Literary Analysis Essay of Life of Pi
The first fifteen chapters of the novel focus on transformation of Piscine Molitor Patel or Pi. The book recalls an incident that served his transformation to become a “super-alpha male.” In this magical yet realistic journey, Pi demonstrates the dominance of nature over a man’s spirit, faith, and religion. It also illustrates how an extreme situation can alter a man’s character and leads him to God—thus, strengthening his faith and belief to various religions (Ray, 170).
Piscine’s name was derived from his uncle’s favorite French pool. His name sparked his classmates’ creative yet sadistic talents (Ray, 169). They remarked that Piscine sounds like “pissing,” so they make jokes out of his name. However, he was determined to get rid of these jokes. Thus, one day, he introduced himself differently: as Pi Patel. He even explained his new name in relation to the basic geometric principle. He did this again and again to completely “train” his classmates to call him by his new nickname. For him, changing his nickname seemed to be a new beginning (Martel). When his problem about his classmates and teachers mispronouncing his name has been solved, he focused more on learning about religion and zoology. At home, he was an emotional child who is dependent on his family for protection and guidance. But, with great interest to religion and zoology, Pi is set to another transformation.
The story also shows the religious transformation of Pi. He is a Hindu by birth, but he also holds Christian, Hindu, and Muslim beliefs. His house is a temple that represents his religious beliefs very well: it contains a picture of Ganesha, statue of Shiva Nataraja, and a Cross and picture of Virgin of Guadalupe (Valkenberg, 129). With his journey to knowing different religions, he has come to believe that each religion is true and has something important to offer to his believers. With his mixed religious beliefs, he has come to love God even stronger.
The last transformation that Pi undergoes is related to zoology. Pi’s family owns a zoo. However, rather than simply knowing the nature of zoo animals, Pi has learned from his father that humans remain as the most dangerous animal in the zoo. According to his father, humans are dangerous because they prey on all life. In their zoo, the father used to hide a mirror at the back of a curtain with a sign: “Do you know which is the most dangerous animal in the zoo?” Curiously, the visitors would see what animal is behind the curtain, only to realize that it is them. Pi’s father attempts to change the way zoo visitors and his sons think about themselves (Wheetley, 16).
All of these transformations have contributed to how Pi managed to surpass the unfortunate situation of losing his family and being trapped in the sea with wild animals for hundreds of days. The transformation of his name signifies Pi’s attempt to transform how people look at him. From being a joke, he managed to make people put serious regard about his name. This happens again when the Japanese regarded him as an alpha male for surviving in the ocean with a tiger. His transformation regarding religious beliefs enabled him to stand firm in his faith. He believed that there is a secret force of nature that dictates the events of life. He kept on believing that he will emerge from this unfortunate fate. Lastly, the transformation about the nature of animals and humans enabled Pi to be different from other humans. In the ocean, he thought about his survival and that of the tiger’s too. In sum, these transformations influenced the way Pi acted on the unfortunate situation that tested his faith and nature.
Ray, Mohit. Studies in Literature in English. New Delhi, India: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2005.
Valkenberg, Pim.Sharing Lights on the Way to God. New York, Rodopi B.V., 2006.
Wheetley, Abigail. CliffNotes on Martel’s Life of Pi. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2014.