What to Believe
In the novel Life of Pi, Yann Martel uses the protagonist Pi to demonstrate how faith, ritual and ones will to live save one from the barbaric and carnivorous reality. Pi Patel, lover of faith and various gods and their beliefs loses his family after a shipwreck and drifts on the Pacific Ocean with the zebra, hyena, orangutan and tiger named Richard Parker, each struggling in their own way to survive. In the end, Pi presents two different stories and leaves it up to the reader to decide which version is ultimately true. Personally, I would believe the animal story was made up by Pi because the human story was too much for him to endure. But how do we define truth? Is something true simply because it is believable? Is something untrue because it seems unrealistic?
The dictionary defines truth as 1) the true or actual state of a matter; 2) conformity with fact or reality; 3) a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle or the like. The relativity of truth is not emphasized as a major theme until the last part of the novel, when Pi recaps the entire story to the officials from the shipping company who are questioning him. Pi lets them choose the version they prefer, and for them that version becomes truth.
In this world, people believe the version of truth that they are most comfortable with. People would rather believe a colorful version of a story, over the gruesome details of the story that actually happened. For example, as Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba were interviewing Pi, he asks them “So tell me, since it makes no factual difference to you and you can’t prove the question either way, which story do you prefer? Which is the better story, the story with the animals or the story without animals? Mr. Chiba: the story with the animals. Mr. Okomoto: Yes. The story with animals is the better story.” (317). After hearing the two versions of Pi’s horrendous account, the...