In Life of Pi, the title character repeatedly calls the usefulness of "reason" into question. How does Pi criticize "reason" throughout the novel?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Well done for noticing this. It seems that the whole novel presents the power of reason alone as being unsuitable and incapable of processing and dealing with the vicissitudes of life as experienced by Pi. One classic example of this comes in Chapter 37, when the ship sinks, and Pi struggles to make sense of what he sees around him:

Every single thing I value in life has been destroyed. And I am allowed no explanation? I am to suffer hell without any account from heaven? In that case, what is the purpose of reason, Richard Parker? Is it no more than to shine at practicalities--the getting of food, clothing and shelter? Why can't reason give greater answers? Why can we throw a question further than we can pull in an answer? Why such a vast net if there's so little fish to catch?

The entire novel seems to point towards the limitations of reason, as Pi adopts three different and supposedly mutually exclusive religions, and then finds that being stranded on a boat in the middle of the ocean is about so much more than mere survival, as his various encounters show. Perhaps the attack on reason is most eloquently captured in the two different stories of Pi and what happened to him, that he shares with the two Japanese characters. Reason alone seems to be lacking in our need to tell stories to make sense of our universe and our role in it. Reason alone, as the quote suggests, is unable to give "greater answers" and thus the imagination must fill in what is left blank by the forces of reason.