Kate Powell


Yann Martel’s novel, Life of Pi has many literary elements, some work and some do not. These

elements can either greatly add or detract from the novel as a whole. His gruesome detail and dramatic

episodes work very well and adds continuity to the novel, however his science is somewhat lacking and

ends up detracting from the entirety of the novel.

Drama comprises a big element in Life of Pi. Martel uses many dramatic episodes to propel the

story from one point to the next. In one incident Pi and his Father and Mother are approached by three

religious leaders who all believe Pi to be solely committed to their own respective religion. “The wise

men seemed annoyed when they realized that all three of them were approaching the same people.

Each must have assumed that the others were there for some business other than pastoral and had

rudely chosen that moment to deal with it. Some looks of displeasure were exchanged” (65). This

confrontation creates drama between Pi, his family, and the religious leaders. This incident causes Pi’s

parents to wander about what could have possibly possessed their son to become a believer in Hindu,

much less Christianity, or Muslim. “‘I don’t understand it. We’re a modern Indian family, we live in a

modern way,… and here we’ve produced a son who thinks he’s the reincarnation of Sri Ramakrishna.’… A

devout Hindu…, I can understand. A Christian in addition,… I can stretch my mind… all that I can… accept.

But Muslim? It’s totally foreign to our tradition. They’re outsiders” (74-75). In addition to his parents

confusion Pi is made fun of quite cruelly by Ravi, his brother. “’So, Swami Jesus, will you go on a hajj this

year…. Does Mecca beckon?’ He crossed himself. ‘Or is it to Rome for your coronation…?...Have you

found time to get the end of you pecker cut off to become a Jew? At the rate your going… you only need

to convert to three more religions to be on holiday for the rest of your life’” (70). The drama created

between Pi and the religious leaders escalates to the point where he has to find ways to avoid the

religious leaders. “Once an oaf chased me away from the Great Mosque. When I went to the church the

priest glared at me… A Brahmin sometimes shooed me away from the darshan…. I stopped attending

‘You just ate a piece!’… ‘How could you? He’s human!’(308)…I stabbed him in the stomach…. He dropped like a stone. Martel’s descriptiveness is astoundingly vivid and. A human tooth…. Atsuro Chiba-san his story without animals. when the hyena eats the zebra.I… stabbed him again…. and maybe even a little fear in the reader as well. an unspeakable pearl at the heart of a green oyster. and suspense.Thirty-two teeth. and his junior. A complete human set…. The island was carnivorous”(280-281). and then to eat his flesh when he has died. even cutting off a defenseless man’s leg so as to use it as bait. His blood soothed my chapped hands” (310). I no longer lingered after Friday prayer… I went to temple at crowed times”(71). this is a great example of Martel’s use of grisly descriptive incidents. And died. Each contained a tooth….Mass at Our Lady of Immaculate Conception and went… to Our Lady of Angels. Another horrific episode was when Pi tells Tomohiro Okamoto-san. “A flap of skin hung limply over the raw stump. is sickening. We can use it as bait. Another dramatic episode happens while he is lost at sea. The feeling of horror came slowly.’ ‘Don’t be an idiot. “And then it came to light. The cook promptly butchered him (307)…. half out. “The cook worked the knife quickly. of the Maritime Department in the Japanese Ministry of Transport. The cook’s mind set of doing absolutely anything to survive. when he finds a carnivorous island in the middle of the ocean. The gruesome detail in Life of Pi brings an element of realism to the novel that some novels do not achieve. The zebra was being eaten alive from the inside”(125). These incidents create drama either between Pi and the family or Pi and the religious leaders. I had time to pick at the other fruit.… He died quietly…. truly brings the book to life.I stabbed him in the throat. For instance. The leg fell off… ‘I’m going to throw it over board. though grisly. anticipation. Blood was still dripping…. That was the whole point’ (305). .a strip of hide came off the zebra’s belly like gift-wrap paper comes off a gift… it started pulling out coils of intestines… It plunged head and shoulders into the zebra’s guts… half in.… the Adam’s apple.

“The island was carnivorous” (281). carnivorous island. Mr. It had a two-foot wide hole in its body. An island full of meerkats? “… it was the meerkats that impressed themselves most indelibly in my mind. He expects us to believe that a zebra can live a whole night after being partially eaten alive.. even before we find out about its being carnivorous. we can naturally assume they mean to eat them.. The island seemed ridiculous from the beginning. One of the aspects of Martel’s novel that does not work is the science. and scorpions. “The zebra was still alive. dry shine”(128). carnivorous island. Okamoto: Yes. lizards.britannica. Chiba: ‘The story with animals.com/EBchecked/topic/575214/meerkat) none of which are in the genome of fish. floating ”… the island was not an island in the conventional sense of the term…-. spewed half- eaten organs glistening in the light or giving off a dull. I saw in one look what I would conservatively estimate to be hundreds of thousands of meerkats” (265). “I made for the pond… in time to see meerkats swimming--actually swimming--and bringing to shore fish by the dozens…”(267).Whether or not this was a hallucination is not the point. How did they get there? Why are they not being eaten by the island along with humans and fish? “And my hunch is that the ponds reached down to the sides of this huge. This seems impossible. The story with animals’”(317).’ Mr.but was rather a free floating organism…” (271). and everything that goes along with it. I couldn’t believe it. buoyant mass and opened onto the ocean.. yet Martel insists on our believing this seemingly ridiculous idea. which explained the otherwise inexplicable presence in them of dorados and other fish of the open sea” (272). a fistula like a freshly erupted volcano. suggests that Martel wants us to believe Pi’s animal story as well. birds.com/dictionary/MEERKAT) and they rarely eat snakes. The fact that Okamoto-san and Chiba-san like the animal story better than the human one”‘So tell me which is the better story. Regardless of the statement that Pi makes about the meerkats being . Martel writes that the meerkats were bringing fish on shore. He also wants us to believe that the ocean is big enough that we as humans haven’t found a giant. which includes the giant. (http://www. Meerkats are mainly insectivores (http://www. to me.merriam- webster. the story with animals or the story without animals?.

but when you go deeper and really think about some of the situations Martel is suggesting. Life of Pi is still an enthralling and captivating read. this doesn’t.most likely a subspecies “These meerkats were most definitely a subspecies that had specialized in a fascinating and surprising way” (267). His science is unsound and completely ridiculous. seriously detract from the overall story. however. Yann Martel’s novel Life of Pi. All of these so called scientific facts sound great on the surface. it is still a far too unbelievable incident. . is a fascinating example of the combination of dramatic episodes and gruesome detail fusing to form a great tale of fiction. the science seems at the least unsound and at most utterly ridiculous.

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