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Life of Pi is a novel written by Yann Martel and published in the year 2001 by
Vintage Canada. Martel’s inspiration was revealed in a 2002 interview with PBS,
Martel said “I was sort of looking for a story – something that would direct my
life.” He began to discuss how he was lonely and through religion, he discovered
a new direction in his life which lead him write Life of Pi. In Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, the
main character Piscine Patel, known to all as Pi, is an Indian boy who has been
stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for 277 days. Pi’s mentality is
beginning to change but through his religion is he able to remain sane.
“Religion will save us”
(Martel, 2001, 11), Pi, who is narrating the story, goes on to say that
religion had always been close to his heart. In Life of Pi, through adverse situations, one’s religion is the most
significant factor which helps them survive. Pi uses the teachings of Islam,
Hinduism and Christianity to help him through his journey by helping him remain
sane, possess hope and depict Richard Parker as a god – like figure.

In the novel, there were several moments of the
story where Pi had encountered traumatic and horrifying events, which could
have lead to a loss of individual’s sanity and hope. In the novel, Pi used his religious
beliefs and his faith to keep him distracted. Pi uses his teachings to allow
him to fight insanity and hold the truth which he believes. “I practiced
religious rituals that I adapted to the circumstances – solitary masses without
priests… They brought me comfort, that is certain. But it was hard, oh it was
hard.” (Martel, 2001, 231). This quote explains how his rituals and teachings
have helped him adapt to the circumstances and allowed him to remain sane
through the hardest of times. His religious beliefs are allowing him to have non-erratic
behavior and remain sane at all costs. Another example is shown when Pi laid
his hands-on fishes and his religious beliefs helped him remain sane
throughout. “I laid hands on so many fish that my body began to glitter from
all the fish scales that became stuck to it. I wore these spots of shine and
silver like tilaks, the marks of colour that we Hindus wear on our foreheads as
symbols of the divine” (Martel, 2001, 217). This quote is expressing how Pi
remained sane through his silver like tilaks, which Hindus wear on their
foreheads as a symbol of divinity. Pi accepted the fact that fish scales were
on his body and he remained sane through his religious beliefs. Throughout the
novel, Pi was in circumstances which may have led him to insanity. Through his
religious encounters and beliefs, he could cancel out everything going on in his
life and was able to remain sane.

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Piscine Patel was lost at sea for 227 days with
a Bengal tiger. Through his time, he was beginning to lose all hope, but
through god and his religious beliefs, he could possess hope which he needed
for survival. Belief towards religion allows individuals to obtain further
knowledge and hope which may help them through their toughest times. In the
novel, Pi is having difficulty believing he could survive but through his
religious beliefs, he remains hopeful and continues his journey. Religion is a
key factor which drives Pi’s motive and allows him to continue going. “I
was giving up. I would have given up— if a voice hadn’t made itself heard in my
heart. The voice said, ‘I will not die. I refuse it. I will make it through
this nightmare. I will beat the odds, as great as they are… I will put in all
the hard work necessary. Yes, so long as God is with me, I will not die. Amen”(Martel,
2001, 163). This quote is expressing how Pi is beginning to give up and has
lost all hope, but through god he is able to fight for survival and do anything
to beat his odds. Pi has a deep connection with god and religion. This
connection allows Pi to possess all the hope which remains. ‘Jesus, Mary,
Muhammad and Vishnu, how good to see you. Come to the lifeboat. Do you hear
this whistle?… Swim, swim! You’re a strong swimmer. It’s not a hundred feet”
(Martel, 2001, 107). This quote is showing how all these important figures of
Pi’s religion are giving him hope and allowing him to fight for survival. All
these divine figures are giving Pi a sense of hope and belief. There are many
moments in the novel where Pi feels hopeless but through his religious figures
and beliefs he idolizes and possess, he is able to remain hopeful.

In the novel, Life of Pi, Martel uses symbolism to tie in important parts of Pi’s
life. Richard Parker may be a clear representation of a god or faith in the
novel. Throughout the novel it was shown that Pi had a hatred and love for the
tiger. Pi mentions that “It was Richard Parker who calmed me down. 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, 2001, 179) God like
figures in human’s lives are meant to be both feared and loved. Pi had the same
relationship with Richard Parker. He helped Pi be scared and calm when required,
which helped him survive his journey. Similarly, Pi always saw Richard Parker
as someone who isn’t human, but nevertheless, Pi notices that “it was not so much the speed that was impressive as the pure
animal confidence, the total absorption in the moment. Such a mix of ease and
concentration, such a being-in-the-present, would be the envy of the highest
yogis” (Martel, 2001, 201) Pi’s ability to be in awe of the non-human
qualities that Parker has, is similar to how humans are often in awe of a
god-like figure. This certainly helps show how Richard Parker is in fact, a
totally distinct figure from Pi. Throughout the novel, Richard Parker was shown
to be a representation of a god-like figure to Pi and helped Pi in his ability
for survival.

Religion is the belief or system which is
designated towards behaviours and practices. Religion is a major theme in Life of Pi. Pi focuses on different
stories and theories from each faith. Pi believes that belief is more important
than the whole truth. It was seen how Pi’s religious and spiritual attributes
grow throughout the story. In the novel, Life
of Pi, through adverse situations one’s religion is the most significant
factor in the ability for their survival. Pi had witnessed this as his religions
helped him remain sane, possess hope and helped him depict Richard Parker as a
god-like figure which in turn helped him survive his journey. Religion helped
Pi throughout the novel, which developed him as character of faith. Religion is
putting faith in something outside of this world, it is an explanation of
things we cannot understand. In his journey, without religion, it would’ve been
close to impossible for Pi to survive as religion had brought Pi comfort and
sanity through the hardest of times.

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