Life of Pi: the Correlation Between Science and Religion

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Sharmeel Bhatti

Ms. Ciufo

ENG-3U1

Wednesday, April, 28, 2010

Life of Pi: Correlation between Science and Religion

One of the most important dichotomies that exist amongst today is Science versus Religion. A dichotomy that started in the renaissance era, a period when people started questioning, looking to other horizons, other than religion and truly began to comprehend reality. The theme of Science versus Religion is portrayed in a great deal in the novel Life of Pi. In Life of Pi, Yann Martle utilizes the protagonist Piscine “Pi” Molitor Patel’s to suggest that humans require both Science and Religion to attain their full potential. Pi’s experiences prior to arriving in the Lifeboat , in attendance of the Lifeboat and following Pi’s ordeal on the Lifeboat, all reveal Pi’s enormous interest in science and religion.

Even before the introduction of the Lifeboat the character Pi illustrates his extensive passion for Religion and Science. He develops the interest of science and religion primarily through Mr. and Mr. Kumar, Pi’s childhood teachers. Pi expresses his opinion about Mr. and Mr. Kumar after he embraces Islam. Pi says, “Mr. and Mr. Kumar were the prophets of my Indian Youth” (Martle, 61). Imagery is used within this quote to illustrate the most important teachers of Pi’s childhood. The quote explains that significance of both Mr. Kumar the biologist teacher, who happens to be an Atheist and the Mr. Kumar the Sufi, the Islamic teacher. Mr. Kumar the biologist teacher is expressed as noticeable geometric physic which corresponds to his scientism and his logical self. He represents a prophet in Pi’s life because he ignites the flame of reason within Pi. Mr. Kumar the biologist teacher develops the importance of reason, which proves immensely useful to Pi’s ordeal on the Pacific Sea. On the other hand, Mr. Kumar the Sufi lacks any sort of physical distinction which corresponds to his spirituality. Mr. Kumar the Sufi assists Pi in understanding and believing in something beyond the tangible, believing in the better story, and believing in God. Pi then use his own understanding and develops an appreciation for both Science and Religion without giving superiority to either. This is shown when the both Mr. and Mr. Kumar are present together at the zoo, “Mr. Kumar said, “Equus burchelli bohemi.” Mr. Kumar said, “Allahu akbar.” I [Pi] said, “It’s very pretty.”” (Martle, 84).This quote seems to blend the dichotomy so well that the audience isn’t clearly able to distinguish between the two Mr. Kumars. Through close reading, Mr. Kumar the biologist teacher states “Equus burchelli bohemi” which is the scientific name to the Grant’s Zebra, through which Mr. Kumar separates the Zebra being viewed from other Zebras. Dissimilarly, Mr. Kumar the Sufi states “Allahu akbar”, which means “God is the Greatest”, through which Mr. Kumar recognizes God and the zebra as a part of Gods magnificent work. Finally, Pi’s comment, “It’s very pretty”, is the confirmation of perfect contentment because he appreciates the perspectives of both Mr. Kumars. In conclusion, Pi recognizes both Science and Religion as important entities, even before he reaches the Lifeboat.

As a castaway, Pi’s infatuation of Science and Religion guides him immensely. When Pi finds himself as a castaway he applies his reason and his faith to a Bangle tiger and an orang-utan who are present in the Lifeboat along with Pi. When the orang-utan arrives in the Lifeboat, Pi says, “She came floating on an Island of bananas in a halo of light, as lovely as the Virgin Mary. The rising sun was behind her. Her flaming hair looked stunning” (Martle, 111). Pi uses imagery within the quote to describe the physical appearance of the orang-utan, referring to the colour of the orang-utan’s hair as “Flaming”. Another type of literary device used is allusion; Martle makes a biblical reference to compare the orang-utan to the mother of Jesus Christ, the Virgin Mary. Martle...
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