, such mindlessness, how am I supposed to accept this, or any other, religion? How am I supposed to find God when I am told he can be found in a church?
    Because of my more negative experiences with religion, hearing of Pi’s acceptance of, not only one, but three religions is extraordinary. At first, I could not grasp that someone would willingly be a member of three different religions. (What self-deception!) However, I soon realized that Pi does not deceive himself—on the contrary, he lives with awareness.
    What I believe Martel is trying to convey about religious faith is that it cannot be found in blindness. Rather, faith, God, enlightenment, etc., can only be found when one’s eyes are wide open. When Pi mentions the few glorious moments of his life, he notes that the glory appeared in the most mundane circumstances, such as, “One such time I left town and on my way back, at a point where the land was high and I could see the sea to my left and down the road a long ways, I suddenly felt I was in heaven. The spot was in fact no different from when I had passed it not long before, but my way of seeing it had changed” (62). Basically, Pi feels glorious, or heavenly, when he looks at the world from a different perspective. His ability to look at the world differently grants him the ability to find extraordinary beauty. Perhaps that is what faith is, or at least it is what Martel believes faith is. Religious faith is looking at the world from a different perspective and, subsequently, being able to find beauty in the world. I suppose that is why Pi is at leisure to join three various religions. Each religion, essentially, tries to find beauty, and when found, the beauty is named “God.”

    ~Anna Kulawiec

  6. redinbon

    Life of Pi is a unique story. I enjoyed the small humorous sections and the in depth detail in the first portion of the book, and I look forward to reading more. The story follows a young Indian boy’s childhood in India. I enjoyed this because it is most definitely a plot that has not been used in literature before. I also thought the supporting characters in this story were strong and memorable. I have not lived in a culture such as Pi’s, but the story is told with such detail that I found it easy to imagine many of the scenes and sights that would greet me if I did live there. Throughout the first hundred pages of the book are small chapters told from a different point of view that at first I found confusing. Later, I became eager to piece together what was happening, but it appears that this particular plot point doesn’t become important until later in the story. My only problem with the book is that it tends to drag on in places. Though the author has a specialty with detail, it can be too much sometimes. The main character’s family lives in a zoo, and the reader spends most of the first hundred pages learning about all sorts of zoos, not just the one Pi inhabits. Hopefully the plot will move on soon. Overall though, I felt that this was a good beginning to what will hopefully be a worthwhile read.

  7. starliu2

    What is the value that Pi Patel is named after? Yes, it’s 3.14, the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, with an infinitely long numerical value that is seemingly random and confusing at first glance. Religion could also be considered the same way: as a gigantic mass of confounding ideas about the world and afterlife and any greater powers that control our destinies. As Pi explains, “We are all born like Catholics, aren’t we-in limbo, without religion, until some figure introduces us to God?” (47). Then from there we are thrust into the world with its many different religions, and so where are we supposed to go from there? Of course, many just follow into the same faith that their family has, and accepts it without question because it was the first and maybe only religion they were really completely exposed to. Pi is raised somewhat as a Hindu by his mother, but his father “didn’t have a religious bone in his body” (65). And because Pi happened to have the chance to wander across other religions, he could take on yet more ideas about the world, and cherry pick his way through to what he believes is out there in a spiritual sense. There are plenty of Christian churches in Lake Oswego, yet I will probably never get the chance to happen across a Hindu temple here. Pi is getting the opportunity to see other religions, and it doesn’t matter under what name or faith he follows as long as he finds a way to God. It’s true that Pi may be confused and uncertain about his beliefs and is therefore following three religions at the same time, but there isn’t anything wrong with that. Exploration and some uncertainty are always needed before finding the right path for yourself, as in any given situation.

    ~Crystal

  8. zany503

    Like everyone else has mentioned, Life of Pi has so far been a thought provoking and interesting novel. I was impressed with how the Introduction caused the beginning of the book to seem like an extension of it and how the characters continue to build. While reading, I keep in mind the introduction and what the author personally discovered. The first section of Life of Pi has been great for the reader to understand the life and culture the main character is being raised in. We learn of the importance of zoos and religion in Pi’s life. Both are extremely important to Pi’s identity and have made me think about animals and religion in life today. Pi is entranced with religion and only wants “to love God.” He is so entranced that he attends church, temple, and a mosque so he can be a good Hindu, Christian, and Muslim boy. Through his exploration of religion he has welcomed many opinions and learned a lot about the world around him and how to accept diversity. He offered new perspectives to me as well. What really caught my attention however was how the zoo played a role in Pi’s childhood. Pi has offered a unique perspective on how animals and humans can be compared. He explains how all organisms share the same common goals in life and react similarly to certain situations. For example, Pi explains that when a person’s home deviates from the norm that they will react negatively due to their discomfort. The same is with animals in zoos when their habitats are different. If there is too much sunlight or not enough water, animals may hide or try to escape to find what they are used to. Humans and animals alike are afraid of the unknown. That is why zoo animals do not typically try to escape, as Pi explains. They are comfortable in the zoo and they like it, so they have no need to leave. Pi says the same goes for humans too. I have not compared animals and humans together in this way and I found it particularly interesting. Another interaction with animals that is described is when Pi and his brother Ravi are forced to watch a hungry tiger devour a live goat. Pi’s father was determined to teach the children about the unpredictability of animals and how potentially dangerous they can be. Although not directly stated, I assumed that this example was also used to describe humans. Oftentimes, people are unpredictable and dangerous, too. I think this will apparent later in the book. So far, I am really enjoying the novel and I am fascinated with the ideas portrayed in the first twenty-five chapters. I’m excited to keep reading!
    -Samantha S A2

  9. meghanamysore

    Life of Pi has picked up its pace quite a bit, with Pi now stranded and lost on a boat with Richard Parker, a tiger from the Pondicherry Zoo. Still, it is not the plot that makes me want to continue reading, but rather Martel’s writing. Throughout the novel, as perhaps many of you have noticed, Martel moves back and forth in perspective, flashing forward and describing Pi’s life as an adult. By giving the reader a glimpse into Pi’s future, Martel is almost ensuring that the reader will continue reading. These brief, italicized sections reveal such relevant information about Pi and his story. They also foreshadow, making the reader wonder why Pi is the way he is. For example, in one of these sections, the adult Pi says about his life, “‘The worst of it…is that I can hardly remember what my mother looks like any more. I can see her in my mind, but it is fleeting. As soon as I try to have a good look at her, she fades. It’s the same with her voice. If I saw her again in the street, it would all come back. But that’s not likely to happen. It’s very sad not to remember what your mother looks like”‘ (87). In these almost detached, incoherent sections, I believe that Martel’s true prowess as a writer is seen. When reading this quote, I could actually see Pi’s face losing its energy, in memories of his destroyed past. The quote also possesses such truths about memory that most any person could relate. These small sections provide unique characterization through simple language, making it difficult for the reader not to wonder.

    This section of reading also touched on the fact that there is humanity in animals. Before, in the earlier section, animals were seen as textbook: things that humans could predict. But just as no human can predict another humans actions, and cannot see into his life story, it is the same with animals. I think the behavior of animals is much like the behavior of Mr. and Mr. Kumar in feeding the zebra at the zoo. One of them was demanding of the zebra, forcing the carrot into its mouth, while the other was gentle. If a person was to examine the differences between two zebras, I’m certain there would be many.

    When Pi first falls into the Pacific Ocean, he sees Richard Parker. Here, Martel elaborates on the human character. When in shock, a human forgets all boundaries. The enemies become friends. That is what happens with Pi and Richard Parker, otherwise an animal that Pi would be deathly afraid of. In these first few moments, Richard Parker is Pi’s only friend, his only memory of safety. Pi wants Richard Parker to survive, and in his presence, he remembers that he must survive too. Strange things happen when people think they might die. Martel also touches on the subject of human selfishness: though the hyena spent the night feasting on the zebra, Pi mentions that he could only feel remorse for the zebra for a few moments. After that, he had to think of his own survival. This is a natural truth about humans, and this is why I enjoy reading Life of Pi. It is a very truthful novel. I don’t think the book is about Pi “saving” the world; it is about him finally seeing it.

    I would also like to discuss the incident of Orange Juice “thumping the hyena on the head.” She “remained gentle and unagressive her whole life,” but when she saw wrong being done, she suddenly became fearless. Pi could not understand this, because her actions of agression did not follow the “textbook” definition of her character. Again, this shows the humanity in animals. Animals are just like us, because when in shock, they forget everything they are “supposed” to be. Pi makes an interesting comparison of humans losing hope to the tennis player’s match: “The tennis challenger starts strong but soon loses confidence in his playing. The champion racks up the games. But in the final set, when the challenger has nothing left to lose, he becomes relaxed again, insouciant, daring” (134-135). So I wonder if Orange Juice knew that she was going to die anyway. When Pi realizes that there is no point in fighting, that the hyena will probably devoure him, he fights anyway. The losing player wants the other to fight a little for his win. So Pi wants the world to fight a little for his life. When nothing matters anyway, living beings do what they were always afraid to. Orange Juice ends up being eaten by the hyena, which was inevitable. Still, she fought against the inevitable, and that is all that matters. Living beings start fighting at the end when they have never fought before, because they want to know that somehow they tried, somehow their lives mean something. Every life deserves to be worth something, and the lives of the fighters are.

  10. bemyers4

    By Bridget Myers

    I love Meghana’s note about the humanity in animals and how each continues fighting to the end when he feels he no longer has the power to continue. I completely agree with this and feel that it corresponds perfectly with her parallel to a tennis match. Martel notes this on pages 134 and 135, as Meghana mentioned earlier, and I feel his comparison is accurate. As a tennis player myself, I often feel confident at the start of a match, but grow impatient as it drags on, losing confidence. I then fall behind and my opponent surges ahead. Then during the last few games, knowing I have nothing to lose, I try my best and play as well as I know I am capable of. Though I may not win, I have left my best game on the court and do not feel I have cheated myself in giving up. This is how Orange Juice feels when he knows his death is inevitable and tries to aid others around him in an attempt to “leave it all on the court” and “give it his all.” This is just what he does, and though he does not succeed, his true character shows through his actions and expresses humanity in the most animal way.

    Anyways, details aside, I have truly been enjoying reading this novel. Martel tells this amazing story so poetically that I forget I’m reading a piece of fiction and find myself seated alongside Pi on the lifeboat. There are many parts in the book that I have to keep reminding myself are fictitious, as I continuously trying to figure out how they would affect me in real life. One example is of Pi’s realization that his parents are actually dead and not on a lifeboat coming to save him. This scene to me was frightening in a way because, like him, I had been holding onto the thought that maybe they were still alive and were coming back for him. I stepped into his shoes at that moment and thought of my own parents and how I would feel in that situation. It is through his poetic writing style that Martel infuses emotion and realism into his story, luring the reader in as well and allowing her to slip into the story alongside Pi. This is how I often feel when I’m sitting in bed reading “Life of Pi;” I feel as though I am seated beside Pi, swaying back and forth with the motion of the waves and sharks beneath our lifeboat. The difference though, between my fantasy as I read and Pi’s life on the boat is that I can escape the wonderful literature of Martel’s and step back on land, but as of now, Pi cannot. He is stranded on a boat with several ferocious animals and is incapable of finding an escape…I look forward to finding out what comes next!

  11. I have found the second section of Life of Pi just as captivating as the first. I love how Yann Martel manages to balance the elements of a fast-paced tale with the necessary thematic elements in a way that makes the novel a truly intriguing story.

    One aspect of Martel’s writing I have noticed during this section is his clever use of the unknown. It is difficult to describe, but I have noticed that the author tends to not reveal an important aspect of the story until absolutely necessary. One example is the frequent italicized chapters during which Martel flashes forward to later in Pi’s life. Personally, I think these chapters are a mark of a literary genius. Not only do they foreshadow Pi’s future and survival, they leave an element of curiosity in the reader. One does not truly learn for sure who the narrator of these section are until partially through the book. Until then, we are forced to question: who is the man the author is talking about? Who is the narrator? What importance do these chapters have to the novel? When Martel reveals that the man is indeed Pi Patel, the reader can take the information he learned from the previous sections and see how they form Pi’s future.

    A second example of the “unknown” is Richard Parker. Although I had a sneaking suspicion that Richard Parker was not a normal human friend of Pi’s, the author leads the reader on to believe so. In one of the foreshadowing passages, the author writes, “‘That’s Richard Parker,’ he says. I’m amazed. I look closely, trying to extract personality from appearance…Richard Parker is looking away. He doesn’t even realize that his picture is being taken” (87). During the part when Pi is desperately trying to save Richard Parker from drowning, the young boy calls out to the tiger as if he is a real human, encouraging him to swim and save himself from the waves. The author writes as if Richard Parker truly is human, and leads the reader on to believe so, until he reveals, “I had a wet, trembling, half-drowned, heaving and coughing three-year-old adult Bengal tiger in my lifeboat” (99). I believe that the reason the author waited so long to reveal this vital aspect about Richard Parker to the reader was to emphasize the close relationship between animals and humans. In fact, everything the reader knew about Richard Parker until this point in the story was completely true – yet one still believed he was a normal human being.

    This is a common theme that Martel portrays throughout Life of Pi: that humans and animals are actually quite similar, as no species is superior to the other. In dire times, both adopt similar desperate characteristics, shown on the lifeboat as both Pi and the animals go to desperate measures to survive. As Meghana mentioned above, Pi only feels a small bit of pity for the dying zebra since he is trying to focus on his own suffering instead. I think this goes along with the author’s message because usually, humans are portrayed as the most intelligent of all species. We experience empathy, an emotion exhibited only by those in a certain mature state. However, as shown in the novel, all creatures retrogress into a primitive state when resources are thin and prospects are close to none. It is in this sense that all organisms are, in a sense, equal.
    ~ Maia Lee

  12. P.S. Sorry Bridget, your comment just showed up right after I posted mine, in case you’re wondering why I didn’t acknowledge you at all 🙂

  13. evacranch221

    I finished this book a few weeks ago but I am still trying to figure out what exactly it is telling me. I know it has a lot to say. I think I am really close to figuring it out. My favorite parts of the book are when the line between two entities blurs, and they become one. This happens with the religions Pi follows. He does not ‘look past their differences’, because he sees no difference between them. All of the religions are celebrating God, and all of them are human faiths. They blur and become one as soon as Pi combines them. The same happens to animals in the zoo, “What could be the explanation for zoomorphism? Can’t a rhinoceros distinguish big from small, tough hide from soft fur? Isn’t it plain to a dolphin what a dolphin is like? I believe the answer lies in something I mentioned earlier, that measure of madness that moves life in strange but saving ways” (85). I think that at certain times, the line that separates a drowning sailor and a dolphin, or a goat from a rhino blurs. In the right situation, everything is the same. Later, when Pi is saving Richard Parker from drowning, I actually thought that Richard Parker was a human character until he was pulled onto the lifeboat and declared to be a tiger. Why does that happen? How could a Bengal Tiger possibly be mistaken for a human?
    Most of all I wonder: if a Bengal Tiger can blur into a human, what could a human turn into? What kind of monsters can we embody? Does anything ever look like it is on the inside? Or is life just some wild goose chase, where everybody and everything is filling the shoes of something else? If so, what am I? What is Richard Parker? What is Pi? What if life isn’t a question of who we are, but what we are. In that case, we are all human; we are all the same. Lines are blurring constantly, and sometimes, the dams break entirely, and we call that love. Maybe that’s what this book is about. Maybe, it is possible for tigers and boys to love each other, maybe that’s why this story has a happy ending.

    ~Eva Cranch

  14. starliu2

    It is really too bad that this is a book. Even at the most nail-biting and fist-clenching scenes, where we flip past pages so fast we get a paper cut, deep down the little voice in our head is still reminding us, “Why get excited? We know Pi is going to survive and be rescued.” I suppose there really is no way to get out of that, for sadly most books nowadays have happy endings. No matter how immersed I may get in the plot, a part of myself always remains detached.
    On a different point, I’ve noticed how people have been discussing how animals are very similar to humans. However, throughout the first 25 chapters of the book as Meghana said animals were described as stupid creates living “lives of compulsion and necessity within an unforgiving social hierarchy in an environment where the supply of fear is high and the supply of food low” (16). They are said to be quite predictable, and most importantly, not at all like humans. Pi’s father takes Pi and his brother aside at an early age to teach them the brutality and fierceness of animals, telling them: “Life will defend itself no matter how small it is. Every animal is ferocious and dangerous. It may not kill you, but it will certainly injure you. It will scratch you and bite you, and you can look forward to a swollen, pus-filled infection, a high fever and a ten-day stay in the hospital” (38). Nowhere does he suggest anything along the lines of animals having feelings or being capable of higher thinking. Instead, it is pounded into Pi’s head that all life is deeply dangerous and he must not let his guard down for a moment.
    So why does Pi let Richard Parker onto the boat? The simple explanation appears to be that Pi was hysterical and not thinking clearly at the time, seeing as he had just been thrown onto a lifeboat from a sinking ship in the middle of a terrifying storm at sea. At first, Pi says: “Richard Parker, can you believe what has happened to us? Tell me it’s a bad dream. Tell me it’s not real” (97). Pi is looking for any reassurance he can find, and so he automatically reaches out to Richard Parker without thinking about it until he actually jumps onto the boat. Then, Pi yells, “Every single thing I value in life has been destroyed. And I am allowed no explanation? I am to suffer hell without any account from heaven?” (98). Here it seems that Pi is trying to save any past remnants of his old life that he can, even if that means an adult Bengal tiger. He does not want to be left alone without something he can salvage from the wreck, or as much as possible.

  15. akulawiec

    As many of my group members have pointed out, this second section of the Life of Pi is one certainly more plot-based than the first section; however, this section contains just as much meaning as the first. I heartily agree with Meghana and Bridget in regards to the humanity in animals. Furthermore, expanding upon Eva’s ideas, what if humans do not have to become wild beasts? What if we already are? Time and time again, I notice the likeness between Pi and Richard Parker. Although one is a human and the other is a tiger, they both share the drive to survive. Those first moments between Pi and Richard Parker on the lifeboat were full of fear and desperation to survive; however, they shared such feelings. In addition, Martel consistently juxtaposes Pi’s actions to Richard Parker’s actions. While Pi is susceptible to slight seasickness, Richard Parker is as well. When Pi is desperate for food, Richard Parker is as well. They both seek to claim dominance over the temporary lifeboat-home. Though these few examples are certainly not enough to prove that humans are, essentially, wild animals, they are enough to convey Martel’s possible point: there is an undeniable likeness between humans and wild animals. I, therefore, cannot help but wonder if that is what Martel intends for Pi and Richard Parker to represent: humans are wild beasts, but that is nothing to be terribly afraid of.
    ~Anna Kulawiec

  16. zany503

    In the second part of Life of Pi, events turn quickly. In the first section of the novel, the reader learns critical information about animals and their mannerisms. Pi is very aware of animals and their needs. So when the plot changes in this portion of the book, we know Pi will be sensitive to the conditions the animals are placed in. The most significant part of this section to me was when Pi watched the zebra and the hyena interact. The reader is taken through the experience Pi has in vivid detail. Through Pi, we witness the zebra’s painful death, where it is described how the hyena eats through its side and that it lives. I think that this experience could be used to understand the ideas of resilience. Although it is never certain whether or not the zebra wishes to live, I think that it can be concluded that the zebra is a symbol for the ideas of resilience where through the struggles of certain situations in life, it is possible to stay strong and push past the hardships life throws at us. This parallels to the situation Pi is in. In order to survive the shipwreck, Pi must exhibit resilience. No one in life could ever complete a task without resilience. Almost everything we do cannot be accomplished unless we decide we want to work as hard as we can and fight to succeed. We must find the will to push forward in order to keep moving forward. Pi must find the will to survive on the lifeboat in order to actually continue living.

    The imagery and language the author uses is beautiful. I am transported to the story and I can picture being on the lifeboat experiencing everything that Pi does. The words used are perfect to Pi’s character. It offers rich vocabulary and description. Without doing too much detailed description, I can easily picture the setting and become part of the story. This book is shaping up to be one of my favorites and I am eager to finish it.
    -Samantha S A2

  17. redinbon

    The second portion of Life of Pi is much better than the beginning. Pi is stuck on a lifeboat with a bunch of animals, and the reader is wondering how Pi will deal with this. Pi loves animals and is vegetarian, but survival is more important… Right? The book continues to surprise me, and I look forward to finishing it. There aren’t too many characters to critique, but Pi is written well, and I always wonder what will happen to him next. The imagery and scenery that the author uses is great, and the reader really understands what it feels like to be all alone out on the ocean. I like how Pi describes every detail of his journey, as this adds some fact to the fiction. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be a shipwreck survivor, and now I can finally experience that.
    One aspect that I didn’t enjoy was the unrealistic behavior that Pi exhibits. Who would (a) help a tiger onto the boat and then (b) help the tiger survive? I know this book is supposed to help you understand human behavior and our connection with God, but this just seems silly to me. I know Richard Parker is important later on, but Martel does a poor job of explaining this judgement of Pi’s to the reader.
    I continue enjoying this book and look forward to the next segment

  18. akulawiec

    As much as it pains me to write, I did not find this section of Life of Pi as captivating as the first two. Martel continues Pi and Richard Parker’s adventure at sea, and the reader comes to understand the difficulties associated with living nearly a year in the middle of the ocean with only a tiger for company. Throughout this section, Pi learns how to cope with his new surroundings, including the unpredictable Richard Parker and Mother Nature. Though it is interesting to discover how Pi deals with his new reality, after reading twenty-five chapters on training Richard Parker and catching fish, I could not help but become a tiny bit bored with the plot. Yet, despite the lackluster plot, there were other aspects of this section that I found to be highly thought-provoking.
    For instance, Martel suggests that acceptance of the inevitability of danger can be comforting. At first, as Pi struggles to comprehend his situation, he loses hope for surviving, and he remarks, “Oncoming death is terrible enough, but worse still is oncoming death with time to spare, time in which all the happiness that was yours and all the happiness that might have been yours becomes clear to you. You see with utter lucidity that you are losing” (147). Obviously, the first thoughts of one’s upcoming demise are far from pleasant. Yet, eventually, Pi comes to realize that though the situation is dire, there is hope for his survival. A largely significant moment, which captures Pi’s realization, is when he realizes that in order to survive, Richard Parker, the fearsome and loathsome tiger, must survive as well. Pi comes to accept that that which he feared will save him. To explain this rapid change of heart, Pi remarked, “If I still had the will to live, it was thanks to Richard Parker…He pushed me to go on living…It’s the plain truth: without Richard Parker, I wouldn’t be alive today to tell you my story” (164).
    Another example of Pi’s revelation put into practice is when he quits vegetarianism, or, rather, when he accepts the inevitability of killing and consuming animals. The vast blue expanse of ocean, at first, greatly frightened Pi. (He felt a bit like a fish out of water.) In many ways, the ocean’s contents represented, and continue to represent, danger and death. However, it is because of the ocean that Pi and Richard Parker continue to be fed. Pi originally feels anxiety over the killing and consuming of marine life, but, after time, the process becomes the difference between life and death. It is because of the ocean, and all that it has to offer, that Pi is able to continue to feed himself and Richard Parker. Fear of the ocean does nothing to help Pi survive. On the contrary, finding comfort, or at least acceptance, of fear can make the difference between death and survival.

    ~Anna Kulawiec

  19. meghanamysore

    I strongly agree with Anna that this section of Life of Pi was sadly more boring than the last two. I find that Yann Martel thoroughly enjoys incorporating highly detailed information into his explanation of animal life and life on the lifeboat. However, I find it difficult to keep up with his overly detailed passages and often find myself zoning out or unable to comprehend what the author is attempting to say. Having said this, though, in his incredibly detailed thoughts, one can see the connection between Pi and the style of writing. After all, details are what save Pi from his wretched situation. Perhaps Martel could have paid more attention to the fact that the reader may become bored and disinterested if details override the plot.

    Martel does a fantastic job of conveying the desperation of life for Pi as well. This section was mainly about desperation and transformation, as I saw it. In addition to the transformation of Pi’s character, Martel shows a kind of transformation of the world around Pi. Suddenly, when Pi looks under the water, he realizes that a life, beyond the life he knows, exists. There are cars and pedestrians and people and voices, just like the human world. Everything begins to change for Pi. With no sign of anything he knows, Pi becomes lost. It is interesting to observe the change in Pi as the world changes around him. As he becomes lost and increasingly fearful, he finds comfort in an animal which he was previously deathly afraid of. In many passages, Pi mentions simply watching Richard Parker and finding reassurance. In this desperate state, distraction is all Pi needs, whether it be from a monstrous animal, or from the seemingly insignificant barnacles on the bottom of the lifeboat.

    In this section, after appearing to have seen the humanity in animals, Pi returns to a primitive state. He continually talks of “establishing dominance” over Richard Parker, controlling him and stating that he is superior because he is human. I think that Martel shows the true nature of humans, again, as he reveals that no one can care beyond a point when his own life is at stake. Richard Parker is now only a symbol of comfort for Pi, but he is not at the same “level” as him. Pi’s transformation is also highlighted in his abandonment of vegetarianism, as Anna discussed above. First, Pi finds it unbelievably hard to kill a flying fish, and he cries when he realizes that he is responsible for the death of a living being. Shortly after, he finds no problem in mercilessly killing a dorado, and explains the incident: “It is simple and brutal: a person can get used to anything, even to killing” (185). I found it extremely interesting how when the dorado dies, it displays all of its bright colors. Why is it that the fish that Pi mercilessly kills is such a colorful, beautiful fish? Why does it display all of its colors before it dies and returns to colorlessness?

    After this, Pi even drinks the blood of a turtle he kills. A vegetarian changes so much over the course of weeks that he drinks blood. Pi refers to his actions as “savagery he never thought possible.” What is it about a hopeless human being reduced to the primitive state that makes him forget all limits/all the things he knew of life? I think Pi is fearful that he is forgetting his life, so he thinks of God because he can no longer love God. So he sings a song for his mother’s birthday because he might not remember her face anymore.

  20. As others have mentioned before, I also found this third section somewhat slow and at times, quite morbid. I understand, though, as Meghana mentioned, that the uninteresting passages and gory parts are simply to convey the desperate life Pi is trying to live while aboard a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

    There were several ideas about strength and survival that Martel presents in the novel that I found particularly interesting. The first is presented within Pi’ first few days aboard the boat, as the author describes, “Some of us give up on life with only a resigned sigh. Others fight a little, then lose hope. Still others—and I am one of those—never give up. We fight and fight and fight…It’s something constitutional, an inability to let go” (148). I found it intriguing how after just a few days at sea, Pi is able to determine that there are three kinds of people in the world. It made me wonder: If he was not “made” to fight until the bitter end, would he not have survived all 227 days? Would he not have used his incentive mind and knowledge of animals to design a raft and means for feeding and caring for Richard Parker? My first thought when I read this passage was, I must be a fighter too because I’m known to be super stubborn. Then I realized that no one truly knows if they are the fighting type or not because these qualities are ones that appear only under truly desperate circumstances, like when you are stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger.

    A second passage that caught my attention was when Pi first confronts Richard Parker. Martel writes, “The patches of white above the eyes, on the cheeks and around the mouth came off as finishing touches worthy of a Kathakali dancer. The result was a face that looked like the wings of a butterfly and bore an expression vaguely old and Chinese…the stare was intense, cold and unflincihing, not flighty or friendly, and spoke of self-possession on the point of exploding with rage” (152). I love the language Martel uses here to convey the tiger’s face; he is able to paint a vivid picture into the reader’s mind, not to mention the thing he is describing is a tiger, not even a person. One can also see in this passage how the author applies human characteristics to describe the tiger, and how they are actually extremely effective. I believe this is to again show the close relationship between humans and animals at a purely primitive state of life.

    I would also like to point out Pi’s slow regression into a more primitive, desperate state of mind, for at times, it seems he is going somewhat insane. He yells to the sky, pointing out all of God’s things (“THIS IS GOD’S HAT,” “THIS IS GOD’S ATTIRE,” etc.), simply to reassure himself that there is a creator out there, watching over him. As Meghana mentioned, Pi drinks the blood of a sea turtle to quench his overwhelming thirst when just weeks ago he was a vegetarian. Even though the story is fiction, Martel truly portrays how human beings can become anything under pressure.

    ~ Maia

  21. starliu2

    Remember that in just these 25 chapters, Martel covers months of Pi living on the sea. Details will be necessary to cover everything that has to be described to the reader for the reader to understand and be able to see the situation that Pi is now in. Yes, this may be boring to some, and sometimes unnecessary, as in how Martel decided to list every single item that Pi had with him on the lifeboat (145). But as Meghana said, details are what save Pi. Pi explains: “I have just mentioned the notion of details that become lifesavers. Here was one: the lid was hinged an inch or so from the edge of the bow bench-which meant that as the lid opened, it became a barrier that closed off the twelve inches of open space between tarpaulin and bench through which Richard Parker could get to me after pushing aside the life jackets” (141). Things that may at first seem unimportant to us become crucial in Pi’s mind. Food and water, which is simple and overlooked by us, is revered by Pi. He is able to see the importance of all the small things; the little details, and so Martel writes these tiny details in so we can see them too.
    The research that Martel did for the book is, upon a second glance, very impressive. I assume that he has never been a castaway before, nor is an expert on seafare, and yet the detail seems accurate and precise down to the point; from the typical behavior of Bengal tigers, to Hindu folk stories, to the “Pacific equatorial counter-current” (194).
    Observing the details of the sea lets Pi relax and calm his mind from merely working and working all day long. Soon, “With just one glance I discovered that the sea is a city. Just below me, all around, unsuspected by me, were highways, boulevards, streets and roundabouts bustling with submarine traffic…This is surely what Tokyo must look like at rush hour. I looked on until the lights went out in the city” (176). I find it interesting that Pi chooses to compare the sea to a city, when he is hundreds of miles away from any civilization. Here, in the middle of nowhere, he has found his own civilization to escape the overwhelming ness of being virtually alone.
    Though of course, Pi does not spend all his days lolling around watching the fish. He manages many impressive feats of craftsmanship, from building the raft to his fishing contraptions. However, this is not always true. Before devising “Plan Number Seven: Keep Him Alive” (166), Pi spent days in a catatonic state shivering and soaked lying on the lifeboat, wavering between desperately wanting to live and wanting to jump off the lifeboat and drown. All his actions are dictated by what Richard Parker is doing: he is weak, beneath the tiger, and frightened to death by him. With deciding to keep Richard Parker alive and become the alpha dog in training him, Pi somehow also found the strength in him to get up and start trying to keep himself alive. From there, he starts all the building and working.
    However, it would seem that Pi is ridiculously brave or crazy for facing on a tiger, as seen in the mass suicide scene of the cockroaches: “Now we were two. In five days the populations of orangutans, zebras, hyenas, rats, flies and cockroaches had bee wiped out” (170). Surprising, it is the human that latches on to the most primitive animal desire: the will to live. What makes Pi different from these animals? I believe, for Pi, God had a big role in keeping him from committing suicide like the cockroaches. Pi puts all of his faith, hope, and dreams for rescue into God. He is constantly pleading to God for help and praying, as seen in his schedule (190-191). Pi tells the reader: “I must say a word about fear. It is life’s only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy” (161). To escape the crushing despair that fear could bring, Pi turns to God, and God keeps him alive.

    Star Liu
    p.s. This book gets better the more you reread it.

  22. evacranch221

    Unlike many of my group members, I did not find this section boring at all. I was so intrigued by Pi’s constant struggles and the little details that kept him alive. I loved when he realizes that he must keep Richard Parker alive if he is to survive his ordeal. I love how Pi takes nothing for granted and because of this, he takes changes in the weather, the flying fish incident and Richard Parker’s actions to be signs from God. He does not want to be lost, so he keeps himself connected in these ways. Its remarkable. Richard Parker never ceases to amaze me as well. He must be struggling to accept Pi just as much as Pi struggles to accept him. Pi is not the only passenger who realizes he needs his companion to live, and in a way, Richard Parker figured it out first. When he makes the tiger call which expresses his harmless intentions (prusten) he is telling Pi that he knows they will have to help each other to arrive on land alive. This then gives Pi the idea and motivation to coexist with Richard Parker instead of competing with him.

    Why did Richard Parker figure it out first? Is he simply more used to acting only for survival? I doubt it because both Pi and Richard Parker have lived in a zoo all of their lives, meaning they aren’t used to wild conditions. What is it about humans that makes us think to fight our companions before we think of keeping them alive?

    The dorados’ glorious death really piked my interest. Haha… Fish puns 😉 As an adaptation, I am not sure how changing colors helps a dying fish, so I do not see it as a ‘final struggle.’ But, if it is not a struggle, what is it? Why does the fishes’ surrender impact Pi so much? Its almost like a reward, if you kill the fish, you get to see it shine. Mostly, it makes Pi feel guilty though. He cries for the first fish, but then, he runs out of tears. I don’t think Pi ever becomes desensitized to violence. I would like to think he was sad every time he watched a Dorado light up, knowing that it can never do it again, he just couldn’t afford to dehydrate himself by crying. Pi lost no emotion or sympathy for the creatures he encounterd on his journey, his sense just forbid him from expressing it. If you think about it, that happens all the time. In life everybody has to fake it sometimes, and just because they do, doesn’t mean they have become primitive and lost the ability to feel. I don’t think Pi has the capacity to become primitive. He never lost God or his family because as a grown man he still has crosses and shrines and old photographs. He couldn’t have lost his morals during his trip, because they were waiting for him on shore.

    ~Eva Cranch

  23. bemyers4

    By Bridget Myers

    I am going to have to disagree with many of you and agree with Crystal on the topic of pace of the novel. Though the book may seem to drag on at parts as others have mentioned, I feel that the heavy description in these parts are essential to Martel’s portrayal of what life would be like on a lifeboat for 227 days. As Crystal mentioned in her post, Martel uses description of every aspect of Pi’s surroundings to show the importance they had in keeping him alive. Being out at sea for almost a year would make one grow weary of the monotonous rolling ocean, and would cause one to begin to see things differently and pay closer attention to them. So many of the things that Martel highlights in the novel may seem useless to the reader, but when given the perspective of a boy at sea for many months, such insignificant objects suddenly gain great value. For example, one may visit a zoo and see a tiger sitting calmly under a tree, snoozing. The visitor may admire the foreign specimen for a few seconds, but eventually he will move on to the other animals. The kind of care and attention to details one has when options are available (as in a zoo) are limited, but when one steps onto a lifeboat in the middle of the pacific, every opportunity to soak in the beauty of an object is taken.

    Today, we are constantly surrounded by movement, and we often do not have the time to slow down and admire the minute details that may be noticed by someone in Pi’s shoes. Because of this, I don’t feel that the pace of the novel is too slow. I feel that Martel is simply taking his time in describing the life of Pi. He wants to be thorough in his description, as Pi is in his observations.

    There are numerous places in the novel where Martel includes vivid descriptions of what Pi observes around him that I feel enhance the story’s meaning and contribute to its beauty. It is also passages like these that allow the reader to feel as though he is aboard the boat with Pi and Richard Parker. In description of the surrounding sea life, Martel writes, “With just one glance I discovered that the sea is a city. Just below me, all around, unsuspected by me, were highways, boulevards, streets and roundabouts bustling with submarine traffic. In water that was dense, glassy and flecked by millions of lit-up specks of plankton, fish like trucks and buses and cars and bicycles and pedestrians were madly racing about, no doubt honking and hollering at each other” (Martel 175). I personally love this passage and feel as though I was sailing along, above the water on a boat, beside Pi when I read it. The section continues this way for a while longer, and made me want to reread it over and over again until the image was plastered in my mind. In reading passages such as this one, Martel’s words come to life, and though they may seen overly descriptive at times, they are what truly engage the reader and cause him to be as mesmerized at Martel’s way with words as I am.

  24. zany503

    Upon finishing the third section of Life of Pi, it is evident the transformation Pi has taken as he has been drifting in the lifeboat. While we do not know exactly how long he has been on the lifeboat, it seems that it has been at least a month or two. Pi has developed many new survival skills and learned a lot of techniques while being on the lifeboat. In addition, he has taken it upon himself to train a tiger, Richard Parker, to stay in his territory and put himself at an authoritative level over Richard Parker. As a character, Pi goes through a transformation from a boy who maintained three religions to a man who must go to incredible lengths to survive which include tasks we may never be able to do or have the stomach to handle.

    Pi begins his journey on the lifeboat frightened and weak. He remains far away from his animal companions, and watches a zebra slowly die. He felt helpless. Then, he soon realizes that, in order to live, he must work. He organized his new found supplies and when he found Richard Parker, taught himself to fish for both of them so neither would go hungry. He built a raft as an escape for himself and is not afraid to kill animals. Pi describes that as a vegetarian, it made him squeamish to kill an animal, making catching fish an almost impossible task. But survival instincts overcame his personal life choices, and he began to kill not only fish, but sea turtles as well. By doing so, he will be able to survive for many more months to come stranded in the Pacific Ocean.
    -Samantha A2

  25. redinbon

    Life of Pi continues to impress me, even this far into the book. Whereas many other books lose me about two thirds of the way through, I am still interested in Pi’s plight at this point in the book. It is interesting to see Pi slowly descend into despair and sadness as his body deteriorates as well. The author also spends a lot of time focusing on the tiger’s well being as well. Unlikely though this is, I have grown attached to the tiger and have feelings for it as well as Pi.
    What’s interesting about this part of the story is Pi’s growth. Although he has gotten weaker mentally and physically, I think he has grown as a person. When he left India, he wasn’t sure what he believed in, but now he’s certain. If he survives his journey, I think he will live his life with purpose.
    Martel continues to astound me with the level of detail that is put into the story. I look forward to every page that I flip to, and I can’t wait for the end of the novel, when we will find out what happens to Pi. I’m sure the ending will be interesting and continue to entertain me.

  26. neetarao

    I have to strongly disagree with almost everyone about the pace of the book. I do not believe that the plot is even moving slowly to begin with. And if it is, showing Pi’s monotonous life through the speed of the plot seems too unsophisticated for Martel. I do not think that the plot should ever tire the reader just because the main character is tired. The Elegance of the Hedgehog tried to do that, and some of us know how incredibly well that turned out. On the contrary, I believe that this part of the book’s plot is not centered on physical actions, but thought. The amount of action that took place in Pi’s mind during this section was astounding. The details that he notices don’t override the plot, they are the plot.

    Pi went from a respectful, religious boy to a complete savage in this section. He even drinks the blood of a turtle, which frankly, left me disgusted. Like Crystal said, the cockroaches and insects abandoned the lifeboat early on, sticking to their beliefs. I believe that Pi’s savagery demonstrates Martel’s point: that humans will give up anything and do anything in order to survive. I wish that Martel would have shown more of a struggle on Pi’s part to eat meat, as he only showed the beginning and then later, the result. If there was a sequence of scenes depicting Pi taking small steps to eat meat, then it would have been much more believable.

    I also enjoyed Pi’s ongoing training with Richard Parker. In almost every situation that I read of, Pi seemed to be overthinking his relationship with Richard Parker. As Eva noted, Richard Parker was the first one to initiate a friendship between the two. It seems like Richard Parker understands their relationship better than Pi, as he seems at ease and calm during all of their relations. Pi always seems on edge and very calculated in all of his actions. This premeditative attitude shows humans’ tendency to overthink things. Humans are supposed to be the “social animals”, but even a tiger can understand relationships better than us.

    Like Eva (and other people… I think?) I believe that Pi will never be truly primitive to the core because of his connection with God. It keeps him sane. He feels like he has someone to talk to. On his daily diary, “pray” was written extremely often. Praying keeps Pi grounded, keeps him reminded of his life. Without his faith, he might have committed suicide or just given up on staying alive. It is interesting that even through he succumbed to meat and savagery, he still keeps up his faith.

    Yann Martel, overall, in this section, showed us that when humans are degraded to their lowest level, their true nature is displayed all the clearer. He makes many points about humanity including our attention to detail, our inner savagery, and our lack of social skills. I hope that the next part of the book will build on these human conditions, and show us the ruin or hope that comes of them.

    ~Neeta Rao

  27. redinbon

    Life of Pi has been an interesting book. I don’t know what I was expecting, but this was not it. I enjoyed parts of the story, but the final interview really caught me off guard. It’s odd to think that I just spent a long time reading about this boy’s journey, and none of it is true. I still enjoyed the details that went into the writing, but I am left with a sour taste in my mouth. I understand why Pi would make up the story about the tiger, but it is still disturbing. I think the reader is supposed to decide for himself whether Pi spent the journey with a tiger or a cook on that lifeboat. One of the messages that this book is trying to communicate to the reader is that of accepting fate. Pi couldn’t have done anything about that ship sinking, but he made good choices that helped him survive the ocean. The reader should see this, and make good life decisions that he won’t regret later. After I finished, I found myself thinking about some decisions I had made in the past, and if they were good ones.
    Although this book was not my favorite, it still made me think, which I think is a good quality of any book. I though about religion, death, and how to deal with stress. It was an interesting read, and I highly recommend it to anyone with some spare time.
    Nathan R.

  28. meghanamysore

    RATING: 9.5 OUT OF 10
    Life of Pi by Yann Martel is a story about an ordinary Indian boy surviving through extraordinary circumstance. It is about transformation from vegetarianism to , at times, cannibalism; it is about friendship and love between a man and a tiger; it is about belief, hopelessness, loneliness, and God.

    Alone with a tiger on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific, Pi becomes desperate. He remembers his past life in India and the feeling of endlessness attached with his name. But on the lifeboat, he learns many invaluable lessons that he would not have back home. Life of Pi is a remarkable story to me because of its vast meaning and symbolism. From “Orange Juice” to the “Frenchman” to the pens that Pi writes with, everything has meaning. Most everything in this novel symbolizes loneliness, and the struggle to live, but everything in this novel symbolizes faith.

    The only flaw I found with Martel’s Life of Pi was its tendency to drone on in some places. Martel applies great attention to detail in every one of his chapters, perhaps to show the reader what it was really like for Pi. Still, at times, the overly detailed passages become repetitive and boring. However, even when the book tends to drag on, there is always some truth. There is always some ingenuity that Martel displays at the end. Much of the language and thoughts read fluently, like poetry, evident in the small italicized sections. Many of the ideas presented in the novel are so unique and beautiful that the reader will be amazed. In Life of Pi, Martel has certainly shown his literary genius.

    I strongly recommend Life of Pi because it is not just another book. It is not a survival story. It is not a story about a boy stranded somewhere. It is not a story at all. It is very real, because it extends out to readers and teaches them something about faith. Faith in the meaning. Faith in hopelessness. Faith in tragedy. Faith.

  29. evacranch221

    I absolutely loved this book. I give it 10 out of 10 because it was perfect in every way for me and it opened my eyes to so much without being obvious about it. It forced me to struggle for answers to Pi’s questions and my own, so in the end, I had learned just as much about myself as I had about the characters in the story. I have been dying to discuss the ending of this book though, so instead of doing a review I really just want to talk about the journey I took as soon as Pi’s ended.

    When I read the final portion of “Life of Pi” I was extremely put out. Which story was I supposed to believe? How could Martel DO THIS TO ME? How could Pi? How? Why? What? Which one can I believe? Pretty much, I thought my whole life was a lie right then and there. The book ends with the reader being presented with a question and a choice, which story do you believe? Was Pi on a boat with animals, or humans? And really, is there any difference between the two? I wanted desperately to believe the one about the animals. I wanted to trust Richard Parker and Pi. I wanted to believe in their miracle. I think that’s what everybody wants to believe by the time they reach the end of the book. No one is such a realist that they would change their allegiance from the story you follow for about 90 chapters to one about cannibals and beheaded mothers just like that. For a long time I thought this book was making fun of everyone who chose to believe in the tiger. I felt like Martel was scoffing at me, mocking me while holding the truth just out of reach. I thought he was judging me, like I was some stubborn and childish brat. “Look at this one, she’ll believe anything, but she can’t accept the truth even when it is spoon-fed to her. She can only have faith in something she has invested in.” Then I realized…that’s the whole point. I can believe whatever I want. Everyone can. Our lives are spent believing and you have to choose because you have to have faith in SOMETHING. And you are free to do so. And right then and there I was free. For the first time I was totally free. Then I realized that it wasn’t only the last few chapters of this book that were trying to tell me that. It was the point of the ENTIRE BOOK. It started on shore, with Pi safe and warm and faithful. He chose three religions, but that wasn’t so Martel could make a statement about the unnecessary conflicts between religions, that was simply a byproduct of the bigger picture. The bigger picture where Pi chooses to believe in something, because he can, and holding onto that when he loses everything else.

    In the very beginning, part of the Author’s Note, Martel meets an elderly Indian man in Pondicherry who tells him, “I have a story that will make you believe in God” (X). He means a story that will make you believe. God (in whichever language you choose) is the name we give to the intangible substance of our belief, and so all you need is to believe in something, and then the worships you attend or the hymns you sing are all the same. The story starts with Pi’s faith, and then slowly, the story turns to yours, getting crazier and crazier until all the ties to reality have frayed and the story hinges on your faith alone. You believe it all. It was a story to make you believe by seeing if you already did, by seeing if you could, and in the end, you discover that you do.

    ~Eva Cranch

  30. bemyers4

    Final Review
    By Bridget Myers
    Rating 9.5 out of 10

    Like Meghana, I am going to have to award Life of Pi, the high score of 9.5. The majority of this book is worth even a 10 out of 10, but because of the slow pace at the start of the novel, I will have to down grade it by 0.5 of a point. Looking back through the book to the key moments in Pi’s life, it was not the actual events that grant this novel such high marks, but the way in which Yann Martel portrays them to the reader. He could have been describing the most drab scenario and made it come to life in a way no other writer could have. Martel’s way with words is amazing, and has me often questioning myself why I continue to even attempt writing, when there are people like him in the world to trump all others. The great amount of description that he gives every scene in the novel enhances the reader’s ability to feel as though she is alongside Pi. Images are not needed to portray his message of beauty present in the world and in the vast ocean surrounding Pi. He creates these visuals simply with his words, making them come to life and having even greater meaning in the mind of the reader. Because of his great ability with words, Yann Martel’s novel, The Life of Pi, has made its way to my list of favorite books, explaining the high marks I give to it.

    I hope that after reading my review, you (others who have not read the book yet) pick up Life of Pi and find as much pleasure in it as I did.

  31. zany503

    The final pages of Life of Pi depicted an interview which revealed Pi’s views of the events he endured and the response he received by those who heard his story. Throughout the novel, the reader is cheering Pi on, hoping that everything will work out in the end for him. Because we love Pi, we believe his story. While his story does seem somewhat unbelievable, it is our job as the reader to know that Pi is recounting actual events from his time in the lifeboat. So when the two Japanese interviewers talked to Pi, I was outraged by their side conversations. I found it rude that their conversations in Japanese were completely against everything that Pi was saying. Throughout their conversation, I found they had utter disrespect towards a boy who had endured a challenge most people could not live through or survive alone. But then, I think of reality. While I don’t find that it is completely impossible to live almost a year with a tiger on a lifeboat, the idea is improbable.However, humans and animals are adaptable. And with the knowledge the reader learned in the first section of this novel, it can be inferred that this is the behavior that both Pi and Richard Parker took on. Pi declared his authority, and Richard Parker kept his distance. Over many trials, Pi perfected his abilities to fish and use solar stills to make fresh water. In a crisis, one can figure out how to do almost anything, within reason.

    The very last chapter of Life of Pi leaves the reader pondering which of the two stories Pi told the reporters is true. In the interview, Pi tells the story of Richard Parker. When that story is rejected, he creates a shorter one that involves his mother, an evil French chef, and an injured sailor. As it turns out, as the interviewers point out in specific details, the story parallels to the story we have read throughout the whole book. This leaves the question: Which story is true? Martel leaves it up to our imagination.
    -Samantha S, A2

    • zany503

      I would score this book a 9 out of 10 stars because of its amazing detail and character development. I do not give it a full 10 stars because I felt the ending a little disappointing.

  32. Life of Pi by Yann Martel is a story of adventure, despair, hope, and discovering the meaning of life through the remarkable experience of a young boy. Martel exhibits his true genius as a writer while weaving a tale that seems so real that the reader forgets the book is fiction. Piscine Molitor Patel, a unique boy living in India, experiences a childhood filled with wonder and discovery. He does not believe in securing one’s faith in one religion and one God alone and instead invests his beliefs with multiple religions and vows to love each one equally. He clings to these beliefs when stranded on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with only a Bengal tiger for company. Pi must find a way to survive amidst the desperate circumstances despite limited resources. Through Pi’s adventure, the author expresses that in order to survive, one must possess the need and yearning to do so. From there, this can only be achieved through believing.

    Life of Pi is a novel about holding true to one’s faith. It doesn’t matter what others want you to believe, or what you want to believe – it is about believing what you feel is true and right in the world and holding on to this shed of hope throughout your everyday life. In Pi’s case, he is forced to hang on to his faith while stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, and it is thus that the author proves that one’s faith can be preserved throughout the struggles of life. Martel’s exceptional writing provides intricate details and descriptions that only a nonfictional story could contain, which is why it is so hard to believe that this novel is a fictional tale.

    I would rate this book a 9.5 out of 10, for it is one of the best books I have read in a long time. The author strategically combines a suspenseful storyline with an underlying significant theme that expresses the true essence of human life. The book made me look at life in a new and different way; however, it was one of those books that the reader does not realize he or she loves until the ending. The middle of the book was slightly drawn out and at times overly grotesque (hence the half point marked off), but personally, I think the ending made up for everything. While others may not appreciate the ending, I love how it left the meaning of the novel open to personal interpretation, allowing the reader to choose what to believe, which is the very essence of the novel’s underlying message. I would highly recommend this book to teenagers and adults, as it truly broadens one’s view of the world.

    ~ Maia Lee

  33. akulawiec

    Rating: 8.5/10
    (Now, before anyone becomes outraged over my score, please remember that, in comparison to my previous independent reading book’s score, the 8.5 is remarkably generous. :))
    The Life of Pi is a book that made me extremely uncomfortable. This discomfort was not necessarily bad, but it made me uncomfortable nonetheless. Why? To start off with, the Life of Pi put into question many of my beliefs, or lack thereof, and that, in itself, is unsettling. For instance, Pi found solace in three gods; at times, I can barely tolerate one. Pi faced loneliness beyond measure, and although he had Richard Parker for company, a potentially murderous tiger is not much for pleasant companionship; I am fairly certain I would go crazy if faced with such solitude. Martel left the ending of the book up to the reader’s interpretation; I prefer definite, clear endings. Time and time again, the novel forced me to question my own life, my own belief, my own faith. More often than not, I fear what the answers to such questions may be. Thus, the Life of Pi made me uncomfortable.
    Perhaps what I wanted from the Life of Pi was a definitive and happy ending; I wanted the story of Pi and Richard Parker to be the true story. I wanted Pi and Richard Parker to live happily ever after together. (To be quite honest, I was hoping that Pi and Richard Parker would stay together, even once they’d found land. I hoped that Pi would open his own zoo and let Richard Parker live in it. Or, even more radical, a tiny bit of me wanted Pi to keep Richard Parker as a pet. So silly of me, I know.) I wanted their story to continue. I wanted their story to be sweet and simple. Instead, Martel handed me a few pages of ambiguity and a whole lot of meaning.
    However, realistically, such questions and discomfort are more beneficial than detrimental forces. As Martel repeatedly pointed out, life is lived outside of one’s comfort zone. There is beauty in that which cannot be fully understood. Whether the mystery lies in a tiger, a book, or a god does not matter. Belief is not necessarily seeing and understanding.

    ~Anna Kulawiec

  34. neetarao

    Rate: 9/10
    I really enjoyed Life of Pi. One of the main reasons I enjoyed it so much was because of Martel’s amazing writing style. The book was extremely well written, reducing me to a nail-biting mess at some points, and at others, provoking my thoughts to a whole new level. I was astonished at how well Martel brought a quite overdone story of a shipwreck into a whole new light. The reason that this book was so extremely well written was because of the connecting theme.

    Faith is something that not many authors try to tackle. Faith in itself is multi-faceted, and almost impossible to sum up in a nutshell. To be able to center a book on something no one exactly understands is quite an undertaking. But this theme worked so incredibly well in Life of Pi. Every part of the book was about how faith can take you anywhere. I think that the reason that Martel left the end of the book so ambiguous was because he wanted to show that in all situations, you can always choose whether to believe. In the beginning of the book, Martel said something along the lines of, “Atheists are okay, but agnostics irritate me. They do not believe or disbelieve anything.” (That definitely is not the correct wording but it works.). In the end of this book, Martel wants us to choose to be “atheist”, and disbelieve Pi’s story, or believe his story. Martel’s goal is to tell us that we should never be agnostic. Believing neither of the stories and trying to find the “truth” will only lead us to become more confused. We should simply chose a “religion” and put all of our faith into it. Just as Pi did.

    ~Neeta Rao

  35. starliu2

    I would rate this book a 7 out of 10, mainly because I did not scream, cry, and go into mourning when I finished this book. Of course, that may have had something to do with that ending. Which one is real? The entire novel Martel is attempting to stretch your imagination, test to see just how much he can make you believe. And his writing is so eloquent and detailed that it lures you in and truly does make you believe it. But then at the ending, he purposefully crashes down all of that carefully set up guise. Not twenty or so pages within the end, another story is brought into the play that suddenly twists all the events around. The reader is snapped out of Pi’s world and the realist in him speaks up and says, “But, of course; Bengal tigers can’t drift on the open Pacific with a lone shipwrecked survivor for over 200 days; that’s ridiculous.” However, there is still that part of us who clings to the hope that Pi’s story might actually be true. I believe Martel’s scene in the end is used to see just which part of us will prevail. It’s that central idea of faith again: faith in the power of the writer and imagination and the chance of the once impossible being possible. Faith is the one thing that carries Pi through his ordeal; faith in his Gods, that no matter which one he prays to they will watch over him.

    -Crystal Liu

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