Saturday, July 14, 2012

“Life of Pi” Essay

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

“Life of Pi” is one of the most famous books written by Yann Martel. This novel may be viewed as an allegory that vividly depicts human society and the complexity of relations of an individual and society. It is necessary to underline that throughout the entire book the main character Pi suffers from solitude and miscomprehension. In fact, he rest alone wherever he is, whether it is a densely populated city or a deserted island. In such a way, the author apparently attempts to depict the theme of the solitude of an individual in society and the unsurpassable barriers that exist between an individual and society.

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First of all, it should be pointed out that the novel consists of three major parts where the reader can trace the evolution of the main character from a naïve boy to a disenchanted individual who lost any hope and faith in humanism and human society to the extent that he more readily attributed animal characteristics to human beings than vice versa.

In the first part of the book the author uses flash backs to convey the story of Pi’s childhood. It should be pointed out that the boy did his best to get socialized and be accepted by the society. It is worthy of noting that tends to traditional humanistic values and attempt to find really positive implications in human society. This is probably why, being a boy, he cannot choose the religion which he prefers the most or which is closer to his own vision of the world. As a result, he equally sticks to Islam, Christianity and Hinduism.

At this point, it is important to underline that it is probably the first time in his life Pi faces the necessity to make an uneasy choice since human society cannot accept such poly-religious attitude to the human life and surrounding world. In such a way, the society tends to impose certain boundaries on Pi not only in physical terms but in spiritual as well. It should be said that such diversity in his religious and philosophical views are unwelcome in society. No wonder that his own father skeptically remarks that “he seems to be attracting religions the way the dog attracts fleas”. Thus, it is obvious that if his own father cannot accept his views than the society will not for sure and, in actuality, the boy, being different from others, turns to be in a kind of isolation from the society. He is not accepted by peers who are mocking at his name and it seems as if Pi spends more time with animals in the zoo than with people.

In this respect, it is necessary to underline that the author skillfully depicts an allegoric image of a zoo which rather resembles human society. It should be said that from the early childhood the boy is taught about the predatory nature of animals living in the zoo who are extremely violent if they are not controlled or bound by some limits. It seems as if the author compares animal and human nature and sees no substantial difference. In fact, he directly compares animals to humans when he compares the zoo to the hotel: “In many ways, running a zoo is a hotelkeeper’s worst nightmare. Consider: the guests never leave their rooms; they expect not only lodging but full board; they receive a constant flow of visitors, some of whom are noisy and unruly” (Martel).

In fact, the main character turns to be a strange dreamy boy who is more interested in reading books than in communication with his peers and other people. He seems to be alien in a hostile world who, in spite of his early age, has already learned that “the main battlefield for good is not the open ground of the public arena but a small clearing of each heart” (Martel). Naturally, the boy with such strange views cannot be accepted in the society, though, in actuality, Pie turns to be able to understand the predatory essence of human beings and their social relationships where humanistic ideals are only declarative while, in the real life, the world of humans is full of evil.

Symbolically, it is the skeptical father of the boy who eventually realizes that the life in India is unbearable for him and his family and that the pressure of the Indian society forces him to leave his motherland. At the same time, it seems as if he has not yet fully understood the truth his sun has already known, notably, that human society can hardly be different in another country since human nature is unchangeable.

At this point the second and probably the most substantial part of the book begins. The main characters set into the journey to the new country but in the result of the disaster all people aboard have died and he is the only human survivor along with a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a huge Bengal tiger, named Richard Parker. They share the same lifeboat and this strange community seems to be an allegoric depiction of human society where the stronger kills the weaker. At the same time, it is important to underline that such relationships inevitably affects even such a humanistic and independent individual as Pi. It seems to be quite symbolic that, being initially a vegetarian, the boy transforms in a being that readily devours anything even remotely edible: “a chopped-up mixture of heart, lungs, liver, flesh and cleaned-up intestines sprinkled with fish parts, the whole soaked in a yolk-and-serum gravy, made an unsurpassable, finger-licking thali” (Martel). Eventually, all animals but the tiger are eaten and, the tiger as the strongest and the most powerful survives and threatens to the life of the boy. It is obvious that the tiger, which is traditionally considered to be the king of all animals in India, symbolizes the ruling classes of human society which subordinate the rest of society to their own will and force them serve to their interests. This exactly what happened to Pi who was forced to feed the predator, and take care about his health which was the guarantee of his own survival. It is necessary to underline that the boy does not like such a society and he tens to avoid it and this is why he attempts to separate himself from the tiger not only for the sake of survival but simply because he cannot bear the predatory nature of the animal which symbolizes the ruling classes of human society. In such a way, the author allegorically demonstrates that despite a close link and interdependence of an individual and the tiger, symbolizing the ruling part of society, they still tend to create barriers, otherwise, their neighborhood will be destructive.

On the other hand, despite the natural fear of the tiger, Pi still is a human and, thus, a social being. Consequently, he needs society and this is probably why he regrets when the tiger has gone and this event overshadows his rescue. At the same time, the author manages perfectly depict the extent to which an individual may be misunderstood by a hypocritical society. The boy has to invent two variants of the story since people are unwilling to believe that he survived along with animals, but when he replaced animals with human beings, which was a direct comparison of human society and the animal world, people more readily believes in the original story of the boy.

In such a way, the main character fully realizes the extent to which the society is hostile to himself and he is actually alien in this world of humans which he would readily abandon and, instead, he would rather prefer an interesting book without end to the hostile and predatory human society whose rules he cannot accept and neither the society can accept his humanistic ideals.
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