What is the essence of Pi and his story?
This becomes the central question of Martel's work. Part of this essence is for Pi to find meaning in the world. The essence of Pi's story is to constitute meaning in a world that might be devoid of it. In one regard, meaning for Pi is defined as survival. Surviving his ordeal is extremely important to the essence of Pi's being in the world. Survival becomes a part of Pi's essence.
In terms of a spiritual essence to Pi's story, the construction of what it means to be spiritual is another part of Pi's essence. For Pi, the essence of his being is a spiritual one. Seeking to pull from multiple religious experiences in order to better understand his own state of being in the world is one part of this. Even the ending's "And so it goes with God," is a reflection of this spiritual essence. Pi might not receive much in way of absolute, binding, and totalizing answers. Yet, he does understand the nature of spirituality in his own life. This is where another aspect of the essence in his story lies.
For Pi, the issue of survival and spiritual identity are part of the constant struggle that human beings must endure. This struggle is the essence of Pi. It forms the basis of his being and helps to define his own being in the world. Pi's struggle is something that exists on multiple levels. Struggling against harsh bullying and intimidation, struggling against elements that are out of his control such as his family's move and the sinking of the Tsimtsum, survival at sea, and surviving through these explanations in terms of seeking to identify what is truth all lie at the essence of Pi and his place in the world. For Pi, the essence of humanity is the essence of struggle. To understand one is to understand the other.