Role of Religion in Pi's Journey in Life of Pi

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Life of Pi is a novel written by Yann Martel and published in the year 2001 by Vintage Canada. Martel’s inspiration was revealed in a 2002 interview with PBS, Martel said, “I was sort of looking for a story – something that would direct my life.' He began to discuss how he was lonely and through religion, he discovered a new direction in his life which lead him write Life of Pi. In Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, the main character Piscine Patel, known to all as Pi, is an Indian boy who has been stranded in the middle of the Pacific Ocean for 277 days. Pi’s mentality is beginning to change but through his religion is he able to remain sane. 'Religion will save us', Pi, who is narrating the story, goes on to say that religion had always been close to his heart. In Life of Pi, through adverse situations, one’s religion is the most significant factor which helps them survive. Pi uses the teachings of Islam, Hinduism and Christianity to help him through his journey by helping him remain sane, possess hope and depict Richard Parker as a god - like figure. In the novel, there were several moments of the story where Pi had encountered traumatic and horrifying events which could have led to a loss of individual’s sanity and hope.

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In the novel, Pi used his religious beliefs and his faith to keep him distracted. Pi uses his teachings to allow him to fight insanity and hold the truth which he believes. “I practiced religious rituals that I adapted to the circumstances – solitary masses without priests… They brought me comfort that is certain. But it was hard, oh it was hard.” (Martel 231). This quote explains how his rituals and teachings have helped him adapt to the circumstances and allowed him to remain sane through the hardest of times. His religious beliefs are allowing him to have non-erratic behavior and remain sane at all costs. Another example is shown when Pi laid his hands-on fishes and his religious beliefs helped him remain sane throughout. “I laid hands on so many fish that my body began to glitter from all the fish scales that became stuck to it. I wore these spots of shine and silver like tilaks, the marks of colour that we Hindus wear on our foreheads as symbols of the divine” (Martel 217). This quote is expressing how Pi remained sane through his silver like tilaks, which Hindus wear on their foreheads as a symbol of divinity. Pi accepted the fact that fish scales were on his body and he remained sane through his religious beliefs. Throughout the novel, Pi was in circumstances which may have led him to insanity. Through his religious encounters and beliefs, he could cancel out everything going on in his life and was able to remain sane.

Piscine Patel was lost at sea for 227 days with a Bengal tiger. Through his time, he was beginning to lose all hope, but through god and his religious beliefs, he could possess hope which he needed for survival. Belief towards religion allows individuals to obtain further knowledge and hope which may help them through their toughest times. In the novel, Pi is having difficulty believing he could survive but through his religious beliefs, he remains hopeful and continues his journey. Religion is a key factor which drives Pi’s motive and allows him to continue going. 'I was giving up. I would have given up— if a voice hadn’t made itself heard in my heart. The voice said, 'I will not die. I refuse it. I will make it through this nightmare. I will beat the odds, as great as they are… I will put in all the hard work necessary. Yes, so long as God is with me, I will not die. Amen'(Martel 163). This quote is expressing how Pi is beginning to give up and has lost all hope, but through god he is able to fight for survival and do anything to beat his odds. Pi has a deep connection with god and religion. This connection allows Pi to possess all the hope which remains. ’Jesus, Mary, Muhammad and Vishnu, how good to see you. Come to the lifeboat. Do you hear this whistle?... Swim, swim! You’re a strong swimmer. It’s not a hundred feet” (Martel 107). This quote is showing how all these important figures of Pi’s religion are giving him hope and allowing him to fight for survival. All these divine figures are giving Pi a sense of hope and belief. There are many moments in the novel where Pi feels hopeless but through his religious figures and beliefs he idolizes and possess, he is able to remain hopeful.

In the novel, Life of Pi, Martel uses symbolism to tie in important parts of Pi’s life. Richard Parker may be a clear representation of a god or faith in the novel. Throughout the novel it was shown that Pi had a hatred and love for the tiger. Pi mentions that “It was Richard Parker who calmed me down. It is the irony of this story that the one who scared me witless to start with was the very same who brought me peace, purpose, I dare say even wholeness.” (Martel 179) God like figures in human’s lives are meant to be both feared and loved. Pi had the same relationship with Richard Parker. He helped Pi be scared and calm when required, which helped him survive his journey. Similarly, Pi always saw Richard Parker as someone who isn’t human, but nevertheless, Pi notices that “it was not so much the speed that was impressive as the pure animal confidence, the total absorption in the moment. Such a mix of ease and concentration, such a being-in-the-present, would be the envy of the highest yogis' (Martel 201) Pi’s ability to be in awe of the non-human qualities that Parker has, is similar to how humans are often in awe of a god-like figure. This certainly helps show how Richard Parker is in fact, a totally distinct figure from Pi. Throughout the novel, Richard Parker was shown to be a representation of a god-like figure to Pi and helped Pi in his ability for survival.

Religion is the belief or system which is designated towards behaviours and practices. Religion is a major theme in Life of Pi. Pi focuses on different stories and theories from each faith. Pi believes that belief is more important than the whole truth. It was seen how Pi’s religious and spiritual attributes grow throughout the story. In the novel, Life of Pi, through adverse situations one's religion is the most significant factor in the ability for their survival. Pi had witnessed this as his religions helped him remain sane, possess hope and helped him depict Richard Parker as a god-like figure which in turn helped him survive his journey. Religion helped Pi throughout the novel, which developed him as character of faith. Religion is putting faith in something outside of this world, it is an explanation of things we cannot understand. In his journey, without religion, it would’ve been close to impossible for Pi to survive as religion had brought Pi comfort and sanity through the hardest of times.

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