Readers have varying reactions and interpretations of the story The Life of Pi, and although there are several ideas, religions, and beliefs that are presented in the story, there is no definite the book offered in its conclusion. Like religion that many people argue about, Pi’s morality is also discussed. The point of contention stems from several ideas, such as Pi’s practice of multiple religion and his being able to survive in the lifeboat where there were fierce animals that could have eaten him alive. Readers also wonder if he was able to maintain his morality after coming out in a literal dog-eat-world situation that he experienced at sea. Many ask if it is really possible to live morally in an amoral world. Although there are people who may oppose Pi’s choices and decisions in life, Pi maintained his morality despite the difficult situation that he was put in.
The whole story is religious in nature presented in a physical world that is both mysterious and brutal. Pi’s ordeal at sea for 277 days without anyone to rely on but himself, and later the Bengal tiger Richard Parker, proves the strength of his faith both in God and life, and the morality he developed from his faith. “Religion will save us” (p. 27) as he once said to Mr. Kumar in biology class. His conviction and faith was strong enough despite the confusion that the atheist Mr. Kumar presented to him. He was subjected to hardships at sea: losing his mother and brother, being left alone on the lifeboat with a ferocious animal, and having no food and water for his survival. Despite it all, he was able to survive by helping himself without compromising his belief on what is wrong and right. Instead of sinking into depression, he developed a daily routine that involved finding food and taming the tiger to prevent it from eating him. He knew that he had to live in order to claim his faith, and this he did. He was generally unscathed with a stronger faith and belief in God which was evident in his reply to the two Japanese officials. “And so it goes with God” is Pi’s way of saying that like the story with animals, believing in God is also the better story and believing in Him is an individual choice.
Pi’s ability to distinguish what’s wrong and right was put to test when he was drifted to sea far away from civilization, with no one to help him survive but his own ability and the Bengal tiger that did not offer any comfort at first. Miraculously, he found something to eat and drink and tamed the tiger that by all sense of reason should have eaten him for lack of food. The tiger is not a moral beast, and therefore “should not be treated with the same respect as humans” (p.67). Pi recognizes the danger the tiger brings, but based on his three religion, he was able to practice acceptance taught by Hinduism, and forgiveness he learned from Christianity. He has a general compassion towards all things sentient and thus treated the tiger with respect befitting a force of nature that it represents. In the end, he benefitted from Richard Parker’s presence which helped him stay alive. Pi’s claim that he “wouldn’t be alive today to tell his story” (p.89) if it was not for Richard Parker was difficult to believe but true.
Pi was a vegetarian, and at sea it proved to be another problem. His religions taught him respect to all sentient beings, but he also knew that he had to eat and drink for him to survive, so he ate fish and drank sea turtle blood. It was not easy, and he remembers clearly how he was “weeping over the muffled killing of a flying fish” (p.61). He had to wrap the fish into a blanket so he wouldn’t see it die. Gradually he got comfortable catching fish for both him and Richard Parker, and drinking sea turtle blood, he struggled. When his ordeal was finished, he switched back to his vegetarian diet. He did not lose his original self because of the difficult situation but learned a valuable lesson about life and being human. He recognized the importance of life, his own and those of others, and the necessity of breaking some of his beliefs in order to preserve his own. After all, it was for his survival that forced him to do so. In the end, he realized that like animals, humans can also go through the experience of being brutal, of “getting used to anything, including killing” (p.61).
It was interesting to know that he was able to find the clarity that he was looking for in the most difficult situation imaginable. Pi had always been in quest for something that will give him clarity about his idea of God and life. Although many people frowned upon his choice of following three religions, he stood by his decision and practiced all three at the same time. It is also this same strong will and faith that helped him get through his ordeal. At sea, he recognized that “survival had to start with me” and that looking out “with idle hope is tantamount to dreaming one’s life away” (p.58). Even though he was left alone to fend for himself in a difficult situation, he strived to survive because he knew that it was the faith and life that he had been searching for. “I will not die. I refuse it.” (p. 53). Even during the latter part when Pi was almost losing hope, he did not question God. He knew that there is a purpose and at times when he was almost giving up, he reverted back to his faith. He relied on his morality, his decision to distinguish what’s wrong and right based on the three religions that he believed in, and emerged a survivor.
Yann, Martel. The Life of Pi: A Novel. Orlando, Florida: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing,