Who or what does the blind Frenchman represent and was it an illusion or reality that he entered Pi's life? Why were both men blind and what's the significance of Pi regaining his sight after the...

Who or what does the blind Frenchman represent and was it an illusion or reality that he entered Pi's life?

Why were both men blind and what's the significance of Pi regaining his sight after the man dies?

Expert Answers
bmadnick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I want to respond to lisaburg's questions regarding the symbolism of the blind Frenchman. One of the wonderful things about literature is its personal relationship with the reader, the fact that a story can have different meanings for different people. That's the beauty of reading.

I want you to also consider that Pi studies different religions, not just Christianity. To him, faith is the important element in all religions. It's important to believe in something, no matter what that religion may call its higher power. This is why he can appreciate an atheist's belief that there is no God. An atheist has made a decision regarding faith. It is the agnostic's view that Pi believes is unacceptable because the agnostic is a person who can't decide whether God exists. To Pi, this shows no imagination.

Pi's decision to become a practicing Christian and Muslim at an early age shocks his parents and the leaders of Hinduism in his community. Pi sees the three religions as evidence of a greater, universal belief that encompasses all of the beliefs of the three religions. He says, "...Hindus, in their capacity for love, are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion to God, are hat-wearing Muslims."

What I'm trying to say is for you to take into consideration that Pi's story is not just a Christian story. It's a story of holding on to faith in the face of terrible adversity.

bmadnick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Pi, Richard Parker, and the man on the lifeboat are blind because of poor nutrition. The scene is a metaphor for Pi's whole voyage. Their blindness represents how all of them are lost on the ocean without knowing where they're going.

At first, Pi thinks Richard Parker is talking to him, showing how near death he is. Pi and the stranger tell each other stories as a trick to get close enough to be able to kill the other one. After the stranger is killed, Pi thinks, "Something in me died then that has never come back to life." He's so happy at first to find another human being, only to discover the stranger wants to kill him for food. Literally, if Pi's blindness is caused by poor nutrition, crying and meat (human flesh) should make him see again, and it does. Symbolically, Pi gains his eyesight only after he cries for his loss.

"I will confess that I caught one of his arms with the gaff and used his flesh as bait. I will further confess that driven by the extremity of my need and the madness to which it pushed me, I ate some of his flesh."  Pi is now able to eat human flesh and justify it. This shows how much he's had to compromise his beliefs because earlier, he felt guilty for killing a fish. This event destroys something in Pi that he'll never get back.

mezzaine | Student

Well, from what I figure is that the "blind frenchman" is actually Pi's brother Ravi. I noticed Pi says Brother in nearly every second sentence, and though could be seen figurtavly, could be seen as a unconcious parralell to his eating of Ravi. As for Pi being blind. . . scientificly it is a sound assumption to say one would go blind due to lack of nutrients, but Pi and F.M (french man) seem far too agile and percise to be blind, in my opinion.
"He threw me a rope" "I opened my arms to embrace him and to be embraced by him" "he landed upon me" "his hands reached around my throat"
These are a few examples at how cordinated they seem with their actions, which makes me wonder if being blind was just a metaphor for being naive to each others intentions, or Pi's blindness to his humanity, letting his own survival insticts and urges (represented by the attack of Richard Parker) because, on a boat with little to no food, having another person on board, who suppositly has no food himself, takes away from Pi's own rations, and Richard Parker will not allow him or Pi to starve on the account of company

kassdepp | Student

well...the cook was french...and killed a man (the sailor) and a woman (Pi's Mom)...and that is what the Blind Frenchman said he did..so i thought it was him rembering bck on how he murdered the cook...

diamondgirl | Student

My translation of the story is that Pi and Richard Parker are the same character, and it took both parts for Pi to stay alive throughout his ordeal.  Pi, a deeply spiritual and God-desiring young man, must "split" in order to be both, and is representative of the two parts of every human being: the carnal animal and the spiritual child of God.  He states time had no meaning to him throughout his journey; I believe that the bulk of the story took place in the first few weeks, ending with the death of the cook/hyena; and that the chapter which begins after leaving the symbolic island is also early in the non-specified timeline.  His blindness at the time of killing the cook?  To me, it is simply Pi refusing to see the horror that is coming his way, and the horror that he must work if he is to survive.  Salt water and tears: they are the same.  He cries, and he can see again.  Any undiagnosed myopic will tell you that we see most clearly through our tears.

ponygirl119 | Student

Wow, this is a great question getting a lot of discussion. First of it seems that the cannibalistic frenchman, was assesing how easy it would be to climb onto Pi's boat and kill him, and when Pi humbly, and in the kind christian way invites him onto his boat, the french man easily "threw me a rope", that sounds very unblind and nimbly walks directly up to Pi, and into his open arms , and Pi sayes "come, my brother, let us be toghter and feast on each others company" the frenchman takes it all toghter to seriously! So when Pi sayes "my heart is with you brother" the frenchman happily replies; "Your damn right your heart is with me, and your liver and your flesh", as he stealthy and acuratly reaches for Pi's throat, only to become a snack for dear ol' Richard Parker!

So I think the frenchman is a opertunistic castawy or fisherman, who is not blind and is a true cannibal! And on the blindness, It seems like an overexposer to the sun, along with a nutrional infection. And the book sayes "crying as I had done did my eyes some good" but the real trick was when "I rinsed my eyes with sea water. With every rinsing, the window opened further. My vision came back within 2 days"  So it seems as though the older frenchman took advantage of the young Pi, who was trying in a christian, naive way to help another stranded ses- farer. So, the crying and small taste of human flesh did not bring back Pi's eyesight  

lisaburg | Student

I read the two responses and was disappointed. Given that the entire book is a lesson in faith in God, wouldn't the blind Frenchman represent more than a simple uman trying to survive? I think we've misinterpreted it and it could possibly represent Christ, who gave himself as a sacrifice and then our "eyes were opened" so to speak. Am I crazy about that??? The Frenchman's reference to eating anything could be testament to Jesus' declaration that the laws of Judaism (e.g. some meats were forbidden) were no longer applicable because he came to dispel all those laws and rules and it was all about grace and forgiveness.