In Life of Pi how do Pi's religion and storytelling play a factor in his survival?

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At the end of the story, Pi is met by two Japanese officials who interview him regarding the shipwreck. After they refuse to believe the story that has been told throughout the book, he tells them a second, far more gruesome tale. The implication is that the second story is true, the first being something of a psychological defense mechanism.

Pi creates a story involving animals being violent rather than have to process the reality of humans behaving like violent animals themselves. In this story, it would be Richard Parker who would have to commit a violent act in self-defense rather than Pi himself.

Pi's commitment to not just one religion, but three, gives him hope and comfort throughout his time on the lifeboat. It allows him a beautiful means of escapism and to make sense of a situation that was senseless.

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Both Pi's dependence on religion and his affection for storytelling help him to survive because they provide an element of escapism for him. Pi goes through a terribly traumatic experience, one that should have emotionally scarred him beyond repair. However, because he is able to introduce the entire experience as a story in his mind—one that involves Richard Parker doing all of the dirty work and the animals being the ones that are inhumane—he is able to survive it. He is able to pretend that it is all just a grand story, instead of a horrifying reality. That helps him to cope emotionally and go on to live a normal life. It is a defense mechanism for his psychological health.

Pi's religion is helpful in the fact that it gives him something to cling on to during the tough times on the lifeboat and to add meaning to his life after the incident. His religions provide explanations and comfort regarding his family's death and where they might be afterwards. Pi's reliance on three different religions also set him up well for the love of stories and the use of them as a way to make sense of our world. That is exactly what he does with his lifeboat experience—create a reality that makes the experience bearable. Pi is already practiced at being faithful in those religions, so it isn't too far of a leap to be practiced at believing his own version of the events.

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