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Life of Pi
Transcript of Life of Pi
The time frame in which Life of Pi takes place is in the time of the Emergency in India. With the information that Pi's boat sank on July 2nd, 1977, the exact time frame is assumed to be between the years of 1975 and 1978. Life of Pi takes place in a number of locations, spanning across India, the Pacific ocean, and eventually Canada. Within India, the novel explores the city of Pondicherry, the Pondicherry zoo, Pi's school Petit Seminaire, and the town of Munnar that the Patel's visited on vacation. The story then moves to the lifeboat on which Pi and Richard Parker survive the Pacific for approximately 7 months. Within the Pacific there was also the algae island, that Pi only stayed on for a few days. After escaping the Pacific Ocean, Pi finally makes it to land, ending up in Mexico at the Benito Juarez Infirmary. From there Pi travels to Canada.
The novel begins with Pi as a young boy, setting the scene by telling the audience about his life. Pi lives a normal life in Pondicherry, India. Pi explores three different religions, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. With the Emergency in India in full swing, Pi's family decides to move themselves and their zoo to Canada. After a year of preparation, they are finally ready to take the boat to their new life. In a freak accident, the boat sinks, leaving only Pi, a zebra with a broken leg, a hyena, an orangutan, and Richard Parker the Bengal tiger safe on a lifeboat. Pi struggles to survive, watching the zebra and orangutan be eaten by the hyena, who is eventually eaten by Richard Parker. With only Pi and Richard Parker aboard, Pi realizes that if he wants to live through this ordeal, he must tame Richard Parker, and become the super alpha of their tiny ecosystem. After much time had passed Pi tamed Richard, allowing them to focus on surviving the horrible conditions of the middle of the Pacific.
Over the next 7 months, Pi faces the salt and brine of the ocean, determined to live. Pi eventually comes across another drifter in the ocean, whom Richard Parker kills. They come across an island made entirely of algae, whose ground turns deathly acidic at night. Pi does not stay long at this island, preferring to face moral death by staying at sea, than spiritual death by staying at the island. After more drifting throughout the Pacific, Pi and Richard Parker finally meet real land. They had washed ashore in Mexico. Richard Parker fled unceremoniously to the jungle, leaving Pi to be taken to the Benito Juarez Infirmary to get medical attention. Pi was then interviewed by workers for the Maritime Department in the Japanese Ministry of Transport, in an attempt to understand why the boat Pi had been traveling on had sank. The workers were displeased with Pi's story, thinking it impossible that he had truly survived on a boat with a tiger for 227 days, especially with the tiger being nowhere in sight. Pi changes his story, exchanging the hyena for the ship's cook, the zebra for a sailor, the orangutan for his mother, and Richard Parker for himself. The workers like this story much better, and leave Pi to get on with his recovery, and eventually his life in Canada.
Piscine Molitor Patel, preferably known as Pi, is the main character of the novel, and therefore is the character the readers get to know the best. A seemingly middle aged Pi introduces himself by telling stories of his childhood, beginning far before the shipwreck that left him stranded for 7 months. Pi has shown himself to be a deeply religious person, pursuing not only one religion at a fairly young age, but three: Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity. Whether or not Pi was truly an introspective and mature young man, or if it was the effect of an older Pi telling the stories is not clear, but it can be assumed that Pi was at a somewhat higher level of maturity and enlightenment due to his incredible dedication to religion and faith. Faith is an integral part of Pi's character, his faith never wavered even in the face of being stranded in the Pacific. His love of animals, stemming from his father running a zoo, and his appreciation for religion, followed him his whole life, and he eventually pursued both Zoology and Religious Studies in post secondary education. Pi's major source of emotional growth and development is the shipwreck and the quest for surviving it. Pi grew from a pious young boy to a self sufficient young man, still holding his faith dear.
Pi is the only character that was explored in depth, as it was Pi telling the story through the entire novel. The only other character that lasted as long as Pi was Richard Parker, the tiger. He was shown only as a tiger, not having any anthropomorphic qualities even in the face of Pi's critical dehydration, where hallucinations could have occurred. One possibility for the distinctly animal portrayal of Richard would be the childhood talking-to given to Pi by his father, warning that all animals were dangerous, and that it was foolish to give them humanlike qualities through imagination.
Pi can also be seen as the symbolic 'Christ figure', bringing faith everywhere he goes, and giving the option of the leap of faith (believing his animal story, parallel to religion) and the option of dry facts (believing the story without animals, parallel to atheism). Pi also took on the role of the enlightened child when confronted by the three holy men who said he could only practice one religion, and he replied with "all religions are true[, and he] just want[ed] to love God" (p 76)
Despite the author's note at the beginning of the novel describing that the writer is relaying the story of Pi, Life of Pi is told from Pi's perspective in the first person. The credibility of Pi's narration however, is up for debate. Not only may the reader question the reality of what occurred in Pi's life, but also the interviewers for the Ministry of Transport had their doubts. The fact that Pi's initial telling of the story was so extravagant, and that the second telling made equal sense, though in a more realistic way, puts the spotlight on the questionable credibility of the narrator. Having undergone such an ordeal in the Pacific, extreme hunger, dehydration, and isolation, and to do so for 7 months would leave any person in a state of mind that would be less than crystal clear. Pi is a character that obviously knows himself and the world around him, but even the strongest minds and bodies succumb to the elements after a certain amount of time, leaving the audience to wonder exactly how much of Pi's story actually happened.
The story is told in first person, however there is some distance between the narrator and the events. This is because it is an older Pi retelling his story of his childhood, he still experienced it first hand, but the story is years and years away from the current Pi. The readers are only given what information Pi had at the time, which is only what Pi could see, hear, and think.
Figurative language is used throughout Life of Pi. Metaphor, simile, and hyperbole are just some of the forms of figurative language found within this novel. An example of the use of hyperbole occurs when Mamaji, Pi's uncle, says that Piscine Molitor "was a pool the gods would have been delighted to swim in" (p 12). Pi described the meerkats with a simile, saying that they "shriek[ed] like tropical birds" (p 307) and the sea with another, saying it "opened up around [him] like a great book" (p 132). Metaphor was used to describe Pi's religiousness: "a germ of religious exaltation, no bigger than a mustard seed, was sown in [him] and left to germinate" (p 52). All of these uses of figurative language serve to create a more striking visual image of the novel, and to bring a greater understanding of the atmosphere within the situation being described by Pi. The tone of the novel is set by this language, giving it an overall feel of importance and extravagance to even the smallest of details.
REPRESENTATION OF REALITY
The representation of reality, rather the question of whether or not there is a truth to the reality, is a major question surrounding the more extravagant version of Pi's story. At face value, Pi's story is unlikely yet plausible, and in the end he gave an alternative for the skeptical. There is a possibility for reality in each telling of the tale, depending on how much faith the reader has in the narrator. The most reality, at least for Pi, however is present in Pi's representation of faith and religion throughout his story. Almost every aspect of both his stories, the animal and the human version; including his own piety; the improbable circumstances in which he finds himself; the beating of the odds to survive, and all while keeping his faith strong; all of these aspects lend themselves to reflect the issues regarding faith and religion found in every day life. These two stories parallel having faith in religion: the story with Richard Parker, and having no faith, choosing atheism: the story where Pi is Richard Parker. This gives the readers two realities to choose from, one for each school of thought, and reflects the reality in which the readers live.
An important aspect in the representation of reality in Life of Pi is that Pi's original story, the one with Richard Parker being a tiger, is his reality. His faith extends past the bounds of religion, and he believes that his adventure really happened, and was not a figment of his imagination, or a hallucination from extreme dehydration
We are all born like Catholics, aren’t we—in limbo, without religion, until some figure introduces us to God? After that meeting the matter ends for most of us. If there is a change, it is usually for the lesser rather than the greater; many people seem to lose God along life’s way. That was not my case. The figure in question for me was an older sister of Mother’s, of a more traditional mind, who brought me to a temple when I was a small baby. Auntie Rohini was delighted to meet her newborn nephew and thought she would include Mother Goddess in the delight. “It will be his symbolic first outing,” she said. It’s a samskara!” Symbolic indeed. We were in Madurai; I was the fresh veteran of a seven-hour train journey. No matter. Off we went on this Hindu rite of passage, Mother carrying me, Auntie propelling her. I have no conscious memory of this first go-around in a temple, but some smell of incense, some play of light and shadow, some flame, some burst of colour, something of the sultriness and mystery of the place must have stayed with me. A germ of religious exaltation, no bigger than a mustard seed, was sown in me and left to germinate. It has never stopped growing since that day.
I am a Hindu because of sculptured cones of red kumkum powder and baskets of yellow turmeric nuggets, because of garlands of flowers and pieces of broken coconut, because of the clanging of bells to announce one’s arrival to God, because of the whine of the reedy nadaswaram and the beating of drums, because of the patter of bare feet against stone floors down dark corridors pierced by shafts of sunlight, because of the fragrance of incense, because of flames of arati lamps circling in the darkness, because of bhajans being sweetly sung, because of elephants standing around to bless, because of colourful murals telling colourful stories, because of foreheads carrying, variously signified, the same word—faith. I became loyal to these sense impressions even before I knew what they meant or what they were for. It is my heart that commands me so. I feel at home in a Hindu temple. I am aware of Presence, not personal the way we usually feel presence, but something larger. My heart still skips a beat when I catch sight of the murti, of God Residing, in the inner sanctum of a temple. Truly I am in a sacred cosmic womb, a place where everything is born, and it is my sweet luck to behold its living core. My hands naturally come together in reverent worship. I hunger for prasad, that sugary offering to God that comes back to us as a sanctified treat. My palms need to feel the heat of a hallowed flame whose blessing I bring to my eyes and forehead.
But religion is more than rite and ritual. There is what the rite and ritual stand for. Here too I am a Hindu. The universe makes sense to me through Hindu eyes. There is Brahman, the world soul, the sustaining frame upon which is woven, warp and weft, the cloth of being, with all its decorative elements of space and time. There is Brahman nirguna, without qualities, which lies beyond understanding, beyond description, beyond approach; with our poor words we sew a suit for it—One, Truth, Unity, Absolute, Ultimate Reality, Ground of Being—and try to make it fit, but Brahman nirguna always bursts the seams. We are left speechless. But there is also Brahman saguna, with qualities, where the suit fits. Now we call it Shiva, Krishna, Shakti, Ganesha; we can approach it with some understanding; we can discern certain attributes—loving, merciful, frightening;—and we feel the gentle pull of relationship. Brahman saguna is Brahman made manifest to our limited senses, Brahman expressed not only in gods but in humans, animals, trees, in a handful of earth, for everything has a trace of the divine in it. The truth of life is that Brahman is no different from atman, the spiritual force within us, what you might call the soul. The individual soul touches upon the world soul like a well reaches for the water table. That which sustains the universe beyond thought and language, and that which is at the core of us and struggles for expression, is the same thing. The finite within the infinite, the infinite within the finite. If you ask me how Brahman and atman relate precisely, I would say in the same way the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit relate: mysteriously. But one thing is clear: atman seeks to realize Brahman, to be united with the Absolute, and it travels in this life on a pilgrimage where it is born and dies, and is born again and dies again, and again, and again, until it manages to shed the sheaths that imprison it here below. The paths to liberation are numerous, but the bank along the way is always the same, the Bank of Karma, where the liberation account of each of us is credited or debited depending on our actions.
This, in a holy nutshell, is Hinduism, and I have been a Hindu all my life. With its notions in mind I see my place in the universe.
But we should not cling! A plague upon fundamentalists and literalists! I am reminded of a story of Lord Krishna when he was a cowherd. Every night he invites the milkmaids to dance with him in the forest. They come and they dance. The night is dark, the fire in their midst roars and crackles, the beat of the music gets ever faster—the girls dance and dance and dance with their sweet lord, who has made himself so abundant as to be in the arms of each and every girl. But the moment the girls become possessive, the moment each one imagines that Krishna is her partner alone, he vanishes. So it is that we should not be jealous with God.
I know a woman here in Toronto who is very dear to my heart. She was my foster mother. I call her Auntieji and she likes that. She is Quebecoise. Though she has lived in Toronto for over thirty years, her French-speaking mind still slips on occasion on the understanding of English sounds. And so, when she first heard of Hare Krishnas, she didn’t hear right. She heard “Hairless Christians,” and that is what they were to her for many years. When I corrected her, I told her that in fact she was not so wrong; that Hindus, in their capacity for love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God, are hat-wearing Muslims.
A samskāra is one of a series of 16 rites of passage, extending from conception all the way to death.
One of these rites is the first time a child is taken outside ("16 Rituals")
Zhuravlev, Vladimir."Inside of Meenakshi hindu temple in Madurai, Tamil Nadu, South India. It is a twin temple, one of which is dedicated to Meenakshi, and the other to Lord Sundareswarar". No Date. No Collection. Madurai. 123rf. Web. July 26. 2013. <http://www.123rf.com/photo_11314407_inside-of-meenakshi-hindu-temple-in-madurai-tamil-nadu-south-india--it-is-a-twin-temple-one-of-which.html>
"Kumkum powder is used for social and religious markings in Hinduism" ("Kumkum")
A murti is an expression of the Divine Spirit, typically in the form of a statuette or statue ("Murti")
Brahman nirguna is the supreme reality of god, a non material manifestation ("Nirguna Brahman")
Brahman saguna is the manifestation of god within the material world ("Saguna Brahman")
Hare Krishna is the popular name for the International Society of Krishna Consciousness (or ISKCON). Hare Krishnas worship Krishna as the one Supreme God ("Hare Krishna")
This chapter serves to support and develop the theme that a strong sense of spirituality, no matter religion or lack thereof, will remain for a lifetime. This is shown by the fact that an older, middle aged Pi is recounting his childhood, and yet still remembers his first religious experience, and holds it in such a high regard. The comparison of Hindus to Christians and Muslims, saying that they are all the same in their devotion to God, supports this theme, specifically the aspect of the creed to which one subscribes does not affect the longevity of the spirituality. The "seed of religious exaltation" has grown and thrived in Pi, allowing him to tell his story, and therefore create and support the theme of spirituality lasting a lifetime, no matter what religion.
EXAMINATION OF LITERARY DEVICE: SIMILE/ANALOGY
"The individual soul touches upon the world soul like a well reaches for the water table"
This simile is used to create a greater understanding of the relationship between the atman, the individual soul, and the Brahman, the world soul. This comparison creates an image of the world soul being all encompassing, and the individual soul attempting to reach it is an image of the quest for enlightenment. Throughout the lives of the individual soul, the constant quest is to have balanced karma, to stop the cycle of rebirth, and to reach the plane on which the gods reside. The use of a very organic and natural thing to represent the world soul reinforces the idea of Brahman saguna's immanence, and makes the idea of Brahman saguna being present in every aspect of the world much easier to comprehend for a person who is not familiar with Hindu beliefs.
EXAMINATION OF LITERARY DEVICE: PARALLEL STRUCTURE
This part of the chapter uses parallel structure, the repetition of form within a sentence or list, when Pi repeats 'because' followed by a reason why he is Hindu. This creates a cohesive list, reminding the reader that all of these reasons lend themselves to one purpose, Pi's religion. This structure also reminds the reader that all of these things are aspects of the Hindu religion itself. Parallel structure creates a pattern for the reader to expect, giving the writing a sense of rhythm and organization. This structure reflects the strength and continuity of religion in Pi's life, and allows him to show the reader the beauty of the Hindu temples through his writing and reasoning.
EXAMINATION OF LITERARY DEVICES: ALLEGORY
An allegory is a story in which there is a lesson to be learned, or a representation of a more abstract concept in a more understandable format to be learned. This allegory has two purposes. First, it serves as the vessel for the lesson of not being jealous with God, and that God is present for all, not just one. This is what it was originally intended to do, as it is a story that is a part of Hindu teachings, but Pi also uses it to teach his own lesson. Pi prefaces the mention of this story with condemning fundamentalists and literalists, allowing the reader to look for the lesson Pi intended. This lesson is that being a fundamentalist or a literalist will prevent one from gaining as much as possible from stories and experiences, as there is more than just the face value and literal content behind everything.
"A germ of religious exaltation, no bigger than a mustard seed, was sown in me and left to germinate. It has never stopped growing since that day."
"When I corrected her, I told her that in fact she was not so wrong; that Hindus, in their capacity for love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God, are hat-wearing Muslims."
With religion and faith being the main focus of the novel, this quote's significance comes as no surprise. This quote embodies exactly what it was that set Pi on his quest for enlightenment, and shows what it was that made the first impression for his entire life to follow. Without this tidbit of information clarifying the exact reason Pi because devout at a young age, the reader would be left slightly confused. It is very uncommon for a young child to take a liking to religion on their own, let alone three separate ones! This root cause explains the effect, allowing the reader to fully grasp the nature of Pi's quest for enlightenment. The significance of this quote comes from the fact that it shows where Pi's values come from, and that it sets the focus for the entire novel to spirituality.
This quotation highlights Pi's practicing of what he preaches, as well as just how much of a loving person he is, allowing the reader to further understand Pi as a character. Earlier in the chapter, Pi condemned fundamentalists and literalists, most of which would say adamantly that one can only follow one religion, and only one religion is true and correct. Pi shows himself to be just the opposite of that, showing love for people of all creeds, and finding the commonality of devotion between them. Pi sees the love for God, in all forms, so much that he practices Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam, once again showing the love for both God and people as a whole. This quotes significance lies in the fact that it sets the tone for Pi's opinion and attitude towards all types of religion and spirituality, as well as shedding light on his ability to see the love in simple things.
RATING OF THE NOVEL
I feel I have to give this novel a 5/10 because as a book about religion and faith it is strong, but as anything else it leaves the reader wanting more, and wondering when the action (thats not simply surviving) will start.
The only world view which the readers get to fully understand is that of Pi's. It is very clear that Pi's retelling of his childhood has been influenced by many factors, such as the area in which he was brought up, the many religions he was exposed to, and of course the trauma of being stranded in the Pacific. All of these things shape Pi's view of the world, and therefore the reader's view of Pi's world
"Hare Krishna (ISKCON)". Religion Facts.No date. Web. July 27. 2013. < http://www.religionfacts.com/a-z-religion-index/hare-krishna-iskcon.htm>
"16 Rituals (Samskara) in Hindu Culture" HinduCulture. No date. Web. July 27. 2013. <http://www.hinduculture.info/2011/01/16-rituals-samskara-in-hindu-culture.html>
"Nirguna Brahman". Wikipedia. July 27. 2013. Web. July 27. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nirguna_Brahman>
"Saguna Brahman". Wikipedia. 4 June. 2013. Web. July 27. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saguna_brahman>
"Kumkum". Wikipedia. 11 June. 2013. Web. July 27. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kumkum>
"Murti". Wikipedia. 29 March. 2013. Web. July 27. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murti>
Specifically influencing Pi's world view would be the Hindu concept of Brahman saguna, the idea that God is present in every material thing. This extends from dust to the clouds to animals and to humans, Brahman saguna's immanence is undeniable in the Hindu religion. This also is an explanation for Pi's use of figurative language to create a feeling of overall importance for the smallest of things.
A prime example of someone's world views influencing their interpretation of the world is when Mr Kumar, the teacher, and Mr Kumar, the imam, both see the wonder of the zebras at Pi's family's zoo. The teacher described it as the "Rolls-Royce of equids" (p 93), and remarked its scientific name. The imam said "what a wondrous creature" (p 93), and then said "Allahu akbar" (p 93), an Islamic phrase meaning "god is greatest". Each Mr Kumar attributes the wonder of the zebra to something different, the teacher to natural selection, and the imam to the wonder of God and his creations. This instance shows how much a world view can affect the interpretation of something as simple as a zebra.
A Hindu temple
("Life of Pi" p 51-55)
The Emergency in India refers to the period of political unrest taking place from June 26, 1975, until March 21, 1977. During this period India was declared to be in a state of emergency, by the president at the request of Indira Ghandi, the prime minister at the time. This meant there was a suspension of all civil liberties, and allowed Ghandi to rule by decree.
"The Emergency (India)". Wikipedia. 27 July. 2013. Web. July 27. 2013. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Emergency_%28India%29>