Book Review: The Life Of Pi
Is It Truth Or Fiction?
Like most fantasy tales, The Life Of Pi, contains maybe as much truth as it does fiction. This novel by Yann Martel is a tale of faith, survival and the resilience of the human spirit. The story is centered on the sixteen-year-old Piscine Patel, son of an Indian zookeeper, who is the lone human survivor when the freighter on which the family is traveling to Canada is shipwrecked. One can imagine few crises worse than being lost in the Pacific Ocean. But to add to his nightmare is the presence of an orangutan, a vicious hyena, an injured zebra and a 450-pound Bengal tiger, all in the lifeboat with him. With all these elements coming together, Martel weaves a story so improbable, yet so compelling, that the reader has a hard time putting the book down.
Pi’s life in India was one of introversion and a constant search for God. This resulted in him being teased mercilessly by his older brother Ravi, and puzzled over by his parents who could not understand why their son, born a Hindu, also wanted to be a Christian and a Muslim all at the same time. However, Pi, confused though he might have been, was very clear about his belief and love for God, and this may have been the undergirding for his unshakeable courage during his shipwreck. Many times he prayed and many times he whispered, “Never give up hope.”
Pi spent 227 harrowing days on sea, battered by the elements, most nights sleeping on a raft tethered to the lifeboat to avoid being eaten alive by the tiger, Richard Parker. During this time, Pi kept busy fishing, collecting water for himself and Parker, keeping the boat clean and writing in his journal. Despite his growing despair of ever being rescued, Pi displayed a good sense of humor and courage. In the end he literally learned “to tame the tiger”, using his zookeeping knowledge and experience to set boundaries that Mr. Parker could not cross.
So many truths can be learned from this award-winning novel, but one that struck me most was the relationship between Pi and the tiger. Pi could have let him starve to death and on one occasion he was tempted to leave him to drown, but he always changed his mind. However, in the end, when they finally made it to land, with Pi almost half-dead, Mr. Parker jumped off the boat, stretched his limbs and disappeared into the jungle with not so much as a backward glance. As Pi, years later, related the story to the narrator, his eyes filled with tears. He said, “After all we had been through, I couldn’t believe he would leave me just like that.”
The Life of Pi is a metaphor for the life of every human being. We go through changes in life, storms, shipwrecks, loss of friends and family members, situations that will either reveal our mettle, or take us under. People we counted on to be there for us will turn their backs on us when the storms pass. But with faith, we can weather the storm and emerge into the bright sunshine of a new day with our head held high and a smile on our lips. Never give up hope!