The novel itself is inclined with philosophy and how different kinds of religion affected the life of Piscine Molitor Patel (Pi), the narrator of the story. It started when Pi was in a ship with his family when a mysterious incident led the ship to sink in the ocean, leaving only Pi the human who survived the incident. Along with him are the different animals whom he had discourse and interaction with in the lifeboat. Things started to went somehow out of control when the hyena ate some fellow animals.
Long after, the tiger itself fed on the hyena but managed not to attack Pi. The two, Pi and the tiger whose name in the story is Richard Parker, continued to survive together and managed to keep each other’s company. After a long time, they found an island with a strange algae-dominated form. Soon they discovered that the algae were deforming themselves into acids at night and there’s this strange fruit that has a human-like teeth in it. Pi concluded that the island is an organism that eats humans. With these view of things, Pi and Richard Parker left the strange island and arrived in Mexico.
There they departed from each other after keeping each other’s company for 227 days. Pi went to the hospital and he was confined there. Two Japanese officials named Okamoto and Chiba visited him and interrogated him how the ship sank. He told them the stories about the animals and his stay with the tiger, Richard Parker. However, the two officials did not believe him. Then he told another story where he was in a ship with his mother, a cook and a Chinese sailor. This story was a disgusting one where the cook is someone who is barbaric in actions. Pi let the two Japanese officials choose whichever version of story they want and the latter chose the one with animals which they wrote a story with.
Pi was engaged in the three major religions in the world namely Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam where his life was patterned. He clearly portrays a character who did not believe in religion as a whole but in conviction in one sense. Belief as a human necessity could be seen through Pi’s character where Pi is a representative of human divinity. His life, as well as his activities, is associated with god/s. For him, everything is related to god/s. Or may I say that everything can be related to god/s.
His personality here can be viewed as an attachment to a belief which creates a form of survival. This can be compared to what Emile Durkheim said in his research that those who are in a strong attachment, say Christianity, had a lesser probability of committing a suicide than those who are more individualistic. Moreover, a strong hold to a belief can lengthen one’s life because there is a definite belief that serves as a guide for a person throughout his/her life.
On the other hand, Richard Parker was also able to sustain the coexistence between them (with Pi) by his animal instincts. Example for this is the search and hunt for food, which is one of the physiological needs of human in order to survive and to perform everyday life functions. With this is a concept of the survival of the fittest portrayed by the hyena and tiger where they ate their fellow animals in order to survive. The weakest being can not handle to live longer while the stronger ones are those that have the capacity to hunt and kill for their own benefit in order to live. Another manifestation of this survival is when Pi and Richard Parker was the only one who was alive and they managed to live longer in the strange island and to go to Mexico where their lives were more secured.
Life of Pi was a unique combination of social reality and religion. According to the author Martel, it doesn’t matter which was believed the truth but that belief should be present. Truth is only a matter of understanding. What really exist are evidences of a history, whether it was true or not. It was we who give the definition of what the social construction of reality means. And what people believed to be the truth is a matter of collective approval. Approval of those in the dominate classes.
In the novel, stories were given. How can one say which story is true and which one is not? Martel says that ‘the facts do not always constitute the importance in the experience’. Thus, one can say that unreliable facts which are given to us. We are the ones who will decide what is true and what is not. “Life’s story is one’s own, and faith trumps factuality.” What really matters for the truth to exist is the belief of people on it. Without the belief, a truth can not be truth.
Martel, Yann. Life of Pi. Canada: Knopf Canada, 2001.