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Compare the novel Life of Pi and the poem "The Tyger" by William Blake.I have no clue...

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stephaniemartini | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 17, 2012 at 4:40 PM via web

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Compare the novel Life of Pi and the poem "The Tyger" by William Blake.

I have no clue how to do this and would really appreciate the help.

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amarang9 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 18, 2012 at 2:59 PM (Answer #1)

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Life of Piand "The Tyger" both have narrators who question why there is violence and fear in the world. In both the novel and the poem, there is a strong religious element, so the questions are directed introspectively but also directed to the universe and/or God. Pi endures a lot of suffering and witnesses graphic violence during his time on the boat. To get through this, he consistently invokes God, and spirituality in general, in order to get some perspective about why must endure such suffering. He sometimes finds solace in the spiritual meaning he comes to accept but there are times when he becomes mired in despair, feeling that perhaps there is no meaning to the violence and suffering he goes through, that it is just one of the cruel realities of nature. Thus, he is in flux between the meaninglessness of suffering in the world and some possible spiritual justification for that suffering, a flux between good and evil. 

Consider in Chapter 92, when Pi finds salvation in an island of trees, only to find that the island is a carnivorous trap. "I preferred to set off and perish in search of my own kind than to live a lonely half-life of physical comfort and spiritual death on this murderous island." Initially, the island was salvation but it becomes symbolic of physical and spiritual death. Despite this setback, Pi still doesn't give up on living and he also doesn't give up on spirituality. He leaves this place of spiritual death which means he still believes in spiritual life. However, Pi's experience with all this violence and suffering conflicts with notions of love, spirituality and God. In other words, how could such cruelty exist in a world created, or at least, loved, by a loving God? 

In "The Tyger," we have a similar situation. The speaker is asking God or himself the same kinds of questions. "What immortal hand or eye/Could frame they fearful symmetry?" (3-4). What kind of omniscient God could make something so terrifying? The speaker also asks, "Did he smile his work to see?/Did he who made the Lamb make thee?" (19-20). Is the God who made the innocent Lamb the same God who made the violent tyger? "The Tyger" appears in Blake's volume Songs of Innocence and Experience. Going back to Pi, this title is indicative of his journey from innocent child to responsible, questioning adult. Pi begins the novel as the innocent speaker does in "The Tyger" and in "The Lamb," another poem in Blake's volume. Each speaker/narrator questions 'who made you,' 'you' meaning 'violence' or 'evil,' but the speakers are really asking 'why.' 

The speaker in "The Tyger" and Pi are both seeking spiritual answers on why there must be suffering and violence in the world. If you trace the development in Songs of Innocence and Experience, it is similar to Pi's understanding that while evil and violence seem spiritually unjustifiable, one must learn about evil (experience) in order to overcome it. Blake is known for paradoxical themes like good an evil. 

 

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