Structural Analysis of Religion and Fantasy Adventure in ‘Life of Pi’

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Structural Analysis of Religion and Fantasy Adventure in Life of Pi


  • ISSN 2277-310X


    Vol.2. Issue 02 Mar.-April, 2013

    Structural Analysis of Religion and Fantasy Adventure in Life of Pi by

    Yann Martel

    --Prof:Gaikwad Vijay V Y. T. College of Engineering & Management,

    Chandai Karjat, Tq. Karjat Dist. Raigad.(M.S)

    Abstract: The Present research paper aims to present structural analysis of religion, fantasy and adventure in Life of Pi. The novel Life of Pi is written by Canadian author Yann Martel. The novel was published in 2001 and received Man Booker Prize in 2002. In 2012 , the novel was adapted into a theatrical feature film directed by Ang Lee with a screenplay by David Magee and received four prestigious Oscar Awards this year.

    Yann Martel is a Canadian author born in Spain on June 25th, 1963.His father was a

    teacher and a diplomat. He attended Trinity College in Port Hope, Ontario. As an adult,

    Martel has traveled to Iran, Turkey and India. To write Life of Pi, he spent six months in

    India visiting zoos, temples, mosques, and churches. He interviewed the director of

    Trivandrum zoo. To create his main character Pi, Martel immersed himself in the Indian

    culture. He then returned to Canada to research Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam as well as

    animal psychology and disaster castaway stories.

    Life of Pi begins with an old man in Pandicherry who tells the narrator, I have a story

    that will make you believe in God.(1) Storytelling and religious belief are two closely linked

    ideas in the novel. On literal level, each of Pis three religions, Hinduism, Christianity, and

    Islam come with its own set of talks and fables, which are used to separate the teaching and

    illustrate the belief of the faith. Pi enjoys the wealth of stories, but he also senses that, as

    father Martin assured him was true of Christianity, each of these stories might simply be

    aspects of a greater, universal story about love. Stories and religious beliefs are also linked in

    Life of Pi because Pi asserts that both require faith on the part of the listener or devotee.

    Life of Pi is a story of religious faith. As religion has tremendous impact on the

    protagonist Piscine Moliter Patel. It is also a story of fantasy adventure which takes place in

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    Vol.2. Issue 02 Mar.-April, 2013

    the life of Pi. Life of Pi is divided into three sections. In the first section, the main character,

    Pi an adult, reminisces about his childhood. Religion in the words of Pi, I quote here,

    I know zoos are no longer in peoples good graces.

    Religion faces the same problem.

    Certain illusions about freedom plague them both. (2)

    In the above lines Pi explains his views regarding to religion and state of animals

    living in a zoo. Pi has heard many people say negative things about zoos namely that they

    deprive noble, wild creatures of their freedom and trap them in boring, domesticated lives but

    he disagrees. Pi thinks that wild animals in their natural habitat encounter fear, fighting, lack

    of food, and parasitizes on a regular basis. Given all these biological facts, animals in the

    wild are not free at all rather they are subject to a stringent set of social and natural laws that

    they must follow or die. Pi has studied religion and zoology at the University of Toronto and

    the above quote demonstrates just how closely aligned the two subjects are in his mind. He is

    quick to turn a discussion of animal freedom into a metaphor for peoples religious

    inclinations. Just as people misunderstand the nature of animals in the wild, they also

    misunderstand what it means for a person to be free of any religious system of belief. The

    agnostic may think he is at liberty to believe or disbelieve anything he wants, but in reality he

    does not allow himself to take imaginative leaps. Instead he endures lifes ups and down the

    way an animal in the wild does: because he has too a person of faith, on the other hand, is

    like an animal in an enclosures; surrounded on all sides by a version of reality itself. Pi

    embraces the safety and security of a zoo enclosure: it makes life easier and more


    Life of Pi is a story about struggling to strive through seemingly instrumentables

    odds. The shipwrecked inhabitants of the little lifeboat dont simply acquiesce to their fate:

    they actively fight against it. Pi abandons his lifelong vegetarianism and eats fish to sustain

    himself. Martel makes clear in his novel, living creatures will often do extraordinary,

    unexpected, and sometimes heroic things to survive. However, they will also do shameful

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    Vol.2. Issue 02 Mar.-April, 2013

    and barbaric things if pressed. The hyenas treachery and the blind Frenchmans turn toward

    cannibalism show just how far creatures will go when faced with possibilities of extinction.

    Life of Pi also narrates a story of fantasy adventure. In this novel the protagonist faces

    number of difficulties in his sea voyage. His journey is similar with the Gullivers Travels.

    The life story of Pi is also a story of the author Yann Martel. In this regard I quote here the

    views of the author in the following lines:

    Life on a life boat isnt much of a life.

    It is like an end game in Chess, a game with few pieces.

    The element couldnt be more simple, nor the stakes higher. (3)

    This comment appears about half way through Part two, as Pi adjusts to life at sea and

    philosophizes on the nature of being a castaway. In an endgame in chess, most of the game

    has been played out and the majority of the chess pieces knowecked off the board.

    Similarly, after the sinking of the Tismtsum, only a handful of survivors Pi, Richard

    Parker, Orange Juce, the Grants Zebra, the hyena] remain. The few that are left are forced

    into a starategic battle of wits to see who will ultimately prevail. The tensions between the

    lifeboats inhabitants immediately after the ship sinks are high; each inhabitant knows that

    the game is sudden death and that each move must be considered with special care. The

    Zebra, the Orangutan, and the hyena all make missteps and lose. But Pi painstakingly charts

    out his plan of action, and his diligence and foresight save his life.

    Life on a life boat is simple, but stripped of all else, the stakes become considerable:

    life or death. Pis life in the middle of the Pacific has no luxurious, no complex processes to

    participate in, and no obscure signals to follow. Faced with numerous physical dangers

    Richard Parker, sanks, starvation the blind castaway his only real choice is weather to fight to

    live or to give up and die. Though, he considers doing otherwise, Pi chooses to fight.

    The distilled quality of Pis existence is similar to the kind of bare bones life lived by

    many religious mystics, for whom stripping down to the essentials is necessary for

    communion with God. A full varied life with many distractions can cloud faith or even make

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    it unnecessary. However, within a spare and even monastic existence, Gods presence

    becomes palpable. To put in another way, within the confines of a lifeboat, spirituality looms

    as larger as a nearly 10 foot, 450 pound Bengal tiger.

    One of the central themes of the novel is the theme of survival, even in seemingly

    impossible and adverse conditions. For Pi the challenge of surviving operates on several

    levels, first there is the necessity of physical survival: he must keep his body alive. This

    requires food and water, both in short supply, as well as protection from the elements.

    Another difficulties Pi faces is ocean storms, huge waves, sharks, sunstroke, dehydration and

    drowning. Even in such a worst condition Pi survives. It means that God is with him. The

    support of God gives him strength and he decides to fight to remain alive.

    One of the interesting fact in the novel is Pis companion throughout his ordeal at sea

    is Richard Parker. Richard Parker is a 450 pound Royal Bengal tiger. Unlike in many novels

    in which animals speak or act like humans, Richard Parker is portrayed as a real animal that

    acts in ways true to his species.

    In short the novel has number of other elements which makes life of Pi a very

    difficult and dangers. Still in such a tough condition the protagonist survives and fights

    against the natural calamities. Yann Martell successfully presented the theme of religious

    conflict and sea adventure. Even the novel presents the deteriorated condition of the animal

    life in all over world. I would like to even site the reference of George Orwell who has also

    presented the similar picture of the animals worst condition in The Zoo Story. Thus the novel

    is also a social commentary which shows the malpractices about the worsened condition of

    Zoo life.

    The author has used animal imagery to highlight the close affection between Pi and

    the Royal Bengali Tiger. In this regard the novel presents many issues of the wild life. In

    short the religious impact on the life of the protagonist is symbolical. Religion and sea

    adventure is the key factor in the novel.

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    Vol.2. Issue 02 Mar.-April, 2013


    1) Yan Martel, Life of Pi, Publisher Canongate, Publication Year, 2012 Page No.2

    2) Yan Martel, Life of Pi, Publisher Canongate, Publication Year, 2012 Page No.65

    3) Ahearn, Victoria "Man Booker judges still proud of honouring Yann Martels Life

    of Pi". The Canadian Press. Calgary Herald. Retrieved November 25, 2012.


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