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I just wanted to do a statistical survey of people who read Life of Pi. Which story did you believe: the one with the animals or the one without animals? I wonder if it will reveal something about us (or not).
Note: you need to read to the very end of the book to make this decision.
Thank you very much!
PS. I'll go first: with the animals
It is possible Yann Martel himself does not know which story is true.
I skimmed it and didn't see that it was directly addressed. Probably the interviewer thought he wouldn't answer, so didn't bother to ask. There is a discussion of people making too much of the difference between fact and fiction. Perhaps that is part of the answer. Facts alone do not tell the entire story. Still, I do wonder what he thinks.
I think it is ultimately heart/fantasy vs mind/facts.
I don't have an opinion one way or the other.
On one hand, Pi might have thought that no one would believe his story, because living with a tiger on a boat for that long seems a bit fantastical. If he imagined that part, he also came back to reality really fast. The idea that it was an allegory was very sudden; there was no hint of it beforehand, he just randomly said it was an allegory close to the end of the book and mentioned the fact briefly.
On the other hand, his story is a bit fantastical, especially the floating carnivorous island. It would make sense for the story to be an allegory, as Pi went through a traumatic experience and making up a story might have helped him cope with it.
I agree with krazy4katz. Maybe the author had no clear idea of which one was intended to be the truth, and it's the reader's discretion.
Either way, it's a great book.
Ok, so that ignores the question: how did the animals get out of their cages, but oh well...
I saw an interview with Martel in which he said that it was important that the reader make the choice. Wish I still had the link, sorry.
My personal choice was the animal story but my fuller take on the book was that Martel was giving us a parallel for religious choices. That each has its own story/mythology, but the essence is the same regardless of how the story is told. Guess that's why I loved the book so much, and whether my interpretation is on the mark or not, it makes me happy (grin).
ETA: I should have been more precise in my language and say that animals are part of our physical world and gods are not. I don't mean to imply that gods or God is not real. I don't want to get into that debate here.
As to the other end coming on quite quickly, that made sense to me. Pi had told this whole elaborate story, but when pressed came out with the other. Like it was painful and hard to do, so he did it quickly (like pulling off a band-aid).
Just thought I would post that Margaret Atwood weighs in on this question in an interview with Bill Moyers about The Handmaid's Tale in his "Faith and Reason" series. You can watch the video, or you can download the podcast by following the link on the right side of the screen here: http://www.pbs.org/moyers/faithandreason/watch_atwood.html
The reference to The Life of Pi comes at about 28-29 min.
Pi's story is unbelievable, so it is little surprise that the Japanese men did not believe it. They ask for the "true" story. Now for me, here is the first clue. Pi asks them many questions such as "so you want a story without animals? just the facts?" When he says 'Just the facts?' i believe he is here referring to the stripping down of the animal story and replacing the true characters with humans to leave behind just the facts. He then says that all they wanted was 'dry. yeastless factuality', this is a hark back to a previous chapter in which Pi criticises agnostics for wanted only the dry, yeastless factuality and not taking the leap of faith.
Here is the next clue for me. Pi here, I think, is saying that the Japanese men are unable to take the leap of faith in order to believe his story. Here is the crux of it. Pi's story represents a religion, you need to take the leap of faith to believe it, if you do not (like the Japanese men) then you are left with dry, yeastless factuality. After the story Pi asks the men which story they prefer, they reply the animal one, and Pi says 'and so it goes with God'. This points toward the fact that his story requires the leap of faith, just as God does.
Before he tells them the story without animals, there is a long silence. This is when I believe he makes up the following story. His aim in doing so: 1) to please the men who do not believe his story, the true story and 2) to encourage them to take the leap of faith, by telling them a horrific story. He succeeds in this.
To sum up really, I think that the animal story is the true one. In my first read, I desperately hoped the animal one was true. In my second read I looked for clues to hold this hope. The clues I found I have just mentioned, and for me it provides vital hints.
That's my choice and I'm sticking to it.
I can't think of a third argument, but your second argument was the strongest one I thought of when I was reading the book.
The one argument AGAINST the first story is how did all the cages open? Wouldn't they have been locked...
There is no correct answer, What do YOU think??
Attacking someone because they comment on your post in an open forum is not necessary or welcome.
Neither, the two stories are just tools for the author to demonstrate a point. One story is more interesting and fanciful while the other is gritty and down to earth. The animal story represents god while the human story represents I suppose no god. What I mean by this is that the author is making the point that while the story with humans is more rational the animal story just feels better to believe in than the human story and such how it is with believing in god (This is the boiled down point from the author, This is not me speaking I do not agree at all).
The book can also be seen as a test for how far your suspension of disbelief can extend. If you make it the whole book until the second story is revealed presumably you will be more apt to believe in god (Ironic in that this is how I was yet I am an atheist).
To put it in one sentence the author is saying that we should believe in god because it is the better sounding story(aka animal story) than the alternative of no god(aka human story).
I became an atheist after inspecting my religious belief that was instilled by parents (I suspect most atheist are like this). You can not just simply believe something is true after much introspection on the subject. Sure people will believe stuff for comfort but most of the time I suspect that it is on subjects the said person has not thought much about. In other words it is impractical to believe in things because they are comforting and or the more elegant explanation in most situations. Let me give you an exaggerated example to demonstrate the point. Imagine you fell off a 100 story building. It would certainly be comforting to believe that you will somehow be impervious to the deadly acceleration you will experience on the pavement ,but would you be able to actually believe it when your life experience time and time again yells back and forth in your head as you plummet to earth that your a dead man/woman?
I agree that it may be more comforting to believe in god but NOT with any of the gods in the mainstream religions(particularly the monotheistic ones that Pi investigates in the book) because in those religions there is a hell after all (not very comforting but the very opposite). If I could choose a religion that would become true it would NEVER be Christianity, Islam, or Judaism. Most other religions would probably be ruled out automatically too but I do not know enough about them to have an opinion.
I suspect that most people are religious because it makes them feel better. I agree with you -- wanting something to be true doesn't make it true. However, religion is like a family when you need to feel like you belong somewhere. Looking in from the outside is different. People are good or evil irrespective of their religious beliefs, in my humble opinion. Religion doesn't change one's basic nature. And people can abuse/distort religious concepts for their own purposes.
Just as an aside, I am not sure the concept of Heaven and Hell is in the Old Testament. Is it in the New? Or is it one of these Middle Age type notions that somehow became incorporated into Christianity (not Judaism as far as I know -- have no idea about Islam).
I did not mean wanting something to be true doesn't make it true although I agree. I mean to say wanting to believe in something will not give you the ability to believe in it.
Everything you say in your post I agree with. I am not one of those atheist who thinks religion is all bad all the time. In fact most of the time (at least in the modern world) I have no problem with it.
As the daughter of an ordained Southern Baptist minister, the research was very enlightening, and after reading my paper (graded "A") my father refused to speak with me for almost a year! Did I mention I was in my early 40s when I wrote it?
Not wanting to get into ANY religious arguments, discussions, or anything like that here, but will only mention that the notion of "hell" is a New Testament device.
I had a friend who wanted to make up business cards, as a joke, that said the following:
"Consultants, Inc. Often Wrong. Never in Doubt."
So, do you think Yann Martel, the author of Life of Pi believes in G/god or is he an agnostic or an atheist?
I will voice an opinion on my own question, from #46:
I think Yann Martel is an agnostic -- someone who believes the existence of God is unknowable, at least by present day technology. However, since religion helps build a sense of family and security in the world by believing that an all-knowing and benevolent being is in charge, it is better to believe in "him" than not. He selects the story with the animals too.
In order of likelihood I would say that the author either follows a denomination of Christianity, then Judaism or Islam, or is merely a non main stream believer in god such as a deist(Personally I do not even consider deist to believe in god considering the common usage of the word god). I would not think him agnostic or atheist because I find it hard to believe that a member of either group(particularly atheists) would write a book whose purpose is to convince others to believe in god (or at the very least give a reason to believe in god). I am curious as to why you believe the author is an agnostic. I am basing my speculation merely on the book(and the article where he outlines his meaning) and ignoring his name and biographical information which I do not know.
That is a very beautiful interview. I am not sure I would classify him as religious in my standard thinking of the word, which is, of course, very western since that is my background. He has chosen to believe for the same reasons the Japanese chose to believe the story with the animals. It makes it easier to live in this world with all the pain and suffering that we see around us. I struggle with this too and have never found an answer. I think of it as an agnostic position with wistfulness. I like his way of thinking, though. It seems like a peaceful way to live.
I see his logic and understand where he's coming from, but I still think the entire third section was forced. The first and second sections hold up together. The third one pales by comparison, purely in terms of the writing.
I so wanted to believe the first story, but as it turns out, they are both conjured up by the author. It was a fantastical tale non-the-less and I read it for the second time aloud with my partner. A wonderful way to indulge in this beautiful story.
Totally random but it says Orange Juice is the mother of two fine boys. The two fine boys being Ravi and Pi? Or maybe it's just totally coincidental?
One aspect of the book that I have a hard time explaining is the fact that Pi, the character, is lying. I don't understand why. He certainly knows what happened to himself, so what are his motivations to conceal it (and quite light-heartedly it seems)? Had those Japanese inspectors led a criminal investigation instead, what would he have done, and what would be left of the allegory? While I realize that the author is free to use the "tricks" he deems necessary, and in this case with great success (we grow attached to the first story, and this is rich of significance), telling such lies doesn't stick with Pi, in my opinion. In that context, his words "and so it goes with God" don't sound pure to me.
Actually I would argue that in an allegory about a topic so enormous as God, Truth should be respected above all, because conceptually when Truth is revealed, it resolves all theories, beliefs and disbeliefs. Although believers may associate Truth with God himself, it is equally meaningful to non-believers: Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, agnostics, atheists, scientists, artists etc. must all be united in an ultimate deference to the Truth, whenever it is revealed.
I'm also a bit bothered by the absence of a notion of engagement related to faith, in this allegory (it sounds as if faith was only a kind of self-beneficial delusion). Finally, one detail that puzzled me... if Richard Parker symbolizes Pi, then what does Pi symbolize, since he's also on that boat? The narrator or author?
Does anyone else see the connection between the story and William Blake's Tiger and its questions about God?
Here's a brief writing of my thoughts on both stories and why each has its own convincing traits as to its credibility:
In favor of the animal telling:
1. Pi is experienced with animals, his family owns the zoo in which the animals of it need to be taken care of, trained and managed. Because of this, the animal telling is believable to that Pi actually trained and tamed the tiger. In addition to training Richard Parker to respond to the whistle, staff and calling of his name.
2. There's no way this guy can come up with a story like this so convincing, detailed, with everything about the animals, as soon as the reporters in the hospital are questioning him. The telling of the island, animals, food, storm, animal vs animal attacks, feeding the tiger, saving the tiger etc. just doesn't seem like something anyone could ever make up on the spot nor after a long time of thinking.
3. The depression and feeling Pi has while telling how Richard Parker just left is too real to think its made up. And to Pi's ease of mind, Richard Parker even hesitating before leaving is acknowledgment (or amazing) enough that Pi should continue believing animals do have souls, that religion is true etc.
4. His parents and brother were asleep during the sinking. Even if they woke up, they wouldn't have made it to the only life raft that was deployed from the boat. If the monkey symbolizes his mother, she's not a good swimmer. Even if the monkey did float on a banana raft type thing, the mother would've never made it to the deck before drowning.
In favor of the people telling:
1. Face it, the story is a lot more rational seeming than the actual animal telling.
2. At the end of the movie where it says that "Few survivors can say that they've survived at sea for as long as he, none can say they did with an adult Bangle Tiger" (or along those lines) the reporters picked the animal telling as one better to say. The reason for this is probably the gruesome human version's involvement of cannibalism, murder and separation from mother and child like that.
3. The island is never seen or heard of again? Well then that pretty much conveniently buries the only possible proof the animal telling has.
4. Pi surviving with a wild adult Bengle Tiger is highly unlikely and eventually animal instincts would've triggered no matter what, when Richard Parker is close to starvation, he would've eaten Pi. So because Pi is alive is also proof that the animal telling is probably false.
I've many more points I'd like to add but my time is limited and explaining what's going on in my head isn't always easy. Hopefully this is enough for you to come to a point of decision. Personally I want to believe the animal story though the human one is more rational. Both sides show strong points as to why they've credibility but because Pi has a backstory with all the animals involved and they're not random, it's hard to believe that he could've substituted people for them. Neither the other way around.
Side note: Forgive my grammar, run on sentences, possible spelling errors, the excessive use of etc, etc. *Haha*
I'm only 13.
This means that although it is likely false, just like the main character's story with the animals, religion is a more interesting and exciting story than reality. If you had the choice, would you rather believe in a world where you die and are gone forever (reality), or one where you die and go to this awsome place called heaven (fake awsome story with animals)? Your supposed to realize that the second story is the real though, but that believing in the first story is OK. How this relates to religion is that it doesn't matter what you believe in (religious or not) because either way your gonna be dead by the time you find out which is true and it won't matter. Similarly, whatever story you believe, his ship sunk and his family is dead. So believe and remember the first story if it makes you feel better, even though you know the second story is what really happened.
To me the book isn't literally supposed to make you believe in religion like some critics going to the movie seem to believe. Its just supposed to make you realize that believing in the fake awsome story of religion can help you cope and can make life seem better. Just like how him making up this story with animals makes his experience seem better to us and to him.
I liked the movie! It took me a minute to figure out what he meant by "religion is the same way", and what the message of the movie was but when I finnaly did it put a smile on my face.
Whether it was factually true its totally beside the point in my opinion. It's the story I loved, and it was story needed for the boy to survive.
"the cook eat the rat, kill the sailor and mother because they lack of food?"
you know how its impossible for a human to eat his own kind while there are other choices of food, for example the tons of fish in the ocean?
not even mentioning the biscuits on the boat.
if the situation has gone that bad that the cook starve so badly that he has to eat human flesh, how come Pi, a little boy can even survive without having any food?
moreover, will a man that gone insane and eat almost every living thing on boat suddenly realized his sin and let someone kill him without fighting back? thats totally ridiculous.
the 2nd story sounds totally irrational to me.
Amazing Job Yann Martel !
Making up a story to prove a point doesn't match his character. A story itself is not a lie, but his vehement defense of the first story despite the agents' counter arguments does, IMO, amount to lying. Everything about Pi's interview at the end smells of "if you don't want to believe the truth (God), then that's your choice. I will provide the exact same information in a way that you can understand (Science. Fact.)." That, to me, sounds more like the lie.
While the FACTS of the first story seem crazy, (and this could be due to the story being largely truncated), the time frame of the second story just seems sloppy. Pi survived in the ocean for 220-something days despite most of his rations being gobbled up by the Cook? Why was the "Hyena"/"French Cook" two separate characters in the first story, but melded into 1 in the second? If the animals were an allegory, why did he not seem that upset (or at least not murdered-Mother-levels of upset) when Orange Juice was murdered? Surely the emotions felt would have been consistent between the two versions if allegory was his purpose.
I am forced to believe that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I can accept that Pi defeated a hyena, shared a boat with an orangutang and a zebra, survived all alone for months on a boat, and found reprieve on an island for a short time. But Richard Parker and the actual details of the island are likely metaphors for Pi's inner will to survive (Parker) and his desire to find something he can call home (the Island) which was not possible, forcing him to leave. His own reality may not be 100% fact: maybe RP really DID fall off the boat as Pi suspected. It took a couple days for him to actually see him again. Was he projecting an image of his own internal Savage? I just can't see him spinning a complete tale to cope with his trauma, but can accept that details were exaggerated or imagined.
(1) 'That is the way it is with God' represents how it is easier to believe the fictional story (religion), because the reality is too harsh. (they preferred the 1st story)
(2) 'That is the way it is with God', represents the fact that if you do not have a leap of faith that something which is unfamiliar to you (as he says, involving places and situations that are unfamiliar) is possible, you will never find it. Which is something that all mystics and spiritual masters say.
There is evidence on both sides and I believe it is skillfully left open. In the film Pi says 'there is doubt on every floor' when talking about the house of faith. So he leaves enough doubt on both sides to leave it open.
Very clever and has left me thinking.
I believe the book lends itself to the animal story being real. As Pi seems firm to his story but the investigators don't believe him. He defends his story with facts of his own like the bananas floating, the animals escaping zoos and the bones in the lifeboat.
His crafting of the second story also seems oddly disjunctive within the context. Pi after all takes a few moments before telling it making me think he was making it up. The second story starts with allegories but then essentially fails to wrap them up. There are holes and the island serves no real metaphor. It's like he started and gave up to match everything up, which seems to me to be something more prone from agitation. However do remember how he ends the second story, turning to God to survive.
I feel this is important to the "it goes with God" line. The investigators here are pre-disposed to not believe his first story, when he asks which they prefer, when they say the first is a better story, they also mean to say "but we don't believe it." Pi makes the comment of so it goes with God on how people see religion but it also should be taken in with the end of the second story.
To people who agree with the author's viewpoint of his own stance, the first story is about the leap of faith and the second story is just blindly ignoring it.
However the heavy implications to defend Pi is telling the truth adds a whole new element to the story. Because this means you can see it in another light. When Pi says "and so it goes with God" he could also be referring to God as in the part of his second story, which makes it, the God story is a better "story" but not what i believe. I think a lot of people overlook the placement of that line but i think it's critical because of how he ends the second story.
In this new light the facts (while in an outlandish context) are on the side of story 1, once again the faith to believe is present, but now it's on the side of people who want facts and the religious side of things is now story 2. As many anti-theists make claims people fall back on religion, so in this case the investigators like story 2 because it falls back on their believes without taking a leap of faith to believe what is in front of your eyes.
This a long way of saying i pretty much agree with #75. The story is what you want to make out of it. Both arguments i just gave are completely defensible as they can be interpreted as that.
However in closing i do firmly believe the first story is the truth and i personally agree to the theory that you need the leap of faith to believe in the first story but i tend to see it because the facts of the floating bananas, Pi's quick change, etc lead me to it. So i essence the story doesn't make me believe in God like the author character or the person who opens up does, but i can get a message from it.
Overall i think that is what the true point of the novel, to get people thinking on where they stand. Look in and see which side you are on.
Because if you believe the second story is reality, you have a whole new onslaught of those type of situations. Do you believe the second story as science over religion in the first story, or do you believe the second story because your brain rules the common sense is the truth (which this station puts you in the same shoes as the investigators at first)
I think the author wants you to think the animal story is true as with the evidence and all the articles seem to me to indicate he sees it as the religious mirror where it can make people believe in God. I read in an article he said the island is meant to throw you off to question whether it's real so you think when the second story comes along, but in the end even the investigators convert to that story, so i feel confident in my assessment.
However i believe there is this other agent in the air that the film version decided to go with. I see a lot of schools seem to lecture teach instead of discussion and a lot of this lends to the theory that "you should believe the better story'. I don't subscribe to that theory at all, the movie's ending geared me the wrong way making me feel like they made the second story to be the one you are supposed to go with, since there is no defense and Pi is in tears telling it when in the book he's seems quite defensive telling it. They also move the so it goes with god line to now be done with the author that loses the context that investigators have
I feel because of this a lot of people are taking away that the story is telling you believe in the first story and God because they are better story, regardless of facts. I beat my head when this was taught to me in school and when i see it come from the mouths of people who have seen the film, as quite frankly i don't agree at all with it.
Best wishes to all,
Also almost defying credulity is the reference in that citation to Poe's 1838 novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, which, fully 46 years earlier, features a character, Richard Parker, who is killed by starving sailors at sea.