Yann Martel once said, “That’s what fiction is about, isn’t it, the selective transforming of reality? The twisting of it to bring out its essence?” Likewise, Pi, the protagonist of Martel’s novel The Life of Pi, creates for himself a fiction all his own — a fiction he lives out. This is particularly evident in Pi’s religious beliefs, as he twists together multiple faiths to make his subjective reality better. Moreover, such a fascination with bettering reality through faith itself becomes the essence of the novel in the sense that its central message is the positive value of religious beliefs, Like most Indians, Pi was born a Hindu.
From several passages in the Life of Pi, one may infer that his family is not especially devout 7 Pi‘s father may have religious shrines in their family—owned 200, but his son believes this is because of business; on a personal level, the man is “rich, modern and as secular as ice cream,” without “a religious bone in his body”.
Similarly, his mother is “mum, bored, and neutral on the subject”.
Pi, however, has more deeply religious sentiments early on — at the beginning of the book, he tells his biology teacher that “religion is light”. However, the book‘s true religious essence does not develop until later on, when the young protagonist discovers the possibility of identifying with multiple faiths. While vacationing with his family in Munnar, a small rural town filled with hills, fourteen-year-old Pi stumbles upon a Christian church.
This encounter provides the grounding for Pi’s exploration of religion later in the novel. Until this juncture, he has been attending a Christian school, and while he appreciates its quality education, he has stayed away from the religion thus far. In his culture, it has “a reputation for few gods and great violence”. Nevertheless, he walks in, presumably acting upon impulses of curiosity, and observes a priest praying It amazes him a he comes to realize that this man‘s “profession was to love, and he would offer comfort and guidance to the best of his ability”.
The next day, he enters the church and familiarizes himself with Father Martin, as the priest is named. The priest tells him the story of Christianity — the story of how Jesus sacrificed himself for humanity. Though it initially confuses Pi, he later comes to see that the answer to all his questions about the religion is “love” — the essence of Christianity From Pi’s standpoint, as well as that of Father Martin, Christianity is pure love. And so Pi becomes a Christian — the first step in his progression toward a fully religious life. Pi‘s religious exploration is not limited to Hinduism and Christianity, however; roughly a year after meeting Father Martin, he discovers Islam. Not far from his family‘s zoo is Mullah Street, a Muslim neighborhood whose houses are inscribed heavily with Arabic writing and crescent moons. One day Pi ventures down this street, and after entering a shop and examining some flat bread, he is surprised by the sudden appearance of a faithful Muslim baker named Mr. Kumar, Pi is shocked by certain Muslim practices — for instance, in the middle of a conversation, Mr. Kumar excuses himself. fetches a rolled-up carpet. and prays on it “right there before [Pi], in the midst of his workplace“. Pi is intrigued. After some more exploration of Islam. he “challenge[s] anyone to understand
Islam, its spirit, and not to love it,” for it is “a beautiful religion of brotherhood and devotion” and so Pi becomes a Muslim This signifies his belief in the acceptance of multiple religions —the essence of Martel‘s Life of Pi. But when Pi adopts these new religions, he does not simply abandon his previous faiths; he combines them, fuses them together, so as to transform his reality into something better. Thus, by the end of the novel, his personal reality is shaped by Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam — all at once. He chooses to adopt such a personal philosophy because it makes his life experience more valuable; he simply enjoys living religiously more. It gives him hope in life.
A particularly strong example supporting this justification for Pi‘s unique religiousness is provided when the other Mr, Kumar, Pi‘s biology teacher, visits the zoo. After Pi suggests that religion is the solution to the world‘s many problems, Mrt Kumar, an atheist, retorts that ”religion is darkness” Pi is shocked, as these three words contradict all he has ever known about the world. Although Pi respects Mr. Kumar, he does not want to hear any more from the teacher about religion, simply because of the risk that Mr. Kumar “might destroy something that [he] loved”. fReligion, indeed, is so dear to Pi that he cannot hear arguments to the contrary lest they might shatter the worldview which is so precious to him. Though he may not be in danger of a complete loss of faith, Pi is likely afraid that excessive identification with Mr. Kumar’s views. as much as he respects them, might decrease his enjoyment of religion, which largely shapes his outlook on life.
While others 7 including Father Martin the Christian, Mr. Kumar the Muslim, and Pi’s anonymous Hindu teacher — discourage him from twisting these diverse religious frameworks together with statements such as “[Pi] can’t be a Hindu, a Christian, and a Muslim” , Pi finds comfort in all these faiths and appreciates each equally. Together, they generate a worldview perfectly tailored for him. For Pi, “religion is about dignity, not our depravity” (71). Bypassers may scoff at his multiple religions, but for Pi they enable true religious satisfaction, This feeds into the central theme, or essence, of The Life of Pi: that all religions can be beautiful, and that each can have something to offer an open soul. When twisted together, much like the fiction of The Life of Pi itself, they can bring out the best in many individuals.