Works of literature are often examined thematically through characters, settings, and events. This method of analysis enables the reader to obtain intimacy with novels or plays, thus extracting their very essence. The themes of survival and religion manifest themselves in Life of Pi by Yann Martel.
The first theme is survival. Throughout the novel, Piscine Molitor Patel who is referred to as Pi, goes through many trials and extremities that demonstrate to the reader the shaping of his character hand-in-hand with the growth of his struggle in survival. One example of this is after being abandoned at sea Pi must eat fish; after being a vegetarian for so long, eating meat or fish of any sort had become unknown to Pi and it was also against Pis Muslim religion but in order for him to survive he had to discern not only his beliefs but his daily customs. In addition to going against his traditional ways, Pi had to do everything manually, for instance he had to remove the fish from the sea and skin the birds nude with his bare hands and in order to keep himself from being vulnerable prey he had to create a manual for himself on how to train Richard Parker (his ferocious tiger-partner on board.) Another example of dedication to survival was when lost at sea Pi used a dream rug to block out his oxygen and give him hallucinations so he would not think that he was lost at sea and make it easier for him to pull through his days. When almost a week stranded at sea, Pi finds rations of emergency food and supplies in order to help him survive; with the grunts of defenselessness familiar to Pi from Richard Parker, Pi not only works for his survival but for the survival of Richard Parker as well. Pis endeavor for survival is strongly highlighted when in the end of the novel there have been two different stories of the sunken ship told but neither one is ever revealed as being the true story, when thought in deeper depth one may visualize the animals portrayed by Pi to be actual people that he made up to cover for the despair of his actual loss and situation.
Striving for success was Mr. Santosh Patels (Pis dad) form of survival. Born a Hindu, but as he grew older, Mr. Patel lost all sight of his religion and lived for the World rather than continuing to worship and praise the Hindu Gods. Early in the novel Pi referred to Mr. Patel as not being a business man but rather a busyness man. The Pondicherry Zoo that he owned was his life; he so to speak would shed blood and tears for that zoo. Prior to owning the zoo, Mr. Patel worked for a hotel but allowed his view for money and love for animals to overpower him causing him to invest all his time into making sure the zoo was in perfect order, under the best of qualities not only for the visitors but for the animals as well and running a zoo. Another example of survival was when Mr. Patel shows Ravi (his older son) and Pi the lion dismantling the fully-alive tied up and defenseless goat; the underlying moral behind this was that although one may they are saved, the world will eat you alive and never battle gasoline with fire. If Mr. Patel would have survived at sea along with Pi, there are many predictable inferences to how he would have coped with the situation and many of them were not positive. With every good comes evil, along with his strive to be successful, Mr. Patel, was extremely worrisome and if he were to be in Pis position, it is drawn that he would have gone mad on board and not survived. Although he was familiar with the senses of natures and was Einstein in the observation of animals, later in the book Pi states that if his father were there that he would have been to worry some to figure out any solutions and would not survive.
In Pondicherry, India was where Pi and his family originally lived before they decided to take sail to Canada. The reason they had to leave India was because the conditions were very hard and they were having a struggle to survive. India also became very strict on their political grounds making it barely impossible for the Patels to live freely and safely. Prior to leaving India they had to sell away the key component of their life and the form of the families survival; the zoo.
When aboard the Tsimtsum, it was not the best ship or a luxury liner as Pi referred to it but it was one that was able to get them from point A to point B.
When in Mexico after being off the sea for so long, two reporters decide to go and meet Pi and discuss with him about his journey stranded at sea. When he is doing this, the reporters are very skeptical and do not believe that Pi was aboard with a tiger and survived, they have many doubts and bombard Pi with questions until finally Pi says he will tell them a second story. In his second story Pi is stranded at sea with humans rather than animals. Although it is never stated which story is real, this allows the reader to infer that Pi was with humans all along but he was using the techniques of his childhood and father to place humans in animal form. It can also be thought that he used this technique for the comfort of himself and to free him from loneliness and grief because it reminded him not only of his family but of life back home in India. In the end the reporters ended up using the story with the animals and publishing for the people.
When they still lived in Pondicherry, India, Pi would go to Muslim prayer every Friday, he would go to the temple and practice puja and darshan, and spend some of his days in the church with the Pastor. His parents were clueless of his events until on a family walk they were confronted by the three heads of the religion that knew and were the influences to Pi in his religious views. Pis parents were confused and caught off guard, the three men argued on which religion Pi truly was until all eyes and fingers pointed back to Pi and he admitted to all three of his religions.
Pi stated that You may not believe in life, but I dont believe in death. Battling three religions was unheard and unruly and still is today but that did not stop Pi from venturing out and faithfully being committed to Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. Pi took great interest into his religious views and his beliefs. As a child he would read childrens bibles and his mothers book on religion. At first Pi was doubtful of Christianity but the more he knew and heard about it the more he wanted to know God and loved Jesus. Although there was no way to dismiss his beliefs from him, Pi still respected the thoughts and religious opinions of others. Pi could not stand agnostics though, that was the one religion in itself that he couldnt bear, he did not understand how having so much knowledge on a subject one could choose to be blinded on no belief.
Being born a Hindu, as he grew older Mr. Stanosh Patel started to live for the World rather than his Hindu Gods. When Mr. Patel found out about his sons crazed religion interests he was very doubtful and ambiguous about the idea. When Pi asked his dad to get baptized and a prayer rug, Mr. Patel told Pi to go and ask his mother about it in a distressed voice. Although Pi did end up getting baptized, Mr. Patel sat there blankly the entire time. The concept of religion and living your life accordingly seemed radical to Mr. Patel and was not something that applied comfort to his heart.
In India the main religion was Hindu. They have thousands of Gods and the cow was sacred to them therefore they did not eat beef. Religion was not enforced or required in India in this time but it was still widely known. Although Hinduism was the main religion, there was a variety and others who believed and practiced other religions which provided the gateway for Pi to explore and follow the different religions that he did (Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam.)
Stranded at sea would make one delusional and weak not only physically and mentally but spiritually as well. When stranded on the boat, Pi did not lose his religious beliefs but he grew weak in them. He discerned his Hindu and Islam rituals by eating meat and fish. Although he prayed and practiced his motivations daily it seemed like the more he did, the more his hope had decreased. It was not until one day when still cast at sea, that he went blind and saw a vision of Jesus and the Virgin Mary which spoke to him, when he awoke he took himself out of his helplessness and washed his eyes out with saltwater and was able to see again which regained his faith and pushed him to daily write in a journal about his days and to his Gods.
When the reporters went to interview Pi he explained to them his religious beliefs. Similar to his father the reporters thought it was absurd for Pi to practice three religions but as he did with others, Pi listened and respected their opinions but was not altered by them.
The religious confrontation of the Pastor, Hindu and Muslim was significant in the novel because it is what provided the enlighten for Pis family to know the truth about Pis religious beliefs. During the confrontation the three men argued about one anothers religion but when it came down to it and they all looked at Pi for an explanation he simply said, I just want to love Allah. This was a realization to the three men that although Pis religious views were not the same as theirs in the entirety it is better for him to believe in something than to not believe in anything. It was a life lessen and understandment not only for his parents, himself and the three me
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