Life of Pi


Piscine Patel

Piscine Patel is a protagonist who invites not only sympathy, but admiration. The victim of seemingly unendurable tragedy and suffering, Pi emerges with not only his body but also his faith and his mind very much intact. In spite of the circumstances, Pi never succumbs to hopelessness, nor does he allow himself to sink to a dehumanized level. Dehydrated, blind, and on the verge of death, Pi welcomes the other blind castaway as his brother and opens his arms to embrace the man. As a foil to the intrinsically good Pi, the castaway responds by attempting to murder and eat him. It is Pi’s abiding faith and his devotion to God that enable him to survive his ordeal as a fully intact human being, strengthened rather than overcome by his suffering.

As a narrator, Pi is not entirely reliable. At the very beginning of his story, Pi makes it clear that on the whole he values emotional truth over factual truth—he prefers “the better story” to “dry, yeastless factuality.” This alerts us to the possibility that Pi’s story may be embellished in some way. In Part 3, Pi offers to tell the Japanese officials a second story, but makes it clear that the second story will consist of the “dry, yeastless factuality” for which they are searching. Ultimately, Pi leaves the reader with the same choice he gives he Japanese officials; we are left to decide for ourselves which is the better story. It is quite clear which story Pi prefers and which version of the story gives him the strength to not only endure, but to thrive and to continue—even as an adult—to radiate joy from within his very being.

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