Essay, Pages 4 (837 words)
Yann Martel’s Life of Pi: Which sea story is more credible? Yann Martel once said, “Reality is how we interpret it. Imagination and volition play a part in that interpretation which means that all reality is to some extent a fiction”. The protagonist Pi Patel in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi narrates two versions of his sea story: one being his castaway journey with Richard Parker, a hyena, an orangutan and a zebra, while the other version is a variation of this experience but with human characters.
The reader is left with multiple interpretations, asking themselves at the end of the novel which of Pi’s two versions actually occurred. Martel shows that the rendition of Pi’s story that involves humans is more credible by creating a psychological coping mechanism in the animal story, which incorporates parallels between characters, a wanting to rewind the past, and a stronger dependence on Pi’s spirituality. The juxtaposition of Pi’s animal and human stories leads the reader to question the psychological similarities between characters.
Each animal described in the first story has its archetype partner; the blood seeking hyena and the cook, Orange Juice and Pi’s loving mother, the injured zebra and the sailor, the Bengal tiger Richard Parker and Pi himself. The supposed actions of both the humans and animals reveal proof that the animals could have been figures of Pi’s imagination. The hyena is killed by Richard Parker as he knew his death was coming and “did not put up a fight” (Martel 166) which is parallel to the human story when Pi kills the cook who “let himself be killed” (Martel 344).
The coincidence of these events shows the close relationship between Pi’s accounts. Not only the actions and fate of characters are similar, but the emotional characteristics can be related as well, such as with Orange Juice and Pi’s mother. The orangutan is described as being “gentle and unaggressive her whole life” (Martel 143), similar to a maternal and protective parent. Pi becomes more animalistic as his journey progresses, which is caused by his predicament, for example by eating “exactly the way Richard Parker [eats]” (Martel 250).
The two protagonists as well as the other characters become more alike and therefore when thinking that the animals were never on the lifeboat and were figures of his imagination, it is not hard to believe. The trauma of the ship sinking affects Pi in the way that he misses his past life. It is evidently hard for him to accept the fact that he is alone at sea which leads him to imagine that he is not. “Can you believe what has happened to us? Tell me it’s a bad dream. Tell me it’s not real” (Martel 307).
Denial is one of the coping mechanisms used; he wishes that he was not stuck in his predicament therefore he will do anything to rewind the past. Pi desperately wants to be back with his family and for his life at sea to end which could lead him to start seeing things in his distraught mind. “I was getting used to the mental delusion” (Martel 285). The protagonist knows himself that he is suffering from psychological issues, whether it is because he is not healthy or simply depressed, this affects the way he sees his present life. Pi’s spirituality also influences the way he sees the world, on and off the lifeboat.
He uses his beliefs in his Gods as an escape, as a way of concealing his true situation. Because it is part of his character to have a strong spiritual identity, it is possible that he disguised his fears by believing that there are extraordinary animals on the lifeboat instead of humans. Scientifically, there is no proof of elements in the animal story such his “exceptional botanical discovery” (Martel 284), yet Pi believes in what he sees which stems from his spirituality. He sees the world in different ways therefore he creates different realities. “Tigers exist, lifeboats exist, oceans exist.
Because the three have never come together in your narrow limited experience, you refuse to believe that they might” (Martel 332). Pi’s animal rendition of his sea story includes miraculous events that seem impossible. This story is simply a reflection of his theology and acts as a more comforting experience than the reality of his more believable human story. In Life of Pi, Martel uses relationships between characters, Pi’s yearning for his suffering to end, and his spiritual identity to develop a psychological coping strategy which makes readers question the credibility of his animal sea story.
The readers’ subjective interpretation is intended to cause a moment of reflection. The second story dismisses the majority of the novel and his previously described experiences in his animal story. A lot of this novel is subjective and there are several ways of interpreting Pi’s adventure. Whether readers choose to believe in the first story or not, the credibility lacks and because of the absence of proof, the second human story is more plausible.