In Martel's Life of Pi, what rituals and practices does Pi perform while lost at sea? Why do you think he creates such rituals or practices?  

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tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Martel's Life of Pi, Pi discovers that he must keep himself busy each day in order to keep himself from going insane. A daily schedule of events allows him to find some sort of structure in his life at sea. His daily schedule is found in chapter 63 and contains everything from looking after the boat and Richard Parker to saying his prayers. He believes that this schedule helps him to survive as follows:

"I kept myself busy. That was one key to my survival. On a lifeboat, even on a raft, there's always something that needs doing. An average day for me, if such a notion can be applied to a castaway, went like this:  wake up, prayers, breakfast for Richard Parker, general inspection of the raft and lifeboat . . ." (190).

Pi catalogs the whole day from morning to night and breaks it down into five different sections. Within these five sectioned-off parts of his daily life, Pi not only checks the boat and the tiger, but he also prays just like a Muslim would. For five or six weeks, Pi says that this schedule helps him; however, he eventually forgets the schedule because it forces him to focus on time too much. As a result, he abandons looking after the boat using a schedule because of the following reasons:

"Time is an illusion that only makes us pant. I survived because I forgot even the notion of time" (192).

Pi never stops praying, though. In chapter 74 he practices his rituals and prayers even though he becomes discouraged at times. He says that God is love, and it is hard to have faith in God and love when he lives under such hopeless conditions. For instance, his clothes disintegrate right off of his body, which causes him to fall into despair. He describes this despair as "hell beyond expression." His response, however, is to pray and to think about his family. He says the following about the times he feels such despair:

"I thank God it always passed . . . I thought of my family, of how they were spared this terrible agony. The blackness would stir and eventually go away, and God would remain, a shining point of light in my heart. I would go on loving" (209). 

Thinking of his family and God always helps to bring Pi back from hopelessness to his desire to survive. Without focusing his mind on family, God, or love, Pi may have given up all hope for survival and died.