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March 31, 2004

Life of Pi

Life of Pi Life of Pi
by Yann Martel
354 pages

Let me start by saying you must read this book. It is a rare occurence that I can honestly say everyone will enjoy a book, but in this case I can. Life of Pi is such a joy to read, such a burst of creativity and imagination, such a well written story I am still stunned by how good it was. I never re-read stories but I am sure down the road I will pick up this novel again. It is defintely the kind of book that a person could learn something new from no matter how many times it is read. This is due not only to the great story, but also the symbolism behind the story. It is a work of high literature that is sure to be read by generations to come.

The book is about a 16 year old Indian boy named Pi Patel. Pi grows up as the son of a zookeeper, and as a result knows a great deal about animals of all kinds. All this animal knowledge comes into play later in the book, but Pi's childhood also gives us a glimpse into the overall theme of the book. As a child Pi decides to become a practicing Christian, a practicing Muslim, and a practicing Hindu all at the same time. One day all of his different faiths come crashing together when his priest, imam, and pandit all converge on him at once. After much arguing Pi is asked to choose one faith, since it is impossible to truly practice all three at the same time. Pi responds, "I just want to love God." This satisfies Pi's father and they all go out for ice cream.

This scence is quite symbolic of religious life in general. Faith and belief are hard work and it is impossible not to doubt what you believe in. For Pi, it is so hard that to cover all of his bases he decides to practice three of the largest faiths at once. This satisfies his doubts and gives him peace. Am I saying it is possible or even better to practice three faiths at once? Of course not, but wouldn't it be nice to be able to erase the doubt that pesters all of us? Don't you just want to be so sure about it all sometimes and then just go out for some ice cream?

The second (and larger) part of the book deals with Pi as the lone survivor of a shipwreck at sea. Due to some policitical instability, his family decides to leave India to move to Canada. They also decide to bring many of the zoo animals with them in order to sell them to zoos in North America. Along the way the ship sinks and Pi finds himself on a lifeboat with a zebra, an orangutan, a spotted hyena, and a Royal Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Eventually all that remain are Pi and the tiger, and Pi is forced to either tame Richard Parker or become tiger food. What follows is a story so fascinating, so miraculous, so full of life that the reader can scarcely put the book down. And that is amazing considering the story is about survival on a lifeboat. You would think it would be all about how hot they are, how hungry they are, how thristy they are, but there is so much more.

While on the lifeboat Pi's faith wavers. If your own faith wavers just in your normal everyday life, imagine what would happen to it if you were stuck in the middle of the Pacific on a lifeboat with a man eating tiger. This would be dishertening to say the least. Martel writes:


At such moments I tried to elevate myself. I would touch the turban I had made with the remnants of my shirt and I would say aloud, "THIS IS GOD'S HAT!"

I would pat my pants and say aloud, "THIS IS GOD'S ATTIRE!"

I would point to Richard Parker and say aloud, "THIS IS GOD'S CAT!"

I would point to the lifeboat and say aloud, "THIS IS GOD'S ARK!"

I would spread my hands wide and say aloud, "THESE ARE GOD'S WIDE ACRES!"

I would point at the sky and say aloud, "THIS IS GOD'S EAR!"

... But God's hat was always unravelling. God's pants were falling apart. God's cat was a constant danger. God's ark was a jail. God's wide acres were slowly killing me. God's ear didn't seem to be listening.


I won't even attempt to write about what should be plainly obvious to all.

Eventually the story becomes so fanciful that the reader can barely believe it. Towards the end of the novel Pi talks about an island he and Richard Parker stumble upon full of algae, trees, and meerkats. You can't help but ask, "Is this real? Or is it an hallucination?" Martel fills the story with such fine detail, such interesting imagery, such a convincing story that you can't help but believe. You want desperately to believe. But still your doubt lingers. Yann Martel! You crafty devil! In the end we as readers are asked what kind of story we would rather have, the magnificent or the mundane? The fact that we choose the magnificent is the essence of faith. The story is so good, detailed, awe inspiring, and complete it has to be true.

I'm no philosopher, and I apologize for my weak ramblings above, but I like to have something to think about every now and again. The Life of Pi is something I will be thinking about for a long time. Someone read it so I can discuss it with you!

Posted by snackeru at March 31, 2004 12:00 PM | Books

Comments

Shane, I loved this book too. The ending just left me spinning. What is truth anyway? In what ways might we construct our world around us to comfort ourselves or help ourselves cope with the unthinkable? I wonder what I'll think about the next time I'm at the Minnesota Zoo?

Posted by: Eric at April 2, 2004 2:12 PM

Thanks for the comment, Eric. There are so many different ways you could look at this book. Like I said, I will be reading it again in the future.

Posted by: Shane at April 3, 2004 10:05 AM

Hi Shane,
I just read the book and was looking for what people might have to say about it. Your interpretation is quite good.
For a while after finishing the book, I was wondering what was true, the animals or the other story he narrated. I thought about it long and hard, and finally I realised that I was dwelling on the wrong question. Actually, both the stories are not true anyways as it is a work of fiction.
I guess what we need to understand, is that the author is trying to point out that we all look for simpler solutions, but are in our hearts wanting something more glorious and larger than life.

Posted by: Namitha at July 28, 2004 12:09 PM

Hi,

I just wonder about what the whole book is really about. I loved reading it, and it especially intrigued me when he began to practice three religions, not a common thing to do.
The one thing that still puzzles me is what the carnivorous island had to do with anything? When I read it, it honestly gave me the chills. I think it must represent something, but what is the question.
When I finished, I didn't know what stroy to believe. I know which one I wanted to believe of course, but the extrordinary circumstances made it difficult to believe. Of course, the book is fiction, and Martel did an excellent job of disguising that.Anyway, just wondering what everyone elses take was on this fascinating book.

Posted by: Madeline at January 31, 2005 11:56 AM

I think that The irony of this story is that although all of the animals that Pi got stuck in the lifeboat with made his survival all the more impossible it was them that saved his life. For, when the cargo ship was sinking the hyena escaped from his cage and somehow got into one of the lifeboats. Some of the sailors in the ship saw this and threw Pi into lifeboat, not to save him but in hopes that hyena would somehow attach Pi and jump out of the boat thus making it safe for them. However the Hyena must have been startled because of all the commotion and did not attach Pi but hid under the bow of the boat. The other animals were also important to his survival because it was the orangutan and zebra that provided the hyena with food and prolonged the time when it would attach Pi. By the time in had finished all of their carcasses the tiger had recovered from the initial shock of being on the lifeboat and killed the hyena. Pi was able to train the tiger so that in would not attach him but, the hyena would have been too wildly crazed to train and would have gobbled up Pi in a second. The tiger also helped Pi get through the situation because he acted as a companion. So he did not go completely insane with loneliness.
Pis story symbolizes


Posted by: sarah at February 20, 2005 8:07 PM

Hi everyone

I just finished reading the book last night.. wow!

i've been searching around for people's interpretations on the algae island.

I've got to say, even being a person from a science background, whilst reading this part I actually believed it could be possible. Where as I've read other reviews saying that the point of it was to assure us that this story was not a reality.

The algae island kept reminding me of the garden of Eden. When he came to the tree with the fruit I was sure that this was what it was meant to be but as you can imagine the surprise was chilling.

To me the algae island represented organised religeons be it christianity, Hindu, Muslim and the horrible things they have lead to in the past. The island was not grounded, it was just floating in the sea sustaining itself which goes for religeon, which outside of itself doesn't make sense but as is we can't really say it does not exist.

The meercats were people who don't question and are happy to just accept their religeon. They live by the rules, climb into the trees at night to avoid the acid and have a great life. Unless ofcourse the happen to stumble accross the tiger for which they are not prepared.

I think that when pi realises that the island is carnivorous, like many people realise that there are dark sides to religeons, he decides to continue his quest to find god without the comfort that an organised religeon brings.

I think that this is a fantastic book that puts forward the existance of god in our minds and highlights the fact that religeons are simply different interpretations of something that is to this day inexplanable. (ie big bang theory has never been proved, quantum theory and string theory has turned science its head so essentially science is also a faith)

xxx
Helen


Posted by: Helen at June 15, 2005 10:52 PM

I just finished the book, and I thought there was some sort of significance to what the algae island represented. I definitely would have to agree with helen on how it represented religion itself. Pi even said the green island reminded him of islam because green is the color of islam. But the fact that it floated on the ocean might also be a symbol of religion. Similar to life itself, an ocean is always changing, flowing, and full of suprises. So it floats around life, changing with life.

Posted by: Walt at June 22, 2005 11:51 PM

Salame Namaste!

I don't care if the story was fact or fiction. To me it was all fact, brilliant and unbelievable and completely true.

I sooo want to believe it, just based on the fact that the research it must have taken Martel to write such fiction. The very thought process of a boy who is trying to understand and accept and above all love all religions is so grounded in reality, with questions we face everyday, how can it not be true? Whats so hard about believing a carnivorous algae island? As pointed out by Pi himself, the Venus Fly Trap exists! There are far too many things that science, logic and commonsense can never comprehend, especially realities that we are not exposed day to day. Children who have been brought up in the wild by wolves, bears etc, are testament to the fact that living close quarters with carnivores is possible, acceptable and believable. Stories from the holocaust, bombing in Hiroshima, the fatal gas leak of Bhopal and many more are witness to the fact that if one has the will and intellect, one can survive a life-threatening ordeal for days, months and years to come.

I completely believe that Pi exists, not just as a metaphor or a symbolic view of life and its resilience to survive, not just as a portrayal of our hypocritical society complete with questions on God and his various avatars, not just as a handbook for surviving a Tiger or catching flying fish in the Pacific, but as a flesh and bones boy who survived himself and managed to come out 227 days later with his faith and sanity intact not to mention his amazing sense of humor!

Pi, if you ever manage to read this, know this that I believe you. Give me The Story with animals over any other, any day and I will always pick the one with Richard Parker.

Always.
Ami

Posted by: Amita Mary at September 11, 2005 5:21 AM

hey hey.. just finished this book last night... an incredibly inspiring and thought provoking read... quite glad to see the local high schools have picked it up for Gr 11 english class... moderns kids everywhere should.. nay, NEED to read this book... it explains the nature of life far better and in more detail then any scripture or biased parental unit ever could... unless of course that parent is yann himself:)....

... as for the book itself... 5 stars.. beautiful symbolism.. story telling.. little details.. and beautifully image provoking dialogue.... not to mention all the little gems hidden in it.... for instance... at the begining it says "for my fourth year thesis istudied the cosmogony theory of the kabbalist isaac luria"

.. a seemingly irrelvant fact... but later on in the book the ship that sinks is the TSIMTSUM!

Tsimtsum is, essentially, a Kabalistic term. The omnipotent God generated the void in which to create a universe by withdrawing from a certain space.... a space that might then be filled by Gods creation.... Tsimtsum is the act of that withdrawal, contraction or concentration of energy into a primordial point.... Psychologically, tsimtsum relates to the shrinking of the self and the understanding that power does not make an individual infallible or the same as God..... The act of tsimtsum in a by nature active individual through meditation might bring about a zen-like state of mind, thereby elevating the mind over matter.

Think of the tree of life, or the mystical place where the kabbalah meets yin and yang, where and when God arrives and departs again... or when Pi slumbers and awakens again:)

.. excellent read.. i recomend it to all

Posted by: Luke at September 24, 2005 11:55 AM

Hey...
i just finished reading this book as an English novel study [Grade 11] and for my final project i chose to show and explain the many places where symbolism occurs. So far i have found a lot, but i was wondering if you could help to point out some more? I think that my favourite symbolism is how orange represents the colour of survival. Whether it be Richard Parkers coat, the life buoys, life jackets, 'Orange' Juice the Orangutang or just that Organge is the official Hindu colour.
But please comment me back
Your help would be appreciated!
-mallory_*

Posted by: Mallory at September 27, 2005 9:13 PM

About the carniverous algea island in the book. i found an narticle confirming that there are certain species of algea that do such a thing.


"Fish farmers suffered major economic losses in the Neuse estuary in North Carolina, United States, when a billion fish were killed by a recently discovered carnivorous species of alga. Pfiesteria chemically senses fish and produces lethal toxins which kill in only a few hours, and then feeds off their decaying remains. The toxins can also cause skin ulcers on people exposed to them."

This article even talks about the chenicals relesed in the small ponds. I thought this might be helpful because i was interested at this.

Posted by: Rusty Shakleford at October 10, 2005 8:32 PM

Oh yeah, if you don't believe me check it out yourself AT,

atlas.aaas.org/index.php?part=2&sec=waste&sub=agchem

So i think it was not a hallucination.Makes you think

Upper Level Thinking

Posted by: Rusty Shakleford at October 10, 2005 8:36 PM

.. i can dig it rusty :)

Posted by: luke at October 11, 2005 9:37 PM

Simply incredible. One of the best written books I've read. Masterfully crafted.

Posted by: Jennings at October 20, 2005 11:22 PM

.. had to write an essay on this for english class.. thought i would share it.. enjoy:)

------------------------------------------------

Life of Pi - Fear

Since the dawn of time, mankind and indeed all conscious life has been propelled (or repelled) by two of existence's most primal and powerful sensations. The first is the root of many of history's great tales and virtuous accomplishments; and inevitably, still to this day, is the driving force behind all conscious advances in our evolution. It goes by many names; Valor, intrepidity, nerve, bravery, and perpetually transcends cultures, borders and times. It is the ageless sensation of courage. The latter however, is also the antecedant for a great number of tales; and, although it may take a litte longer to percolate, is also a vital reactant in the manifestation of many great accomplishments. For as we shall shortly come to see, fear is intimately intertwined with its courageous sibling, and both in their own right can be an arduous foe, and a great ally.

Yann Martel's book 'Life of Pi' is a phenomenally inspiring trek through the deepest realms of the human condition and is written with such lyrical prowess as to leave one breathless. It dabbles in many aspects, but one of its cardinal themes is that of fear. So, without further ado, let us sit and dine in this deli of dread.

At first, we get no sense of fear; except perhaps the petty angst of anticipation and doubt that is concocted by the promise that this tale will make us beleive in god. We are introduced to Piscine Molitor Patel through his own recollections of the following tale, and we get a sense of his contentment, his lust for life. On we read, as he muses ".. there is always a grinning skull at my side to remind of the folly of the human ambition.", he proceeds and proclaims, "I mock this skull... Life is so beautiful that death has fallen in love with it."(Line 6-15 p. 6). Listening to Pi recall his past, the ambiance seems immaculate of fear; and we promptly become aquainted with him through his insightfully confident reminiscence. We get a sense of someone who has overcome a vast ordeal and discovered a great liberating truth. On he goes with his tale.

Pi is born into a mild mannered middle class indian family, to a life of contentedness and secular freedom. He is taught to swim by a loving uncle, introduced to religion and spirituality by a loving aunt, and is the son of parents who are the owners any boy's dream - a zoo. Being blessed with such an auspicious footing, Pi discovers very early in life certain universal truths about freedom and illusion, which eventually will be of great aid to his survival. These truths revolve around the fact that all experience and expression (animal and human) is inevitably a product of a relative and a more often then not limiting perception of 'what is'. He ponders ".. such an enclosure (zoo) is relatively neither better nor worse for an animal then (freedom)....so long as the needs are filled.. it's territory simply is" (line 4-7 p.20). Pi promptly arrives at the vital realization that experience - and opinion of experience, is directly related to one's subjective perception and understanding of 'all that is', and whether rational, religious or animalistic in nature, ignorance and fright are our common ground. Thankfully however, this does not inexorably impede growth in perception and awareness, and when stripped to the core it becomes clearly apparent that ignorance is merely a feeble subsidiary of that one primal force latent within all sentient life - Fear.

Fear makes its somber presence felt on many levels in Pi's journey, everywhere from his incommodious experience with name badgering, " .. he shouted 'Its pissing patel.'" Pi recalls, "..everyone was laughing... i walked in last with my crown of thorns." (line 12-13 p.22), to his myriad of trials and tribulations on the pacific. Whether it be fear of loss, acceptance, survival, death, darkness or just that great archetypal void that smothers us now and then; Pi grapples with it all. But instead of giving in and fighting to the death with that classic and ever-so hopeless internal war against all things unnerving, he soon learns a twofold lesson on the matter, and that is - Fright can be a valuable ally. A catalyst of sorts, provoking more potent levels of awareness, vigilance and understanding. And that properly utilized, courage inevitably manifests as the offspring of any substantial bout with this enigma they call fear.

Pi describes fear so vividly that it teems of peerless resonance. I only wish i could qoute all of Chapter 56, but alas, ironically i fear space is of the essence. So on we push. ".. Fear. It is life's only true opponent." Pi ponders, "..it respects no law, shows no mercy.. slips into the mind like a spy.. disables the reason, and then the body..it consumes your whole being.. but never the eyes.. the eyes always pay proper attention to fear." (p.178) Young piscine struggles on many levels during his journey, but because of the seeds of knowledge, courage and existential reverence that were planted in him early in childhood; he manages to transcend all of his trials. Everything from his name dilemma - overcome by stoutness, "Known to all as Pi patel. 3.14" (p24), to his religious complications - overcome, or rather embraced with agape. "..all religions are true.. I just want to love god!"(p. 76). To his initial dread at the withdrawing of the Tsimtsum - conqured by determination "i will not die.. i refuse it.. i will beat the odds..its constitutional, an inability to let go. Although it may be nothing more then life-hungry stupidity."(p. 163-4). Or his series of fearful encounters with a certain bengal tiger boatmate - overthrown by necessity to co-exist, "I had to tame him. It was at that moment i realized this was necessity...and i am grateful.. without Richard Parker i wouldnt be alive today to tell you my story."(p.181-2). And of course, his frequent and painfully disillusioned existential crises. - eventually discombobulated by Fear's interwoven and courageous kinsmen. ".. settled on my side.. for the first time in days i felt a measure of calm... a bit of hope... hard earned... well deserved .. reasonable.. hope..glowed in me." (p. 195)

Throughout his journey, young Piscine becomes increasingly aware of the dualistic nature of life, and inevitably fear. He aides the reader in awakening to the binal nature of their own dread; and unconsciously sheds light on the two fundamental aspects of the fear complex . That of the superfically distressing uncertainty of future probabilities and that of the intangible and intuitional allys that emerse us in the neccesity and immediacy of the eternally present moment, and which are an invaluable aid to the awareness and survival of any conscious life.

Fear is an unavoidably flourishing aspect of our existence, and surely enough; once we learn to be aware of our awareness, and to recognize this crux of dread for what it truely is - a tameable companion that inevitably accompanies us as our personal Richard Parker throughout the odysseys of our days. We will no longer drudge though life weighed down by fear and apprehension, but truely learn to embrace existence; and revel in the very essence of experience with the same awe that Pi manifested in that moment of paradoxically energetic peace he stumbled upon one afternoon in India. Fear is not a hindrence, it is a necessity; and necessity is indeed the mother of invention. As a wise man once said, "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeing new things, but in having new eyes." Pi concludes his journey blessed with both.

Posted by: Luke at October 22, 2005 2:48 PM

what is with the 2 endings? what one is true the people or the animal? and why

Posted by: sara at October 25, 2005 10:24 PM

sara, the way I read it was that the "people" ending was what really happened, but Pi's faith led him to create the animal story, rewriting his memory. Thus, the author illustrates the strength of faith, the beauty of art, and the power of the mind.

Posted by: Chapman at October 26, 2005 3:50 PM

hey shane,
do you know what the carnivorous algae is?
if u happen to come across the name of the algae, please tell me :)

Posted by: brian at October 30, 2005 1:24 PM

.. its called pfiesteria

http://www.dnr.state.md.us/bay/hab/pfiesteria.html

Posted by: Luke at October 30, 2005 3:02 PM

The island was my favorite part of the whole book. I found it quite realistic until I got to the end of the story. I believe that Pi is saying that neither story is true, and that it is rather irrelevant. Each can believe what he wants and that's that. "And so it is with God". Pi says this, saying that every person can have their own God because they're going to lead the same place anyway. I personally disagree, but I see no reason in arguing about that, so I'll leave it there. The book was amazing, at any rate, and if you haven't read it, I suggest you do.

Posted by: Cody at November 8, 2005 7:31 PM

A fascinating book, to be sure. I wouldn't even to hazard to guess what the author was trying to say, although Pi's goal to love God seemed to be central. I also would not necessarily agree with some of the above posters and their interpretation that the book was anti-organized religion, or that the author was against people who do not question their religion. Are these people not also trying to love God? Just because someone hasn't questioned their spirituality and religion to the extent that Pi did does not mean they love God less. I have been an ELCA Lutheran my whole live and have never felt the need to question my beliefs to the extent that Pi did. I would certainly argue that I do not love God less because I have not done so.

The second survival story that pops up at the end was fascinating. I think that this story was intended to be the "true" one, due to the very small chapter in which the author writes that one of the worst things Pi faced was boredom. This could account for the more elaborate story of Richard Parker, the hyena, and the zebra, but also for the story of the island.

Truly a great read. Many thanks for recommending it, Shane.

Curt in Grand Forks

Posted by: Curt Hanson at December 13, 2005 4:47 PM

im a grade 11 student who just read this book i read how you belive it has so much to do with religion and all but i didnt understand all that newayz it was a great book though and is Pi real?

Posted by: grade 11 student at December 18, 2005 4:19 PM

Has anybody noticed the significancy of the color orange throughout the book?

Posted by: chelsea at December 21, 2005 7:58 PM

Yes. The colour orange is carried out throughtout the book. Orange is important for hinduism, the Bengal tiger was orange and the tarpaulin was also orange.

Posted by: gr 10 student at January 24, 2006 10:38 PM


Just finished a moment ago, its almost midnight now I just had to finish it, got to love the interview with the two Japanese guys moves like a british comic duo sometimes.

An amazing book, why I googled 'Tsimtsum' and found the Kabbalah link and indeed this page is interesting why I googled it at all -why that word?

'A vessel of light', where the light of God is coming in and out... constricting... etc must do some reading there, the book is riddled with a Pi Code...

so much to comment on, so much to say about the book, so much already has been said about its Hindu references.. the color Orange

sometimes the cannibalism and indeed the stuff about defecation and consumption of what would seem 'unnatural food' is unsettling at worst and as much as the story was amazingly addictive and sometimes stretched almost reality too far... I must say the first chapters concerning religion and the pro's and con's of three major ones and his constant use of the behaviors of animals and nature representing human traits brought a smile to my face, I do feel I share similar views on religion as 'Pi' does

why, do they not all teach a universal lesson? Is there not good in all of them? ... is not bad in all of them? And time and time again we see religious fanatics as further from God then they hope... further from 'a' reality that escapes them

I rarely read, I'll have to make an effort to do more of it sometime.

and the book...

is the book real?
does it have to be?
it certainly isnt fact

so lets call it Truth.

there is a difference, no?

I thoroughly enjoyed it, a novel? nay, an instant philosophical classic about life and the harsh realities we face and avoid in our ignorant perceptions...

well done Yann Martel

James
23, Sydney

Posted by: James at February 1, 2006 7:02 AM

Whoa. That's all I can say right now. Just finished the book and the ending has left my head spinning. I wonder which story is true, then I remember the whole book is fictional, and my head throbs! There are so many questions. What was with the teeth in the fruit? It made me shudder, it made me confused... it made me scared. And I was truley scared for Pi's life when he had gone blind. I felt like I too was blind. I think I am going to read over some parts tonight and see if I can piece together some clues.

Posted by: Lauren at February 18, 2006 12:43 AM

The last post was long ago, so I don't know if anyone has lost interest, but I just finished the book.

It made me cry with a new(re)found love for story telling and hope and the human condition. I think that the latter story must be the intended true story, but the question is not: does it really make a difference? The question is -should it? The point is (to me) that he is the tiger like the Japenese men say, and his mother was lost on the ship (as he knew her before) but was on the vessal with him as a undiscovered hero, and a different form, such as the orang-utang. In their suffering, and dying hunger and thirst, and struggle of survival, they all become their simplest form as we all are, as humans, animals.

I think the island can have many interpretions, one (to me) being, maybe he found an island, but it was monotonous in it's safety and could kill a (man) or man's spirit (being portrayed as carnivorous...not to say it doesn't exist) to keep him from seeking out was was most important...to all mankind. Answers. Answers of God, and answers as to what happened to his family, answers to life and his meaning. He didn't like unfinished endings as you recall, and ceasing his search for answers to, or in life. In it's basic form, to me, it was a story on the basic human and animal instinct- to survive. And then, to find meaning in it. To justify ourselves, such as in God and Religion, as many thousands of years and (bibles and wars) and religions can attest. To never ask or to cease hoping is equivalent to death. That is what makes life so beautiful, the quest, the experience, how we get along with each other (our brothers)how we live on this planet in harmony with every living thing giving it it's due respect. (At least in theory, or as a goal, not always done well- hence- the quest). What one as an individual makes of it. This is the story I got from it. It is beautiful, regardless of your beliefs. It brings hope of the human animal, in survival, and in Spiritually, then in life. However you chose it to be (vegan or non, haha) As the animal, human being. Life is what you make it.

Posted by: elle at March 25, 2006 10:04 AM

The last post was long ago, so I don't know if anyone has lost interest, but I just finished the book.

It made me cry with a new(re)found love for story telling and hope and the human condition. I think that the latter story must be the intended true story, but the question is not: does it really make a difference? The question is -should it? The point is (to me) that he is the tiger like the Japenese men say, and his mother was lost on the ship (as he knew her before) but was on the vessal with him as a undiscovered hero, and a different form, such as the orang-utang. In their suffering, and dying hunger and thirst, and struggle of survival, they all become their simplest form as we all are, as humans, animals.

I think the island can have many interpretions, one (to me) being, maybe he found an island, but it was monotonous in it's safety and could kill a (man) or man's spirit (being portrayed as carnivorous...not to say it doesn't exist) to keep him from seeking out was was most important...to all mankind. Answers. Answers of God, and answers as to what happened to his family, answers to life and his meaning. He didn't like unfinished endings as you recall, and ceasing his search for answers to, or in life. In it's basic form, to me, it was a story on the basic human and animal instinct- to survive. And then, to find meaning in it. To justify ourselves, such as in God and Religion, as many thousands of years and (bibles and wars) and religions can attest. To never ask or to cease hoping is equivalent to death. That is what makes life so beautiful, the quest, the experience, how we get along with each other (our brothers)how we live on this planet in harmony with every living thing giving it it's due respect. (At least in theory, or as a goal, not always done well- hence- the quest). What one as an individual makes of it. This is the story I got from it. It is beautiful, regardless of your beliefs. It brings hope of the human animal, in survival, and in Spiritually, then in life. However you chose it to be (vegan or non, haha) As the animal, human being. Life is what you make it.

Posted by: elle at March 25, 2006 10:05 AM

This book touches base with so many themes, but I found myself musing mostly over the representation of the island more than anything else. After really thinking about it, I realize more and more that Martel somehow managed to link most of his themes, and the island is an important element of the story.

I think what Martel was doing with the island was revealing the effect of faith, fear, and doubt in a world where they do not exist. The purpose of the island is the point out that these things cannot – or at least need not – exist in a perfect world.

The island was a world without God. It was a perfectly harmonious ecosystem, and it had no fear - Martel goes out of his way to point this out by discussing how the meercats showed no fear towards Pi or Richard Parker. They exist in perfect harmony – the algae supplying the fish and water for the meercats, the meercats instinctively swarm to the trees at night, and there is no need for change, discussion, or thought. Fear need not exist, and at the same token, neither does faith. If the meerkats could comprehend language so that Pi could ask them which of his survival stories they preferred, they simply would not care.

Pi’s presence reveals the effect of God, and all that comes with him – love, hate, doubt, fear, etc. – has on a perfect world. The island is a great illustration to answer the question of “why doesn’t God show himself.?

Posted by: Scott at May 31, 2006 11:50 PM

I wont be calous enough to assume wich story is real. Though logic tells me the story where the frenchman kills his mother is just that. My curiosity and thirst to find the unexplainable drive me to beleive the island is real.

Logic though brings questions that tie into curiosity. Inevitably i seek to find the meanings in the metaphores of the island. So many come to mind.

1. The weekest being about the teeth in the trees, and bringing relation to his mothers head being thrown at him. Perhaps in his horrible hunger and possible drive to madness of his mothers death, lead him to devour her head. And Pi is too ashamed to say so, thus hides it in a metaphore. That being said he himself would have to be the island. He being vegetarian and going carniverouse. Also the fact that the island only eats at night and by day is dosile hints that he wants to hide his action. It makes him feel like a parasite because he does so to exact vengence for his mothers death un to the chef(he refers to the island as parasite), though he may be unsure of wether he is just or parasytic in this kill. Note the merecats eat the fish from the islands holes but dont actually kill them, this bringing the breath of corruption to their tiney lips. Side note- when the tiger eats the frenchmen and then he does, this can symbolize that when he exacts his revenge and eats the man in the un-anamalized story, he enjoys it, it gives him strength, but at the same time feels monsterous in the act.

2. another would be the previously stated religiouse theory.

3. yet another is the island still being himself. The merecats his goodness being corrupted by the island. The tiger the beast inside him feading on that goodness. The fact that the tiger sleeps on the boat at night meaning even the beast in him is afraid of what hes become and can become further. The beast slowly consuming his goodness even past its hunger, just for purpose of the kill. The teeth in the trees meaning he will be consumed by this and consume all and everything he is until nothing is left, good and evil. Nothing left but teeth, and lust. Even the tiger was more than just a killing machine, but the island is only that and he fed off it, and it was sweeter than syrup. These being what he starts to become alone on an island. So he choses to leave and retain his hope and search for humanity.

4. Could be a combination of all or none and being something entirely seperat.

I have so many theories and speculations that its hard to peice together whole explenations on this part of the book, and its hard not to ramble as im sure u are noticeing i am. LOL.

Good book. I never read and i could put it down.

Posted by: aaron j wessel at November 6, 2006 11:54 PM

Fantastic book! But I'm confused. Strange ending. Did anyone else find the end so at odds with the rest of the book?

Put bluntly, I thought the ending was so bad that it had to be deliberate. This thought had me rapidly flicking through for a paragraph that had stuck out in my mind at the time of reading. I'll save you the flicking - chapter 94 (p285 in my version) where Pi says "I wept like a child... I was crying because Richard Parker had left me so unceremonously. What a terrible thing it is to botch a farewell. I am a person who believes in form, in the harmony of order. Where we can, we must give things a meaningful shape... Its important in life to conclude things properly. Only then can you let go."

I suppose, in an odd way, that means I will never be able to let go of 'The Life of Pi'.

Posted by: Mark at November 14, 2006 5:04 AM

The Life of Pi is an exceptional book, not least because of the lasting effect on the reader: Endless questions about the imagery and what it all means about life, suffering, survival and human spirituality. Being totally in love with the book, if only for these reasons, I was astonished to find the following. Has the spiteful Mr Schneider missed the point?
http://www.hackwriters.com/pi.htm

Posted by: julie at November 22, 2006 8:11 AM

The Life of Pi is an exceptional book, not least because of the lasting effect on the reader: Endless questions about the imagery and what it all means about life, suffering, survival and human spirituality. Being totally in love with the book, if only for these reasons, I was astonished to find the following. Has the spiteful Mr Schneider missed the point?
http://www.hackwriters.com/pi.htm

Posted by: julie at November 22, 2006 8:14 AM

I am doing an essay in class about the symbolism in 'Life of Pi' and wanted to know if you had any sort of list with some of the symbols on it

Posted by: Lisa at December 5, 2006 10:33 PM

Trying to solidify a carnivorous island is like missing the forest for the trees.

Posted by: Scott at December 12, 2006 1:33 AM

I really like what Elle and Scott were saying about the algae island. I especially like the religious aspect which Elle mentioned because the island, I felt, somehow had to be tied to religion (notice how there was a huge emphasis on the colour green on the island? green = Islam as Pi says). But every way I had tried to interpret it to tie to religion/God, it would seem "anti-religious", but now with what you said it makes perfect sense. Thanks!

Posted by: Ben at January 17, 2007 1:48 AM

I think this discussion about the island is very interesting. While I consider the island to be related to religion, I do not consider it to be a direct symbol of religion. Yes, he did say that green = Islam. It turned out that there was a problem with complaceny in Islam, as represented by the acid (and the eating away of the flesh that acid entails). But the problem was not noticed until the black "fruit" was found. Black is a combination of all colors, all religions. Therefore, I do not see the island as a symbol of Islam specifically, but as a warning against complacency in one's religous beliefs. There is an old Buddhist say, "If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him." It is an injunction against complaceny. Belief must be active, and it must be, on some level, a personal journey. So, of course the animal story is true!

Posted by: Brady at February 10, 2007 10:55 PM

I agree that this was a very well written book, a tad dull perhaps at the start (for those of us with short attention spans...ie. myself) I suppose, in the authors defense, this attribute makes the shock effect all the better when the first sentence of the second part of the novel reads something to the extent of "The ship sank".

Ok, anyways, I love reading about what other people have to say about symbolism etc. The island thing makes so much more sense now =)
Ill defiantly have to re-read it, keeping in mind the second story, the themes, and all that jazz.

Posted by: Katie at May 13, 2007 9:53 PM

From the time he went blind until the time he hit the beach in Mexico he was in a near death state. His brain had finally broken down from exhaustion and a one sided diet, 227 days is a long time to be eating raw sea life. It was all hallucinated, the other man in the other lifeboat (I'd love to hear some thoughts about that guy), the island and it's progressively more absurd details. It was just him losing touch with reality and drifting to what was next. Once he reached about as perfect of a life, sleeping with the meercats, the true nature of his current state is revealed by the carnivorous side of his bliss. The very thing that has made you strong and feel alive again will end up eating you, death is still inevitable. Pi is a survivor so he rejects death and leaves the island and returns to reality. The second story is to just satisfy the interviewers. Pi is wise enough to read the situation and not push it too much with these guys, if they don't want to believe, he is not going to force in on them. He tells them what they want to hear so they will leave him alone. I think he is not quite back in reality and knows it. Just look at how he horded the cookies and woofed down the lunch, his main fascination with these guys is what they have to eat.

Posted by: James at June 3, 2007 12:18 AM

Yo, I have to do an essay on religion, can anyone help me out with this, thanks
Peace

Posted by: BILLY BOB at June 3, 2007 2:46 PM

I loved the book so much i have decided to write a 4000 word extended essay on it, i think that the title i will use is the use of colour, this is not only because of it's symbolic value in the novel, but also because it demonstrates perfectly how yann Martel created such a realistic character in Pi himself and his observational intelligent personality, as in essence i think this novel is about learning to relate and communicate with others who are different to yourself, be it in religion or even species!
PLEASE if there are ANY hints or tips as to how to approach this topic, and use colour (and manage to write 4000 words on it), i would very much appreciate it.

Posted by: Kate at August 2, 2007 9:27 AM

Im not quite sure that the island could mean, but the animals represented the people who were on the lifeboat with him, the Hyena was the cook, the Zebra was the fisherman, the orangatang was his mother and Richard Parker was the beast in him that needed to be tamed by finding religious peace. It was never seen again becuase through that trip, he was training/taming himself to find peace with his religion. Thats what I personally got out of the book, Im not quite sure if that makes sense, but I hope it helps =)

Posted by: Lindsay at August 22, 2007 5:12 PM

Another piece of symbolism to consider is the name Richard Parker. That name is is commonly associated with cannabalism and shipwrecks. I don't find it a coincidence at all when thinking about the names in this book. All of them were chosen for a reason and it was very crafty indeed!

Posted by: Keri at August 27, 2007 10:46 PM

what a shitty book. The first part was so boring it took me days to get through. The only good part that wasn't boring was the ending. So I might save the last few pages but I think I'll just rip the rest out and use it for toilet paper.

Posted by: logan at November 25, 2007 3:46 PM

hey there!
i love this book!
this is so funny!
i was doing a research paper on the book and i was looking for info that disproves the algae concept...however i found some interesting species that are in fact carnivorous...
none that match the description in the book however...

Posted by: David at December 20, 2007 6:16 PM

i have no idea what the island was...or wat it is supposed to represent..it was a paradise..but with a price..the island would eat you alive at night and burn you...its like hell in that way...however some will say the island is a place where there is no religion...the meerkats just accepting to what happened...i think it could have meant salvation and how in religion if you choose to accept heaven you choose to accept hell...hmmm i dunno it may not be religion..it may not b that signifigant...there were teeth there in the treesis that signifigant..that sum1 die for him??? if he wouldnt have found the teeth who know s wat could ve happened


i know that sounds like a jesus theory but im still not sure if i interpret the island as a religious matter jus wanted to say it because nobody else did

please tell me wat u think

Posted by: R-O at February 11, 2008 3:49 AM

I'm a grade 11 student, and I have so far had to read the novel Life of Pi twice for school. Once in grade 9 and once again in grade 11. I can honestly say that my understanding of the book has not changed ever so slightly over the two years; if anything it has worsened. I like to consider myself an intelligent and knowledgeable reader, however this novel has succeeded in confounding me twice. There are three things (and more) in the book that I fail to understand, and I was wondering if anyone could clarify? 1) is there a deeper meaning to Piscine changing his name to 'Pi'? (other than the obvious reasons)and does this relate to the fact that pi's journey lasts 227days? (22/7=pi) 2) what is the point of Pi's rendez-vs with the blind chef 3)Why is there an algae island? Thnx...

Posted by: intra at February 29, 2008 10:52 PM

Im only 11 years old but I read this book for a school project.In the ending (what a twist) I couldnt help but think that the dull story was true despite how much I wanted to believe in Richard Parker. I think that Pi just pictured himself as Richird.This is proven when Richard runs away when they reach Mexico.Pi is imagining that the part of his life where he was at sea is leaving him.

Posted by: Brian at March 4, 2008 7:36 PM

Just to clerify I chose the book on my own my school didnt choose for me. (6th grade)

Posted by: Brian at March 4, 2008 7:54 PM

I found that Richard Parkerwas a part of Pi's insticts that came out and allowed him to survive. He is appalled after his insticts, his "tiger" cause him to kill the hyena( the cook) and eat him. The whole story is about him using God to tame his instict to survive at all costs. His fear/love relationship is due to the fact that even though Richard Parker causes him to commit murder and caniballism, the tiger also allows him to survive. When Pi finally lands in Mexico, his instict to survive leaves him, but he is safe in the village. These facts lead me to believe that the second story is real but the first is TRUE and that you cannot judge someone by what his insticts are doing, but by what the person intends. Richard Parker is real and anyone can find a tiger next to them when faced with an impossible situation.
PS sorry for rambling :)

Posted by: Nic at March 5, 2008 5:06 PM

Exactly. His guilt majorly plays into it.

Posted by: Brian at March 6, 2008 5:05 PM

Exactly. His guilt majorly plays into it.

Posted by: Brian at March 6, 2008 5:06 PM

May I suggest a completely different view of the story that just came to me. What if ALL of the animals are a part of Pi. The Cook/Hyena is is evil, bitter, and angery side, the orangitan/his mom is Pi's gentle side, Richard Parker Pi's insticts, and the zebra either Pi's innocence, or another person, who Pi himself kills and eats, and then relizes his horrible mistake and uses his instics as a reason/excuse for himself. Who knows really? Martel was probably just trying to tell a simple story and we're all over-anylizing it.

Posted by: Nic at March 18, 2008 8:48 PM

hey can anyone help me with all these symbols?

island
ocean
use of religions
Tsimtsum
colors (saffron/orange and green)
Pi's name
life boat

i loved this book and would recommend it to all

Posted by: Laura at May 1, 2008 8:21 AM

hey can anyone help me with all these symbols?

island
ocean
use of religions
Tsimtsum
colors (saffron/orange and green)
Pi's name
life boat

i loved this book and would recommend it to all

Posted by: Laura at May 1, 2008 8:22 AM

The freshmen at my school had to read this for English(including me) and my class in particular have to write an essay about symbolism.

Posted by: JJ at May 11, 2008 8:27 PM

Hey, I had to read this book for english class and I have to write an essay about it and the common good could you give me some tips or sites to help? thanks

Posted by: Kaoru at May 12, 2008 12:44 PM

ya so all u ppl think that life of pi is a good book well i think u all suck.
enjoy.
Anthropomorphism in literature in general and especially in "The Life of Pi" by Yann Martel often involves main characters being animals in one way or another. In "The Life of Pi" since his father is runs a zoo, Pi is always surrounded by animals and forms an intense relationship and knowledge of their behavior. He integrates this empirical side of zoology with his spiritual knowledge and thus is proven to be adept at dealing with animals. While he is able to view them with a detached scientific gaze, he is often given to the “childish? notion of anthropomorphizing them. For instance, he admits to such behavior when he imagines them speaking “fluent English, the pheasants complaining in uppity British accents of their tea being cold and the baboons planning their bank robbery getaway in the flat, menacing tones of American gangsters, saying in one of the important quotes from "The Life of Pi" by Yann Martel, “I quite frequently dressed wild animals in the tame costumes of imagination? (Pi 43). In the world of children, this is a “normal? and expected tendency, however with adults, such actions would be thought of as inappropriate.


Posted by: Me at June 11, 2008 5:51 PM

I've just finished the book and first of all i think yann martel did a magnificent job in the symbology and the telling of this story.
i very much like and agree with the views that pi takes on religion and how he just wants to love god in all the ways that he can. even though i do not believe in one certain religion i do think that for people who do they should recognize that people are different and so every one will have their own views and ideas about god and the point isn't how you see god but that god is seen.
I liked the ideas and theories of the island connecting to religion, but i also like the thought of it not truely in fact being carnivorous but that if he stayed there he would eventually fade away and that is what makes it a murderous island. by staying there he would end up like the other, being crushed spiritually and so he had to move on and keep fighting or else he would die and so many things that needed to be done and said in life would never be. Giving up and living out the rest of his days there was not an option.
im not sure which of the endings i truely believe though i would like it to be the animal one, but i don't think that matters because regardless of which one was reality they were both true, whether richard parker was pi or was his companion, he was a symbol of corage and with him pi was able to survive. the stories are the same no matter what different symbols are used to represent what happends. i loved how martel connected every thing in the end and left us to think about each of the stories we wanted to follow.
i thought this book was incredable and like most others on this page i greatly recommend it.

Posted by: victoria at June 13, 2008 6:26 PM

I think the hyena represents pi's decent into savagery. Pi eventually went mad with hunger and did whatever it took to survive: he fought the zebra and the orangutan and then ate them out of hunger. But, when he found out Richard Parker was on the boat, he had to think sensibly to survive because he knew he couldn't win a fight against a 350 pound bengal tiger and survive. So, in a sense, Richard Parker "killed and then ate" the hyena. Does anyone think this is accurate?

Posted by: Jeremy at September 7, 2008 10:32 PM

EDIT: I think the hyena represents Pi's decent into savagery. Pi eventually went mad with hunger and did whatever it took to survive: he fought the zebra and the orangutan and then ate them. But, when he found out Richard Parker, Pi’s sensibility, “was on the boat?, he had to think sensibly to survive. So, in a sense, Richard Parker "killed and then ate" the hyena.

Posted by: Jeremy at September 8, 2008 12:27 AM

I am working on a Final Project for this book, and I am overwhelmed and amazed at the symbology Martel put in this novel. Pi, both the person and the number represent the fact that nothing ever ends or repeats, it just goes on and on forever. As Pi's life is continuosly eveolving and changing. That is also why it is called "Life of Pi", not "THE Life of Pi", as it represents the fact that Pi's story, wether fictional or fact, continues, in each and every one of us.

Another interesting fact is that 22 over 7 is the closest fraction to the number pi, and Pi was stranded at sea for 227 days. Martel is a literary genius.

Richard Parker obviously represents Pi's savage, cruel aspect of his personality, and serves as a metaphor within a metaphor for Man in general, and the evils we are all capable of. When Pi makes landfall, and Richard Parker "runs off", I think it is Pi finally defeating his inner demons, and discarding them.

The island, man that was creepy, and very powerful. I agree with many of the comments on this site, that it represents religion, completely free from anything to tie it down, freely drifting in space, and providing a "heaven" for those who believe. But the hidden nature of the island also represents the fact that relying too strongly on religion will consume you, and ultimately lead to your destruction. That is when Pi discovers the "fruit" on the tree, which I think represents the Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Ededn, the forbidden fruit that had Adam and Eve cast out. That is why Pi must leave.

Posted by: Adam at September 27, 2008 9:37 PM

Hey. I loved the book, but I don't understand the blind French man in the boat. What did he represent? Did he want to eat Pi? And when Pi was talking with Richard Parker, was that in his imagination?

Posted by: Hannah at October 12, 2008 8:48 PM

I am a 4th year student in Scotland and am currently studying the philiphosical & religious side of Life of Pi. How do you think Richard Parker represents God in the book?? I am very stuck at this point of my essay!

Thankyou
Emily

Posted by: Emily Lovett at October 26, 2008 11:59 AM

I finished Life of Pi for school a couple of weeks ago and although I do believe it was very well written and Yann Martel is a literary genious, it was not my favorite book. A little dull for me and like someone said earlier, people with short attention spans could hardly sit through it.
However reading through these entries, I particularly liked the speculation that the island could have been Pi himself. I would appreciate if you went into more detail as I have decided to write an esssay on it.

-Sophmore at a high school in need of help.

Posted by: Raquel at October 27, 2008 9:29 PM

I LOVE THIS FREAKIN BOOK!!!

lol im doinga report on it rite
now...im in the ninth grade and
and im lost..i need help...BAD!!!

Posted by: Peyton:D at November 13, 2008 11:23 PM

I finished this book last night, and wow! I loved it, though that carnivouros island had me up all night wondering if it could possibly be true. I emailed my Enviromental Science teacher, who is a zoologist and botanist and he said its not real. But after doing a little research, I think it was based on a real algea-type organisim. I do believe that the animal version happend, but the human version was easier for Pi to think of at times, to feel like he wasn't alone. Though the whole 2 blind guys, was a tad strange to me. It was sad to me that Richard Parker just left at the end, but thats what makes it a english class type book, you can't always love the ending. But overall I really liked the book, I wish I was assigned to read it in school, I think it would be great to write a paper on it.

Posted by: Lauren at January 28, 2009 2:10 PM

I finished this book last night, and wow! I loved it, though that carnivouros island had me up all night wondering if it could possibly be true. I emailed my Enviromental Science teacher, who is a zoologist and botanist and he said its not real. But after doing a little research, I think it was based on a real algea-type organisim. I do believe that the animal version happend, but the human version was easier for Pi to think of at times, to feel like he wasn't alone. Though the whole 2 blind guys, was a tad strange to me. It was sad to me that Richard Parker just left at the end, but thats what makes it a english class type book, you can't always love the ending. But overall I really liked the book, I wish I was assigned to read it in school, I think it would be great to write a paper on it.

Posted by: Lauren at January 28, 2009 2:11 PM

I'm reading this book now for the 3rd time. I find it completely endearing.

I have thoroughly enjoyed reading everyone's interpretations here on this site!

Posted by: Loren at February 26, 2009 1:07 PM

Hey!
I was assigned to read this book in my language arts class. We were having a debate on what story was true or whether the whole thing was a huge symbolic type thing. Does this book even have a true story? Or is the rest just left for all of those other imaginative people who can finish it off and be satisfied. Thats not me. There has to be a good tie off right? Another thing we were supposed to brain storm was what was the point to the book. I'm not saying it didn't have a point I'm just wondering what it was. I loved the book all-in-all with all of the cool things that happend to Pi(I don't think Pi thought it was cool though) and how the animals all came into the picture. By the way I think you should post some of the answers to the questions on here because I saw a ton of good questions like whether or not the little algae island really exists and if it was really possible for someone to live that long out in the ocean with a tiger(as unrealistic that sounds the book makes it seem probable!)

Thanks.

Posted by: Miriam Lopez at April 13, 2009 7:36 PM

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