Thursday, June 19, 2008

My Book Report: Life Of Pi

Life of Pi, by Yann Martel.

I'm trying to relate what I know of God to what was presented to me in this novel. I know that I'm supposed to have a deep reaction to the ending, some sort of "a-ha!" because they claim this book will make you believe in God.

As a believer long before I picked it up, I'm really left kind of blank on that. The moral seems to me, that even if a story is fanciful and unbelievable, it can still be true. And that details of a story don't necessarily matter, it's the feeling and human suffering (in this case) that's important to remember.

To begin, Pi is a young boy in India who's father runs a zoo. He is born Hindu, though his family is not particularly religious, and then he discovers Christanity, and then later Islam. At one point, he asks for a prayer rug and to be Baptised. His mother agrees. I think he was 12 at the time?

His father then needs to sell the zoo, and they are moving to Canada. They find buyers for their animals, board a Japanese cargo ship and set sail. Somewhere along the way, the ship sinks, and Pi is thrown into a life boat. A zebra (the animals are apparently let loose from their cages) leaps from the ship and lands in the boat with him. The animal breaks his leg. Swimming in the water, is an adult male Bengal tiger, which Pi helps board the boat. He also helps an oranguatan, who's floating on a ton of bananas, and brings her onto the boat.

He later discovers, a hyena is on board with them, and surmises that that is why he was thrown onto the lifeboat in the first place. The crew wanted the hyena to eat the boy.

From what I can surmise and what I've read HERE and in the reviews of, the 5 creatures on the boat represent different things. The zebra represents uniqueness, the oranguatan the mother figure or Virgin Mary, the hyena cowardice, and the tiger, humanity. Pi himself represents divinity. Now, quickly the hyena dispatches the zebra and the oranguatan (not for weak stomachs - this book is excessively violent). Three days in the voyage, the hyena is destroyed by the tiger. Leaving Pi and the Tiger alone.

They survive together.

So, this can be read in two ways ... the tiger represents humanity. And when coupled with the alternative story that is told at the end, he is Pi, specifically. Pi, as I've said, is divinity, and God. And throughout Part 2, Pi provides for the tiger, struggling and suffering to keep him alive.

As God provides for us all. And, I would say, as Jesus suffered for us all.

The novel is very violent and fancifully, but it was enjoyable to read. His tone takes some getting used to, but you do and once you catch the thread of what it's all about, it's a pretty quick read. Martel seems to be out to question agnostics, ("to choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation") and to show them that belief is central to survival.

I've been voraciously reading these days, and finishing books at a pretty quick clip. The summer is a good time for this as there is not anything interesting on TV. Except the Discovery chanel NASA series, which we have dvr'd.

I'm adding to my list of books: Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged. Neal Boortz said today that most people are too stupid to read it.

I can't have Neal thinking I'm stupid. ;)