Themes are overarching ideas and beliefs that the writers express in their texts, including poetry, fiction, and plays. Themes make the story appealing and persuasive and help readers to understand the hidden messages in a story or poem. The themes in Life of Pi by Yann Martel are both controversial and mystical. Some of the major themes of Life of Pi have been discussed below.
Themes in Life of Pi
Religion or religious harmony is one of the major themes of the Life of Pi. Pi talks about multiple religions and disproves the idea of one religion’s superiority over the other. For example, while discussing religion with his parents he asks them for a prayer rug and wishes to be baptized at the same time. He doesn’t want to choose one religion to connect with God and looking down upon the followers of other religions. When he gets to know that his teacher, Mr. Kumar, is an atheist he listens to his point of view and considers it’s just another branch of faith. He views God as an epitome of love, having love and respect for all of his creatures.
Importance of Journey
Pi narrates his life-changing journey and all the experiences with the readers. During his journey, he learns many lessons such as the importance of companionship, faith in God and power of nature. He views the ups and downs of tidal waves, horrifying thunderstorms, hunger pangs, familial losses and attacks of the predators. Besides learning how to recover from grief and sorrow, he also puts unshakable faith in God’s plan for a man. He goes through a near-death experience and even drinks salty water for his survival. During these trials and tribulations, he learns the art of storytelling through this journey and defies the old logic about science and atheism.
Faith in God
Faith in God runs parallel to other themes. Throughout the novel, Pi talks about God as his sole savior and someone Who grants him salvation from worldly problems and miseries. When he loses his family amidst the sea storm, he keeps his faith alive. He thinks that “At moments of wonder, it is easy to avoid small thoughts, to entertain thoughts that span the universe, that capture both thunder and tinkle, thick and thin, the near and the far.” In his view, faith is the key to everything that occurs in the world. Therefore, a person should trust in God in every situation.
Wildlife and Nature
The novel shows the wildlife’s best and worst sides. There are various animals as ferocious lions and hyenas, including meek guinea pigs. The characters also experience natural calamity when the sea at its worst. Pi learns that life matters for both humans and animals. The writer tries to convey those wild beasts are not always ferocious. Richard Parker is as much afraid of Pi as Pi is afraid of Richard Parker. The animals add peace and beauty to this world and demand the same level of love and understanding from humans. That is why Richard Parker becomes calm when he sees no harm coming to him from Pi.
Pi’s father teaches the value of survival instinct for a man as well as for animals. When Richard Parker, the tiger, becomes a predator, he has to kill other animals as his prey for the sole purpose of survival. Pi has to share the journey with Richard Parker for survival and not for dying without a companion. It is also the survival instinct of Pi that forces him to drink salty water. He has to catch sharks to break his habit of being a vegetarian in order to satisfy his and Parker’s hunger. During his near-death experience, he comes to know how survival is instinctual and competes with other animals.
The diversity of culture is another significant theme of the story. The reader gets to know the Indian as well as Canadian cultural values. Pi’s full name, Piscine Molitor Patel, inspired by two different cultures. However, his last name comes from his Indian family name Patel. The mention of vast and spacious zoos in India and then the portrayal of the first world in Canada both draws upon the theme of cultural diversity present in the novel.
Storytelling is another significant theme occurring in the novel because it is through this art that Pi narrates the account of his life. He recollects his life he spent on land as well as in the ocean. He also explains the different cultural experiences he has had in India as well as in Canada. He draws attention toward the sentiments of religion, faith and regard for all species through this art of storytelling.
Subjective Experiences against Logic
Subjective experience without logic runs parallel to the major themes. When Mr. Kumar, Pi’s teacher, expresses his atheist beliefs, he bases them on scientific and logical reasoning. He says that there is no evidence of God and that everything that happens in the world is due to scientific principles. He also views religion as superstition because when he suffers from polio, he argues, he cried for help to God, but his ailment is still the same. Similarly, when Pi is rescued on the Mexican shores, the officials fail to believe his survival story because they believe only in logic.
The importance of the virtue of tolerance can be seen in various places. Firstly, when Pi’s biology teacher Mr. Kumar, supports atheist beliefs Pi accepts it as another faith. Secondly, he patiently suffers the hardships of the voyage, thinks about his family and spends time in hope of reunion with his family. During this time, he stays with the animals, trains Richard Parker, the tiger, with a whistle and politely tells his story to the officials. Lastly, throughout his religious training, he remains steadfast and trusts the process of living, staying tolerant.
Philosophy of Life
The novel also revolves around the theme of the philosophy of life since Pi experiences life through faith, miseries, and happiness. He learns that to live a life a person should be patient and faithful. He gets to know about life and its meaning through an adventurous voyage, keeping the curiosity alive and trusting in God.