Friday, 6 February 2015

Life of Pi by Yann Martel

There are two stories to the life of Pi. One is full of animals and  carnivorous floating islands and is a tale of adventure and triumph, whereas the other is a frightening tale of the darker side of human nature. Both are incredible stories of survival, and loss, and faith. And an ordinary boy named Pi who is forced into extraordinary circumstance.

The premise of the novel is that a young Indian boy and his family sell their zoo and pack up to search for a better life in Canada. On their way through the pacific ocean the ship crashes and sinks leaving Pi in a lifeboat with only a hyena, a zebra with a broken leg, an orang-utan and an adult Bengal tiger for company. The story, told through the eyes Pi himself, seems incredibly real and as soon as I opened the first page I was immediately enraptured with Pi Patel's story.

The author's clever use of first person and incredible use of language creates a vivid and mesmerising image in your mind and makes even the mundane moments seem imaginative and special. The landscapes and problems that Pi is faced with along the way are engrained in my mind and will be for quite some time.

At the end of the novel you are told a different story in which the animals that Pi has been trapped on the lifeboat with are replaced with people. The two stories both match up and follow the same story line but when the animals are replaced with people it becomes so much more difficult to comprehend the atrocities that took place. In the second, darker story the ship's cook has devolved to become more animal like, forgetting all the pleasantries and normality that comes with being in a society and has regressed to only thinking in the sense of the Freudian id. Even when Pi is interviewed at the end of the novel and tells his interviewers both stories and let's them choose which of the two to put in their report, they choose the first because they don't want to even consider that any person is capable of such barbaric and vicious behaviour because if they did they would have to admit that then they will be forced to reflect on how they would act if they were put in extreme circumstances.

Everyone would like to think that they would act like Pi, who turns to God and himself instead of violence, but this novel shows that people are capable of terrible things if put under enough pressure. But with extreme self discipline and faith in something someone can survive a terrible ordeal without forgetting what it is to be human.

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