Yann Martel’s Life of Pi is short but moving. In the beginning, an elderly man states to Mr. Martel, “I have a story that will make you believe in God” (X). Like all good Bible stories, the main character is already dedicated to bringing himself closer to heavenly love. However, he goes through tests, much like the protagonists in most typical bible stories. In the end, it is through his tests that Pi’s devotion becomes clearer. While Pi is already devout in his spirituality and actively shows his devotion by practicing three different religions, the trials and suffering he goes through alone on the ocean bring him closer to God.
Pi shows his devotion to an all-powerful and loving being by practicing several religions. Pi does not see this as being contradictory to his devotion. Rather, he is looking for the deeper meaning of life, the purpose for man. For Pi, religion is not a duty one must perform to obtain an afterlife of leisure and plenty. Rather, for Pi, “Religion is light” (27). What better way is there to fill your life with light than to reach out to as many forms of it as possible? Pi is a seeker of ultimate truth. For Pi, this truth can only be realized through knowledge of God and a sense of meaning for his own life.
Pi begins as a Hindu, which as the religion of choice for the region and nationality he is born into, is not a surprise. However, in his quest to be closer to an all-encompassing love, he is drawn to Christianity. In his curiosity of the teachings of the bible, a religion that has the recurring answer of love to all questions of why is compelling. Not long after, Islam follows. Pi does not see practicing the three religions as contradictory to any of the three. After all, when confronted by the angry religious leaders of the three faiths, he responds with, “I just want to love God” (69). For Pi, reaching out to God with each new religion shows his love and desire for divine acceptance. However, it is easy to search for love when all of your other needs are met. Soon enough, Pi’s faith is tested in the most drastic ways possible.
Like most memorable Bible story figures, Pi loses what is dear to him as his first test of faith. The boat his family is on sinks, and with it, his ties to his familiar self. Like all those who have lost before him, he implores, “Tell me it’s not real. Tell me I’m still happy” (97). Pi wants to deny the reality of his family being gone. At the very least, he wants an explanation, an acceptable reason for this tragedy. Instead of accepting the tragedy as some greater plan, Pi questions the necessity of it.
In wondering why, Pi exclaims, “Every single thing I value in life has been destroyed. And I am allowed no explanation?” (98). Although Pi had been seeking divine love, he had been acquiescent in his devotion. He had questioned how to better love God but had not stopped to consider all God had already given him to love and appreciate. Now that he had lost everything, Pi begins questioning what the greater plan may be. Thankfully, Pi has Richard Parker to care for which gives him purpose in his moment of questioning. This gives him enough of a purpose to be able to move forward rather than giving up at the beginning of his trial.
Pi’s next test is the other castaway, the Frenchman. At first, the Frenchman appears to offer goodwill. Pi and his newfound friend talk and Pi feels hopeful, his burden of being on his own now lightened. Actually though, the Frenchman had murder hidden in his heart. Much like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, the Frenchman speaks of having knowledge of things that are better left unknown. He has killed, and tasted, other humans with the simple justification of, “It was them or me” (247). There is no real remorse or anguish at having taken another’s life. He has the same planned for Pi. It is only through the vicious ferocity of Richard Parker that Pi is saved....