Life of Pi by Yann Martel – it’s about time! (Book 34 of 2016)
I am a simple man, in more ways than one. As such when I read, I like a straight forward story. Boy meats girl, boy cuts up girl into a thousand little pieces. Then my hero comes in and needs to figure out who the killer is before he can strike again. Another story may involve an evil person or group about to wreak havoc on the world. Again my hero must save the day! But every once in a while I visit the dark side. I read a book where the message is hidden and symbolism abounds. Such is the case with Life of Pi (book 34 for 2016) by Yann Martel. I’m confused! But I for one like the story with the animals.
For whatever reason, (oh yeah I don’t read much literature) I have put off reading Life of Pi. Many have not only read the book, but they have seen the Academy Award winning Ang Lee movie!
.By now everyone knows the story, A young Indian boy and his family are moving to Canada on a cargo ship with animals from their Pondicherry zoo. During the early part of the trip the boat sinks leaving young Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel on a lifeboat with a hyena, an orangutan a zebra with a broken leg and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. The remainder of the novel tells how Pi’ survived 227 days on that lifeboat with the tiger – Richard Parker.
Life of Pi, according to Yann Martel, can be summarized in three statements: “Life is a story… You can choose your story… A story with God is the better story.
According to Gordon Houser there are two main themes of the book: “that all life is interdependent, and that we live and breathe via belief.”
PBS has described Martel’s story as one of “personal growth through adversity.
Ok so if you haven’t read the book or seen the movie you may want to stop reading here. Maybe you may want to go find either of the two and either read the book or watch the movie. Or you can just read on at your own risk.
The Main Theme of the Book?????
At the end of Life of Pi, Pi is questioned about his ordeal by two representatives from the Maritime Department in the Japanese Ministry of Transport investigating the sinking of the Tsimtsum…….. Pi tells them his story as it is relayed in the book, complete with the hyena, zebra, orangutan and tiger. The investigators find the story hard to believe. So Pi tells them another story.
In this bleak story. Pi is on the lifeboat with a French cook, a sailor with a broken leg, and Pi’s mother. In turn the French cook cut off the leg of the sailor and eventually eats him. He also kills Pi’s mother. Pi i n turn kills and eats the cook and eventually his own mother.
One of the investigators immediately sees the similarities between the two stories. He sees that the zebra with the broken leg is the Taiwanese sailor, the hyena is the French Cook and the Orangutan Pi’s mother and the Tiger Richard Parker is Pi himself.
At the end of the interview Pi says this to the two investigators
“in both stories the ship sinks, my entire family dies and I suffer……
.:… so tell me since it makes no factual difference to you and you can’t prove the question either way, which story do you prefer? Which is the better story, the story with animals or the story without animals?”
The two men both answer “The story with the animals is the better story”
Pi Patel’s response is ‘Thank you. And so it goes with God”
My Confusing Thoughts…..
So I guess what Martel is saying in our story of life, we are presented with two stories one with God (animals) and one without. Both stories will end the same we will suffer, but is the better life the one with God. And it doesn’t matter that God’s existence can not factually be proven either way.
Am I close? or is it…….that we choose to believe the stories of our religions because they help mask the realities of our lives??? Aah! I don’t know and my head hurts just thinking about it! Yes I like the story with the animals better too… so does that mean I should believe in the story of Noah’s Ark, the virgin birth or that Jesus is the son of God who the Almighty sent here to save us, just because it is a better story??? Ugh I think I am meant to read non-fiction but wait if I just read dull facts, aren’t I missing the better story!! Oh no………
Actually, I enjoyed the book and would highly recommend it. It’s just that I am as I like to say “literaturely challenged”. I have trouble seeing beyond the dull factuality of books!