You are on page 1of 6

Name: Zhadia Williams

ID: 06001115

Course Code: E10B

Lecturer: Professor. Carolyn Cooper

Tutor: Ms. Carolyn Allen

Day/Time: Tuesday 11-12

Assignment: Essay#1

Q
Quueessttiioonn 11

HOW DOES PI’S YOUTHFUL FASCINATION WITH


RELIGION PREPARE HIM FOR HIS ORDEAL AT SEA?
“For in the day of trouble He (God) will keep me safe in His dwelling; though I walk in the

midst of trouble, you preserve my life; you stretch out your hand against the anger of my foes,

with your right hand you save me” (Ps. 27:5,138:7). This psalm is an affirmation of divine

protection for many believers in Christianity and in many ways delineates the faith of Piscine

“Pi” Molitor Patel in the Yann Martel novel, Life of Pi. In this novel the protagonist, Pi, a

precocious Indian boy enthralled by the diversity of religion in his country, is forced into exile,

shipwrecked and made witness to a horrific death and cannibalism at sea. Yet he survives this

ordeal solely on his wits and his faith in the deities of the three religions he practiced

(Christianity, Hinduism and Islam).

Pi is brought up in the Indian town of Pondicherry by his father who is a pragmatic

zookeeper. He is initially taught the ways of the Hindu religion but later in his search for spiritual

fulfillment embraces Christianity and its message of love, despite Jesus’ shortcomings when

compared to the grand stature and history of the Hindu gods. He also discovers Islam "a beautiful

religion of brotherhood and devotion" (Martel 77). Content in his newfound sense of God, Pi

becomes a devout member of all three religions as the magnetism of these religions, their

similarities and differences make it impossible for him to choose one. Subsequently his choice

incites scrutiny from the religious leaders of the three assembles he frequents (the priest, the

pandit, and the imam). They eventually confront Pi and his parents in a bid to convince or even

compel him to choose one of the three religions to practice. An argument ensues among the three

religious leaders over which religion Pi should choose. This is most humorous part of the novel

as Yann Martel makes them all look simplistic and spiteful as they belittled each other's faith. “Pi

puts them all in their place with the declaration that he was just trying to love God” (Greer 1).

His older brother, Ravi, provides a different perspective on it all, suggesting, with a jeering tone,

that he might try to become a Jew too, “At the rate you're going, if you go to temple on

2
Thursday, mosque on Friday, synagogue on Saturday and church on Sunday, you only need to

convert to three more religions to be on holiday for the rest of your life" (Martel 89).

It is interesting to note how Pi’s fascination with religion influences his daily life and makes

him into a much more modest teenager. His perspective on the everyday elements of life seems

to evolve as the novel progresses. Even his speech and choice of words change. In one instance

Pi gives an embellished description of Mr. Kumar’s house by saying, “I described Mr. Kumar’s

place as a hovel. Yet no mosque, church or temple ever felt so sacred to me. I sometimes came

out of the bakery feeling heavy with glory. I would climb into my bicycle and pedal that glory

through the air” (Martel 78). The use of the words “sacred” and “glory” are symbolic of the

form of God.

Pi spends most of his time at the zoo which his father operates. Here, as he observes

routines employed in the care of the animals, he learns, not only to appreciate the beauty and

courageousness of the animals, but also, to respect the danger of their prowess; and likens the

contrast to the benevolence and power of his “gods”. Throughout the novel he repeatedly makes

connections and comparisons between his practiced religions of Hinduism, Christianity and

Islam, and the nature of animals. Pi uses an analogy of the three-toed sloth, living “a peaceful,

vegetarian life in perfect harmony with its environment” undeterred by its dullness in to senses

of taste, touch, sight and hearing, to symbolize the “miracle of life.” (Martel 5)

Despite all the curiosity and fascination that the diverse religious landscape of Pondicherry

rouses in Pi, he, along with his family and animal charges, are incidentally forced to emigrate to

Canada to avert the austere political issues in India. However, during the voyage, their ship

sinks, leaving the boy (Pi) on a lifeboat along with a few furry survivors; ultimately only Pi and a

tiger, called Richard Parker, remain (Boyagoda 1). This is where Pi’s ordeal at sea begins.

3
As the duo drift through the Pacific Ocean, struggling to survive the elements, Pi realizes

that he is alone on a lifeboat with a 450-pound carnivore; no mother or father. He is at first,

reluctant to accept his disposition as being reality but thereafter expresses how overbearing this

ordeal is and asks for “Vishnu” to “preserve” him, “Allah” to “protect” him, and “Christ” to

“save” him. He refuses to give up or die and instead, with his wits, faith and determination,

urges himself to survive. In so doing Pi spends most of his time enjoying the elements of nature

around him rather than be depressed because of the situation. At times, he is dazzled by the

wonder of God's creation by admiring the “colours” of the “sky”, and the “calm sea” around him.

Pi also thinks it best to tame the tiger since they were “literally and figuratively in the same boat”

(Martel 206). The tiger’s presence on the boat may be symbolic of the presence and form of Pi’s

God… an angel one might argue. “It was Richard Parker who calmed me down” Pi said. “It is

the irony of this story that the one who scared me witless to start with was the very same who

brought me peace, purpose, I dare say even wholeness” (Martel 204). This expression by Pi

depicts that the tiger indeed was not just a beast who hopped on to the lifeboat in order to be

saved, but something more significant.

Though the ordeal became an adventure for Pi, it was just overwhelming. He tires of being

scorched by the obdurate rays of sun, and of his extreme thirst. He is also forced to abandon his

vegetarian diet so as not to die from hunger. But in the face of despair, just when he thinks he

can no longer hold on a natural phenomenon delivers him a sign. "Suddenly a bolt struck... There

was an explosion of hot air and hot water. For two, perhaps three seconds a gigantic, blinding

white shard of glass from a broken cosmic window danced in the sky" (Martel 107). The

lightning storm amazes Pi and he sees it as an impressive demonstration of the gods terming it as

an outbreak of divinity. "Praise be to Allah, Lord of All Worlds, the Compassionate, the

Merciful, Ruler of Judgment Day!" As a result he his faith is renewed as he believes that he will

4
be saved soon. Pi then “made himself at home” he had his “prayer at sunrise”, “mid-morning

prayers”, “late afternoon to early evening prayer”, and “night: fitful sleeping prayer” (Martel 87).

This kept Pi sanguine of being rescued from this ordeal.

At the point of his greatest adversity, a beleaguered Pi, on the verge of succumbing to the

challenges of his life at sea, is revived by a glimmer of hope when he comes upon the island.

However, this salvation is bitter-sweet as Pi, though cognizant of this island’s ability to provide

certain necessities for sustaining his life, realizes that the journey is not over as it is unlikely that

he can survive for a long on this remote island. Yet to Pi, this strange island comes as a

reassurance of the protection and aid of God in times when help is needed most. This speaks

directly to his fascination with religion from his early life in India and how it allows him to be

sanguine even in the face of imminent death. In the end, when he finally got to the safety of

Canada Pi, in an interview with journalists about his ordeal, credited his survival to his faith in

God; “I turned to God. I survived” (Martel 391)

5
WORK CITED

Boyagoda , Randy. "The Life of Pi." First Things: The Journal of Religion, Culture and Public

Life. 2003. 13 Oct. 2008<http//www.firtsthings.com/article.php3?id_article=479>

Greer, W.R. "Life of Pi is a masterful story." 2002. Harcourt, Inc. 13 Oct. 2008

< http://www.reviewsofbooks.com/life_of_pi/review/html>.

Martel, Yann. Life of Pi. Canada: Random House of Canada, 2001.

The Holy Bible, Revised Standard Version. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1952.