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Life of Pi | Themes

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Religion and Belief

Pi's beliefs affect the way he sees the world as well as the writer's analysis of Pi's story. Pi believes in Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. He finds them to be similar on divinity, love, and morality. Pi also admires atheists' beliefs, which he compares to religion.

Life of Pi shows how faith can give meaning to existence and suffering, even if it gives no logical explanation. Yann Martel is not persuading readers to believe in God; he is justifying belief. Scholar Florence Stratton points out, "God's existence has the same status in relation to truth and reality as Pi's experience of shipwreck." The story of God's existence is better than a story of doubt.

Nature

The zoo in Part 1 builds up slowly to the novel's events in Part 2. Pi explains animal behavior, such as social hierarchy and loyalties and attacks. Pi compares animals to humans in their reactions to stress and life-threatening situations, such as the humans on the lifeboat in Part 3.

Images of enclosure and escape fill the novel, from the cages at the zoo to Pi trapped in the ocean. The story considers what freedom means to animals and humans.

Truth

The novel contains stories within stories. The writer is a novelist who writes fiction but casts Pi's story as fact.

Part 3 casts doubt about Pi's story. Pi argues it doesn't matter: "Doesn't the telling of something always become a story?" Stories shape beliefs about the world. Pi's tale helped him survive, and stories should help readers "see higher or further or differently."

Surviving the Impossible

Pi compares the time he survived to other castaways. At 227 days he makes it the longest. His vow to "turn miracle into routine" becomes reality. Inexplicable events help him, such as the algae island and the Frenchman's food. His ingenuity helps him, too. Pi constructs a raft and uses his knowledge to turn Richard Parker into an ally. Life of Pi is a coming-of-age tale or a hero's journey, where the hero overcomes obstacles and personal loss.

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