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Life of Pi: Faith or Fiction

Life of Pi: Faith or Fiction

This work was originally a novel, and since 2011 an award winning 3D film. This journey is perceived by many to be a religious tale. Other nonreligious viewers and readers still appreciate the art. On the other hand, would this be considered to have a religious meaning if it didn't directly mention God?

 

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Lauren Walters

Lauren Walters

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Which tale is true?  Clearly the first one is not credible, because a large floating island could not have gone unnoticed in the middle twentieth century.  The second story is much more believable, and the trauma of his mother's death could have lead to the creation of the original story.  However, the second story is a standard hardship-at-sea-leads-to-cannibalism story.  Furthermore, the narrative describes the second story as told after Pi got the specifications of the story that the Japanese wanted, so it is possible that neither is true and that Pi, in keeping with his view of God, does not plan to tell the real one.

Article: Review -- Life of Pi
Source: Review -- Life of Pi

His fantastical story of the tiger becomes a metaphor for religious faith. The tale is a kinder, more optimistic choice compared to the more “realistic” story, and as Pi himself suggests in the present day, there is no concrete evidence of either account. In this film, visual effects are used to animate the incredibly lifelike tiger and the beautiful sites of the journey—lighting striking the sea, jellyfish floating through the ocean. While the events of this story are certainly possible, they are not probable. Lee’s story helps to make the improbable tangible, bringing a religious parable to life.

Article: Faith or Fiction: Life of...
Source: Faith or Fiction: Life of...

On one level, the movie is—as some critics have noted—about believing in art. It is not incidental that the overall frame of the screenplay has the adult Pi telling his story to a novelist who is in search of a new plot. But the ability of stories to create transcendent meaning is just the start. I do think the movie is about God, but not the kind of God one chooses to “believe in” or not, who is featured in lush stories with animals rather than in dryer, flatter, more prosaic accounts. It is certainly not about a God who explains why people suffer and redeems all evil. This is not a God whose story one necessarily would “prefer.”

Article: Multifaithworld.org
Source: Life of Pi: Can a Movie M...
Lauren Walters

Lauren Walters

30 Knowledge Cards 

Many critics and viewers believe this story to be about God, but only because Pi refers to God verbally. If Pi left the word 'God' out of the script, religious viewers would most likely infer the tale to be about God. However, maybe nonreligious readers wouldn't be so immediately turned off.

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After saying those words Pi wakes up and finds himself on an island. This island is not his final destination; rather it is what he believes a place where God gave him rest. Pi realized here that when you need it, God will give you the rest you need, rest that will allow you to move forward and not get stuck in the ruts that life can bring.

Article: Jake’s movie review: Th...
Source: The Echo

There reaches a point where Pi believes there is nothing left, and he lets go by saying, “God, thank you for giving me my life. I’m ready now.” What Pi does not know is that it is not his physical life that he is giving up, but when he looked at Robert Parker and said, “We’re dying,” what was really going was his former life. It was in giving away his life that he received a new one.

Article: Jake’s movie review: Th...
Source: The Echo
Lauren Walters

Lauren Walters

30 Knowledge Cards 

This does not take a religious mindset to understand. Pi simply puts his struggles behind him and starts a new upon his recent discovery of a cannibalistic island.

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Life of Pi is suffused by a pervasive liminality. The teenaged Pi is in motion between continents, between faiths, and between childhood and adulthood, which means that the novel is also a bildungsroman. I here focus above all on the text's and Pi's location in the contested space between believers and nonbelievers, and on the novel's attempted mediation between those seeming binary opposites. I ask two perhaps paradoxical questions: In what ways would this be seen by the nonreligious as a religious book with appeal? Put differently, to what degree and in what ways might this text actually give secular readers a desire...

Article: Project MUSE - Feeding Ti...
Source: Project MUSE
Lauren Walters

Lauren Walters

30 Knowledge Cards 

This text would be understood by a nonreligious reader as an appreciation for art and the journey itself.

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In interviews, Martel notes that he comes from a secular background in Quebec. There are no indications that writing this book represented a Damascus conversion experience for him. Life of Pi is not a conversion narrative perse, but it is in part an ascent narrative (a journey toward enlightenment) that also contains elements of descent narratives. As a secular writer with sympathies for the religious imagination, Martel can pitch his revisioning of comparative religion to readers who have what Salman Rushdie once called a "God-shaped hole" in their heart. These "implied readers" (Iser) would have a hunger for some of the animating power of faith, if not a capacity for blind commitment to dogmatic faith itself.

Article: Project MUSE - Feeding Ti...
Source: Project MUSE
Lauren Walters

Lauren Walters

30 Knowledge Cards 

This hints that those who seek religious proof may be more likely to perceive this work as a religious work.

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It's a tale that's meticulously spun, despite the deceptively light prose and what sometimes seem like gimmicks (such as the unequal chapters and some typeface shifts). But what's important—the theology, Pi's upbringing by secular parents in a French-colonized enclave within the British Empire, the specific data about animal behavior from his zookeeper father that Pi recalls in order to keep the tiger at bay, the alternate version of events that constitute the book's final reversal of expectations—has been convincingly particularized and crafted. In that way the novel is the written equivalent of one of the intricate, mesmerizing designs seen in Islamic art and architecture, and it provides the "frisson" of artistic delight that Nabokov identified as the essential pleasure of reading fiction.

Article: Project MUSE - Life of Pi...
Source: Project MUSE
Lauren Walters

Lauren Walters

30 Knowledge Cards 

Within this story, there are references to many architectural beauties. Not only the prose is constructed like architecture, but Pi's original name, Piscine, refers to a intricate pool constructed in france.

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The full-frontal way in which Yann Martel addresses religious faith here will put off some readers immediately, charmed though many of those might be by his deft use of language. "To choose doubt as a way of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation," his young hero argues as, in the book's first hundred pages, he embraces three religions: his native Hinduism, Christianity and finally Islam, offering a precocious fourteen-year-old's theological overview of each. But most of the story is about the protagonist's 227-day survival at sea, and Martel's real concern is not religion but the miracle of life itself.

Article: Project MUSE - Life of Pi...
Source: Project MUSE

The first section of the book is about Piscine Patel's youth in Pondicherry, India.  His name, correctly pronounced "peeseen" was too often reduced to "pissing" when he moved to a new school, just before the teacher called his name, he lept to the chalkboard and wrote his name as "Pi" Patel.  His father owns a zoo in the city park, so much of his life is spent with animals and two of his statements are important for the book.  The first is that animals want stability, which is not easy in the wild.  In the zoo, however, they are fed regularly and have a distinct territory free from worry, a parallel to humans, who shut ourselves in houses and jobs when we could be free to roam.  In fact, he notes that animals that escape usually want to come back.  The second statement is that animals are very adaptable, and claims that if you "shook Tokyo upside down you would be amazed at the [menagerie] that would fall out".

Article: Review -- Life of Pi
Source: Review -- Life of Pi
Lauren Walters

Lauren Walters

30 Knowledge Cards 

By getting stranded on small boat with a Bengal tiger, all stability was taken out of both their lives. Thus, Pi had to put his extensive knowledge of animals to use.  

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