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Life of Pi

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Mitchell Berry

on 27 April 2017

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Transcript of Life of Pi

Life of Pi
Close Read Passage
The ship sank. It made a sound like a monstrous metallic burp. Things bubbled at the surface and then vanished. Everything was screaming: the sea, the wind, my heart. From the lifeboat I saw something in the water. I cried, "Richard Parker, is that you? It's so hard to see. Oh, that this rain would stop! Richard Parker? Richard Parker? Yes, it is you!" I could see his head. He was struggling to stay at the surface of the water. "Jesus, Mary, Muhammad and Vishnu, how good to see you, Richard Parker! Don't give up, please. Come to the lifeboat. Do you hear this whistle? Treeeeee! Treeeeee! Treeeeee! You heard right. Swim, swim! You're a strong swimmer. It's not a hundred feet.” I was not wounded in any part of my body, but I had never experienced such intense pain, such a ripping of the nerves, such an ache of the heart…"What are you doing, Richard Parker? Don't you love life? Keep swimming then! Treeeeee! Treeeeee! Treeeeee! Kick with your legs. Kick! Kick! Kick!"…"Isn't it ironic, Richard Parker? We're in hell yet still we're afraid of immortality. Look how close you are! Treeeeee! Treeeeee! Treeeeee! Hurrah, hurrah! You've made it, Richard Parker, you've made it. Catch! Humpf!" I threw the lifebuoy mightily. It fell in the water right in front of him. With his last energies he stretched forward and took hold of it. "Hold on tight, I'll pull you in. Don't let go. Pull with your eyes while I pull with my hands. In a few seconds you'll be aboard and we'll be together. Wait a second. Together? We'll be together. Have I gone mad?" I woke up to what I was doing. I yanked on the rope. "Let go of that lifebuoy, Richard Parker! Let go, I said. I don't want you here, do you understand? Go somewhere else. Leave me alone. Get lost. Drown! Drown!" (Pg. 97/Ch. 37)
This passage, from the novel “Life of Pi”, was one of the most broad and impactful passages from this novel. The reason for this novel was shown in the most important line presented in the authors notes, "I have a story that will make you believe in God." This phrase was to the point and left no room for confusion, and is quite similar to the first line in this passage. Both statements shock the reader and create for a type of inverse suspense, where the reader knows the end result, yet they wish to learn how the events played out for that to be the end result. The flashback format that the author uses creates a need for information and details so the reader can visualize these events. As we know at the end of the novel the authors left it up to the reader to decide which story they believe is true. The Japanese journalists come to a conclusion that their favorite was the one including the animals, however before deciding on this story they found similarities between the characters in both stories. One of which was the connection between Pi and Richard Parker, which is why the passage has such a large importance.

Upon review of the passage one notices that Pi is cheering Richard Parker on and praying that he makes it to the raft. Yet, when he realizes the types of future events that can take place in both stories he screams, “Richard Parker! Let go, I said. I don't want you here, do you understand? Go somewhere else. Leave me alone. Get lost. Drown! Drown!" In the animal version this makes logical sense, however to understand it in the human version one must consider that in the animal story, Pi represents himself and possibly God in a sense. When the ship sank Richard Parker was afraid and had no idea what was to come of him. Making it to the raft was the first test of many that God had for him and when Pi said let go, drown, he meant that in order to survive you can no longer be afraid and you must drown your fears before starting this journey.

Later on in the book one can see that Pi respects what Richard Parker has overcome and states: “I will come clean. I will tell you a secret: a part of me was glad about Richard Parker. A part of me did not want Richard Parker to die at all, because if he died I would be left alone with despair, a foe even more formidable than a tiger. If I still had the will to live, it was thanks to Richard Parker. He kept me from thinking too much about my family and my tragic circumstances. He pushed me to go on living. I hated him for it, yet at the same time I was grateful. I am grateful. It's the plain truth: without Richard Parker, I wouldn't be alive today to tell you my story.” (Pg.164/Ch.57) This passage proves that because of Richard Parker, Pi was able to overcome his fears throughout the journey and with the help of God, he in turn was given life and a greater appreciation for the Spiritual World.

The main theme presented in these lines is the will to live and that one man is willing to overcome so many dangerous obstacles in order to survive. God showed his gratitude to this willingness to live by presenting him with the Island, which symbolizes mortal existence in Hindu literature. Yet once again this was also a test and Pi passes by retreating from the Island. Furthermore, due to his willingness to live, which commenced at the start of this passage, Pi was able to survive and develop a deeper meaning for life itself. Pi seems as though he goes through the story as being a flat and unchanged character however, as each symbol is viewed in depth we can see that his world-views and philosophy has changed through his horrific yet magical journey. Lastly, the imagery presented in the lines following this passage made for a more tragic and fearful representation of the situation. In the final analysis, the theme of willingness to live was presented throughout the entire novel through several different character’s lenses. Yet with all things considered the reader determines the story that they truly believe and what each character represents to them.

Lead: “You cannot believe in God until you believe in yourself.” Swami Vivekananda. In the novel “Life of Pi”, by Yann Martel, the main character was able to believe in himself through a quest for enlightenment.

Thesis: The purpose of this novel was to make the reader believe in God. Through the use of the quest pattern Yann Martel achieved this goal.

Arguments: In this story Yann Martel depicts how symbolism and hidden meanings develops the meaning of God, how Pi’s willpower to live is shown through constantly being tested and how the quest formatted story including God was the better story.

What is a Quest Pattern?
The Quest Pattern is a structure that has been used in a variety of known stories spanning across centuries of literature and film making. According to Patti McDermott, a therapist and author, a Hero’s quest is the “transformational experience that everyone goes through toward becoming a whole and contributing member of their society. (1) Joseph Campbell describes a number of stages or steps along this journey. “The hero starts in the ordinary world, and receives a call to enter an unusual world of strange powers and events (a call to adventure). If the hero accepts the call to enter this strange world, the hero must face tasks and trials (a road of trials), and may have to face these trials alone, or may have assistance. At its most intense, the hero must survive a severe challenge, often with help earned along the journey. If the hero survives, the hero may achieve a great gift (the goal or "boon"), which often results in the discovery of important self-knowledge. The hero must then decide whether to return with this boon (the return to the ordinary world), often facing challenges on the return journey. If the hero is successful in returning, the boon or gift may be used to improve the world (the application of the boon).”(2) All of these steps have been taken by the main character in this novel As stated by Davin Allan, the hero’s quest has many similarities to the heroic monomyth, “Not all literature that consists of an adventure brands the protagonist as a hero; however, Yann Martell’s Life of Pi contains many patterns of a monomyth quest. The Heroic Monomyth, also known as the hero’s journey, explains the common stages of a quest in many classic stories. The novel is split into three sections, each with a specific purpose. The first section introduces the readers to the protagonist, while the second section is the actual journey he partook in. The final section is the ambiguous conclusion, leaving the reader questioning the story. Following Piscine Molitor Patel’s endeavor, many of his heroic qualities are exposed. Due to his innovative thoughts and curiosity towards religion, his developed skills, and the quest patterns he experienced, Pi Patel portrays heroic qualities.” (3)

Paragraph 2
Topic Sentence: As previously stated Pi was constantly tested throughout this novel. However, through each test and trial presented by God Pi demonstrated his willpower to live. Some examples of this are how his anger got the better of him in the second story and he knew that in order to survive he would have to kill the cook, and secondly, that even when he was so close to death he was able to embrace nature for its true beauty.

Paragraph 1
Topic Sentence: The first aspect of the quest pattern shown in Life of Pi is shown through symbolism and hidden meanings. Symbolism plays a large role in this novel for each image depicted by the author had a reason behind it. The two largest symbols presented in the book are The Island, and its Hindu meaning, and how Richard Parker symbolizes Pi.

Quest for Enlightenment
Paragraph 3
Topic Sentence: Yann Martel creates and 'Inception like' ending to his popular novel Life of Pi, leaving the ending as a question for the audience to answer. With no proof the audience will never know which story is true, therefore, it is completely up to them and their ideologies to decide upon which they believe is the truth. However, the author also manipulates the plot and format of these two stories so that the audience feels as though the story with the animals is the better one. He did this in two ways: by creating two subtly different formats for the stories, and by showing the choice of three other secondary characters favourite story.

Throughout the entirety of this novel the author developed the purpose, which was to make the reader believe in God. Through the use of the quest pattern Yann Martel achieved this goal. This purpose was developed and this goal was achieved by depicting how symbolism and hidden meanings develops the meaning of God, how Pi’s willpower to live is shown through constantly being tested and how the quest formatted story including God was the better story. Giving all the previous points and provided information, which story do you believe and did that story make you believe in God?
Work Cited
(1) McDermott, Patti. “The hero’s Journey.” NLP Patti. Ed. Patti McDermott. Saturday, February 21st, 2015 http://gci.wrdsb.ca/sites/gci.wrdsb.ca/files/3u%20Quest%20Pattern%20Slidshow.pdf

(2) "The Hero with a Thousand Faces." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2015. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Hero_with_a_Thousand_Faces.

(3) Allan, Davin. "Life of Pi and the Heroic Monomyth." Literatured RSS. N.p., 23 Apr. 2013. Web. 21 Feb. 2015. <http://literatured.com/life-of-pi-and-the-heroic-monomyth/>.

(4) "Symbolism of Meerkat Island in the Life of PI." Symbolism of Meerkat Island in the Life of PI. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. <http://www.hinduwebsite.com/general/essays/pi.asp>.

"‘Life of Pi’ Ending Explained." Screen Rant. N.p., 30 Nov. 2012. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. <http://screenrant.com/life-of-pi-movie-ending-spoilers/>.

Martel, Yann. Life of Pi. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.

"Quora." What Does the Island Symbolize in the Book The Life of Pi? -. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2015. <http://www.quora.com/What-does-the-island-symbolize-in-the-book-The-Life-of-Pi>.

"Yann Martel Interview." : Textualities. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 Feb. 2015. <http://textualities.net/jennie-renton/yann-martel-interview>.

Point 1
Firstly The Island has several symbolic meanings and is the severe test, as stated by Josepg Campbell, that Pi as a hero has to overcome in order to achieve his great gift.

Proof: “I looked down. I was both satisfied and disappointed with what I saw. The island had no soil. Not that the trees stood in water. Rather, they stood in what appeared to be a dense mass of vegetation, as sparkling green as the leaves. Who had ever heard of land with no soil? With trees growing out of pure vegetation? I felt satisfaction because such a geology confirmed that I was right, that this island was a chimera, a play of the mind. By the same token I felt disappointment because an island, any island, however strange, would have been very good to come upon… A solitary tree stood about two hundred feet away… The seashore teemed with no weeds, no crabs, no crayfish, no coral, no pebbles, no rocks. With the single, notable exception of the meerkats, there was not the least foreign matter on the island, organic or inorganic. It was nothing but shining green algae and shining green trees… The radiant promise it offered during the day was replaced in my heart by all the treachery it delivered at night. I muttered, "Nothing but teeth left! Teeth!" By the time morning came, my grim decision was taken. I preferred to set off and perish in search of my own kind than to live a lonely half-life of physical comfort and spiritual death on this murderous island.” (Ch.92)

Comment: As stated in the Close Reading Analysis, “the island represents mortal existence, in Hindu and Buddhist literature it is called the island in the midst of seven concentric oceans. The tree itself described is the representation of the tree of life or the tree of creation in Hindu literature, with the roots in heaven and the branches spread everywhere. The day on the island represents life and the night death. Existence is characterized by the cycle of creation and destruction. Therefore, the day represents creation and the night destruction. The meerkats are caught in this cycle of creation and destruction, yet they are impervious to the islands cruel nature. The island thus represents existence and impermanence. You cannot live there forever with peace of mind. When Pi realizes this, like all the true yogis and monks who become aware of the true nature of our existence, he decides not to stay there for it guaranties neither peace nor stability. To live forever or to lead a stable life, one has to cross the ocean to reach the other shore.” (4) Therefore, due to the quest pattern God challenged Pi and presented him with several different tests to overcome. This final severe test was not only his final test but also his “boon” for God presented him with the opportunity for immortality. He turned down this “boon” and thus was given a stable life, one filled with joy happiness and beliefs.
Point 2
The second symbol presented in this novel was that of Richard Parker representing all of Pi’s fears.

Proof: “I must say a word about fear. It is life's only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life. It is a clever, treacherous adversary, how well I know. It has no decency, respects no law or convention, shows no mercy. It goes for your weakest spot, which it finds with unerring ease. It begins in your mind, always. One moment you are feeling calm, self-possessed, happy. Then fear, disguised in the garb of mild-mannered doubt, slips into your mind like a spy. Doubt meets disbelief and disbelief tries to push it out. But disbelief is a poorly armed foot soldier. Doubt does away with it with little trouble. You become anxious. Reason comes to do battle for you. You are reassured. Reason is fully equipped with the latest weapons technology. But, to your amazement, despite superior tactics and a number of undeniable victories, reason is laid low… Only your eyes work well. They always pay proper attention to fear. Quickly you make rash decisions. You dismiss your last allies: hope and trust. There, you've defeated yourself. Fear, which is but an impression, has triumphed over you. The matter is difficult to put into words. For fear, real fear, such as shakes you to your foundation, such as you feel when you are brought face to face with your mortal end, nestles in your memory like a gangrene: it seeks to rot everything, even the words with which to speak of it. So you must fight hard to express it. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don't, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you.” (Ch. 56)

Comment: “We have nothing to fear but fear itself.” Franklin D. Roosevelt. Pi’s main test or trial in this novel it Richard Parker and having to survive with a fully grown Bengal Tiger in the Pacific ocean. This tested the boundaries of one’s fear due to the fact that Pi was truly afraid of this beautiful animal due to his brother. At the beginning of the novel his brother states, "Just wait till we're alone. You're the next goat!” (Ch. 8) This is why in order for him to pass this test he needed to tame his fears and tame the tiger. Closer to the end of the book he hallucinates seeing his brother visiting him on another raft. They have a long conversation and in the end Richard Parker kills Ravi. This could symbolize Pi’s revenge on his brother for installing this fear in the first place.

Conclusion: Symbolism has a strong impact on the audience in this story. This is why Yann Martel chose several symbols that represent some sort of religious standpoint. Due to these symbols and hidden meanings the audience can develop a greater appreciation for Pi as character and all of his religious choices.
Point 1
Point 1: Due to unfortunate circumstances Pi was forced to tell two Japanese journalists a second story where he represents the Tiger and a cook represents the hyena. Being a more gruesome story Pi depicted what he had to do in a life or death situation in order to survive. This proves one mans willpower to live and that even hero’s have to make ultimate sacrifices in order to survive.

Proof: “He killed her. The cook killed my mother. We were starving. I was weak…Then we fought and I killed him. He had no expression on his face, neither of despair nor of anger, neither of fear nor of pain. He gave up. He let himself be killed, though it was still a struggle. He knew he had gone too far, even by his bestial standards. He had gone too far and now he didn't want to go on living any more. But he never said 'I'm sorry.' Why do we cling to our evil ways? I stabbed him in the stomach. He grimaced but remained standing. I pulled the knife out and stabbed him again. Blood was pouring out. Still he didn't fall over. Looking me in the eyes, he lifted his head ever so slightly. Did he mean something by this? I took it that he did. I stabbed him in the throat, next to the Adam's apple. He dropped like a stone. And died. He didn't say anything. He had no last words. He only coughed up blood. A knife has a horrible dynamic power; once in motion, it's hard to stop. I stabbed him repeatedly. His blood soothed my chapped hands. His heart was a struggle - all those tubes that connected it. I managed to get it out. It tasted delicious, far better than turtle. I ate his liver. I cut off great pieces of his flesh. "He was such an evil man. Worse still, he met evil in me - selfishness, anger, ruthlessness. I must live with that. "Solitude began. I turned to God. I survived."

Comment: This gruesome quote represents the truth behind the sacrifices that some heros have to make. Pi had to watch his mother die but instead of controlling his anger he realized that it was either him or the cook and he decided too kill the cook, yet in such a disrespectful way that he became the evil that was lingering inside the cook. Therefore, in this story he started out as the hero then became the villain and sought Gods forgiveness to survive. Whereas, in the first story there was no villain only a quest to survive and upon that quest Pi achieved enlightenment.

Point 2
Close to the end of the novel Pi seemed closest to God and nature. We can see this through the representation of the island and the whale, yet one of the largest representations of a man's willpower for belief when all hope was lost was during the lightning storm.

Proof: “Once there was lightning. The sky was so black, day looked like night. The downpour was heavy. I heard thunder far away. I thought it would stay at that. But a wind came up, throwing the rain this way and that. Right after, a white splinter came crashing down from the sky, puncturing the water. It was some distance from the lifeboat, but the effect was perfectly visible. The water was shot through with what looked like white roots; briefly, a great celestial tree stood in the ocean. I had never imagined such a thing possible, lightning striking the sea. The clap of thunder was tremendous. The flash of light was incredibly vivid. I turned to Richard Parker and said, "Look, Richard Parker, a bolt of lightning." I saw how he felt about it. He was flat on the floor of the boat, limbs splayed and visibly trembling. "Praise be to Allah, Lord of All Worlds, the Compassionate, the Merciful, Ruler of Judgment Day!" I muttered. To Richard Parker I shouted, "Stop your trembling! This is miracle. This is an outbreak of divinity. This is...this is..." I could not find what it was, this thing so vast and fantastic. I was breathless and wordless. I lay back on the tarpaulin, arms and legs spread wide. The rain chilled me to the bone. But I was smiling. I remember that close encounter with electrocution and third-degree burns as one of the few times during my ordeal when I felt genuine happiness. At moments of wonder, it is easy to avoid small thinking, to entertain thoughts that span the universe, that capture both thunder and tinkle, thick and thin, the near and the far.” (Ch. 85)

Comment: To capture this moment Pi had to be truly fearless and at this moment in the novel all of his smaller tests have been completed. This means that God's small gift to him was this true miracle of nature. In contrast, where Richard Parker was afraid, Pi was willing to seek the benefits of his hard work and embrace God in all of his different forms.


Through the representation of one of the main themes, willpower, the author was able to prove that Pi has a direct correlation to the willpower of a hero in the quest pattern.

Point 1
Point 1: As briefly stated in the previous paragraph the second story had no sense of quest pattern to it. Furthermore, by creating two similar plot lines in two different formats the author was able to force the reader to chose their favourite story, which should be the one with God.

Proof: Here is the last conversation the the book between Pi and the Japanese Journalists: "You're welcome. But before you go, I'd like to ask you something.” "Yes?” "The Tsimtsum sank on July 2nd, 1977.” "Yes.” "And I arrived on the coast of Mexico, the sole human survivor of the Tsimtsum, on February 14th, 1978.” "That's right.” "I told you two stories that account for the 227 days in between.” "Yes, you did.” "Neither explains the sinking of the Tsimtsum.” "That's right.” "Neither makes a factual difference to you.” "That's true.” "You can't prove which story is true and which is not. You must take my word for it.” "I guess so.” "In both stories the ship sinks, my entire family dies, and I suffer.” "Yes, that's true.” "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?” (Ch. 99)

Comment: This is a direct address to the audience members through a question within the story. Essentially, at this point in the story the author is asking which story you as an audience member prefer and this quotation has a correlation with the next point.

Point 2
Point 2: The other choices represented within the lines of this novel are that of the Narrator and the two Japanese Journalists. All of their choices were for the story with god.

Proof:"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?" Mr. Okamoto: "That's an interesting question..." Mr. Chiba: "The story with animals." Mr. Okamoto: [translation] "Yes. [/translation] The story with animals is the better story." Pi Patel: "Thank you. And so it goes with God."… As an aside, story of sole survivor, Mr. Piscine Molitor Patel, Indian citizen, is an astounding story of courage and endurance in the face of extraordinarily difficult and tragic circumstances. In the experience of this investigator, his story is unparalleled in the history of shipwrecks. Very few castaways can claim to have survived so long at sea as Mr. Patel, and none in the company of an adult Bengal tiger.

Comment: This is the last statement of the novel and this quote sums up exactly what the author desired humanity to believe. Yet by adding “And so it goes with God” the author was able to connect the entire book to the ending. Truthfully I know essays are supposed to be impersonal but my favorite story is also the one with God.

Conclusion: Essentially, Yann Martel gave the audience members a choice in there favourite story but he made it very hard to not choose the story without the animals because both stories involve Pi but only one involves God.
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