In Martel's Life of Pi, what rituals does Pi create while lost at sea and why?

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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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Pi has a harrowing and life-changing experience—being lost at sea when his family’s boat capsizes. He is now an orphan who is grieving the loss of his family. As an Indian boy, Pi does believe in a God and has faith. Hinduism is his native religion, but he also studies...

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and believes in Christianity and Islam.

Life is a journey, and Pi’s experience being shipwrecked and stranded on a lifeboat for 227 days with a 450-pound Bengal tiger certainly qualifies as such. Pi believes in a God, but his beliefs are put to a rigorous test when he is shipwrecked. When the tiger, Richard Parker, saves Pi’s life by eating the hyena that is on board, Pi is relieved. Yet, the tiger is still a threat to Pi, so he teaches the tiger to obey commands and listen to him, through a whistle and shields made of turtle shells.

Facing starvation, thirst, crashing waves, and numerous storms, Pi’s own purpose in life and beliefs are put to the test as he struggles to survive. He keeps busy and can’t think about time. He wants to have order around him so he can feel in control. He also faces his emotions—loneliness, doubt, and hopelessness. He faces much adversity as the storms of life keep thrashing all about him.

He eats and catches fish and turtles for himself and the tiger to eat. The tiger survives because of Pi, and Pi survives because of the tiger. Pi also has hope and prays for relief from heat, starvation, and near-death. His will to live is stronger than his fear of death.

He faces his obstacles by living one moment, one hour, and one day at a time. Pi cleans and checks his lifeboat. He prays, writes, and rests. Pi does these rituals and practices to keep him busy and hopeful. He observes sea life and catches fish with lures. If he were to really think about the gravity of his situation, it might be too overwhelming to bear. So, he prays and prays more for survival and rescue, and he keeps fighting.

Moses Ma states in Psychology Today that many people “could see the entire story as an abandonment by God . . . but at the same time, it becomes evident that God was actually present at every moment.” Pi forgets about the concept of time and focuses on each moment in order to survive.

Life of Pi is a story of survival, loss, and love. When Pi finds land in Mexico, he parts with Richard Parker, and it is sad for him, as they depended on one another for survival. When Pi is rescued, his story is literally unbelievable to the authorities.

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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. 

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