What is the theme of Life of Pi?

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teachsuccess | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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A few themes are central to the Life Of Pi:

1) The Quest For The Meaning Of Life.

In the story, we learn that Pi is open to all that science and religion can teach him. He studies zoology and religion in college; throughout his childhood, he studies his family religion, Hinduism, along with Christianity and Islam. This openness guides him through the chaotic and traumatic experience of being stranded on a life-boat for 227 days in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker.

2) How Stories Define Life Experiences.

Even as he experiences heartbreak, fear, extreme hunger, utter loneliness and despair, he stubbornly holds on to life. The two Japanese investigators, Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba, do not believe Pi's seemingly fantastic story of cannibalism and they do not believe that he drifted along on a lifeboat in the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal tiger for 227 days. In the end, we readers are faced with not one but two stories. Faced with traumatic and emotionally devastating moments in life, how do we explain our tenacious fight for life and our desperate desire to survive? In the aftermath, how do we come to terms with the depths of human cruelty we are capable of sinking to without stories to mitigate our sorrow? So, instead of a tiger, a hyena, a zebra and an orangutan, there is Pi, Pi's mother, the sailor and the cook. Both Pi's mother and the sailor are reportedly killed by the cook, who is then killed by Pi. The author seems to suggest that which story we believe is dependent on our ability to handle uncomfortable truths.

3) One's identity is shaped by one's experience of life.

Pi finds that his identity is completely shaped by where he finds himself. Raised a vegetarian, he has to come to terms with becoming a carnivore in order to survive. He has to share territory warily with a predator, a Bengal tiger. His identity is shaped by his experiences in navigating his own survival against all odds. He has to discard the polite masks of civilization to survive.

4) Parallels Between Nature And Human Experience.

Pi survives by adapting to his surroundings. He observes that nature is a perfect example of this when he remembers how a mouse was adopted by a family of vipers in his family's zoo in Pondicherry. Pi adapts to his situation in the Pacific ocean by respecting the territorial fierceness of Richard Parker and by respecting the necessity of having comforting rituals that sustain him in times of discouragement and despair. As animals adapt, so do humans, especially when the situation calls for it.

5) The Essence Of Life Lies In The Simple Details Of Our Existence.

Pi is open to all the little details of life which add richness to his daily existence as he struggles to survive in the Pacific Ocean. He is cognizant of the fish in the sea and how their bodies look and yet he also comes to realize how difficult it is to catch one for a meal. He is reminded that every little detail counts when one needs to survive.

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