Who does the blind Frenchman represent in Pi's life and was his presence real or illusory?

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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.

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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.

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