Although I’ve only read one-third of the book, “Life of Pi” is proving to be an interesting, thought-provoking novel well-deserving of being the winner of the Man Booker Prize. The first passage that caught my attention was no more than four pages in during Pi’s description of sloths. They survive by being so slow and unmoving that predators hardly even notice them. Of course, laziness is a helpful trait if you’re a sloth, but in the human world, it is often considered undesirable and associated with a lack of motivation. In fact, Sloth is one of the seven deadly sins in Christian moral tradition.
Now, consider Pi’s predicament.
A lover of all kinds of gods, Pi takes it upon himself to practice Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. Evident by the encounter with three religious leaders and his parents, Pi’s habits are considered abnormal and mind boggling. Both sloths and Pi share a connection where their habits, although thought of to be strange or immoral by others, allow them to be more comfortable in their environment and get through hard times. Perhaps it can be taught through this example that judgement of whether something is “normal” or “right” cannot be determined solely by a single person, group, or perspective. Oftentimes we write something or someone off as a label because we cannot fathom the thought of how it would make sense. Through this narrow outlook we lose the larger knowledge that the world is not black and white and people are not skin and bone.
Yet another point I interpreted from the book was on page 6 during the illustration of death and its somewhat pitiful enchantment with life. The passage reads: “The reason death sticks so closely to life isn’t biological necessity–it’s envy. Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it, a jealous, possessive love that grabs at what it can. But life leaps over oblivion lightly, losing only a thing or two of no importance, and gloom is but the passing shadow of a cloud”.
Death, in this light, can be easily compared to us. Impulsive and greedy with a liking for pretty things. This quote emphasizes the importance of exercising caution in one’s desires. If one reaches for something too aggressively, too quickly, or too eagerly without sensible restraint, then the object of desire will all too often slip from one’s grasp, like life “leaps over oblivion” and eludes death.
As for the writing style of the novel, I found it to be easy to follow and humorous at times. Even though the entire first third of the book is just Pi’s opinions on life, zoos, and religion, it’s refreshing to have your original beliefs challenged on subjects you instinctually form biases on, like the concept of “freedom” in the wild and captivity.
Also, I found Pi’s comparison of humans to animals quite intriguing throughout the first part. He often talks about human instincts, appearances, and habits as similar to those of animals. It’s definitely not hard to tell he was raised in a zoo-environment!