Life of Pi Life of Pi discussion


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Which version did you beleive?

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message 1: by Floramanda (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:33PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Floramanda This has been a popular Book Club book, but my club hasn't read it yet. I'm curious what other readers have thought about the two alternate versions of Pi's life on the boat. Which version did you think was true? If you believe the one with the people instead of the animals, why would Pi tell the story another way? Did this book make you believe in God?


message 2: by Nif (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:36PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Nif it's funny - i believe the second story actually happened, but that he colored it with the fantastic story of the animals to preserve his faith in people... himself... and faith. the second story is so painfully, woefully disappointing that it makes being trapped on a boat with a wild animal and your life at stake every moment of every day more palatable than what he actually had to face. i think that's why the folks from the shipping company chose to "beleive" the animal story too - - because it allows us to reconcile his horrific loss with something other than a human cause...


message 3: by Delphine (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:36PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Delphine Nif that was very nicely put i doubt anyone could have said it better. this discussion probably wont go very far youve nailed it. :)


message 4: by Diana (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:37PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Diana Agreed--Also, it's been a while since I read Kafka's Metamorphosis, and in that one as in the Life of Pi, I had trouble separating the metaphorical, animal-based story from what was happening in "reality." I also prefer the animal story if, ironically enough, it helps you preserve your "sanity."

Also, I already believed in God when I started reading this book, and I didn't really see it as a convincing argument to believe in God. I thought, from the beginning scenes in Pondicherry, that they might have included more religious or philosophical mental debate while Pi was on the boat, but it didnt' happen and it was kind of disappointing. The ending made sense as a way--it definitely offered a reason to believe in God, rather than a convincing argument. The "dry, yeastless" world we live in can be soul-killing, so you might as well believe in something else to get through it.


message 5: by Egalbraith86 (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:38PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Egalbraith86 Nif- I agree with all your comments, thus I believe both stories really happened... one in his head and one in reality. I think it is amazing that a child could cope with the horrific reality in such a terrific way. It's also amazing that a child could go outside himself, in order to survive; that really does take a tiger!

I also want to say that I absolutely loved this book and could not put it down once he got on the raft. I thought it was extremely well written and truly touched me. I'm not sure that everyone leaves as touched as I did (my aunt and mom did not), but for whatever reason I think this book was amazing and beautiful! I'm not sure if the book made me believe anymore in God than I already did, but it definitely made me believe in the power of the human mind ten fold!


message 6: by Rob (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:38PM) (new) - rated it 3 stars

Rob I'd have to go with Nif.


message 7: by Anita (last edited Aug 25, 2016 12:57PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anita i'd go tooo with Nif, yet somehow the story reminds me of one of those sartre's, can't tell which one. not the whole idea, just you know...the philosophy.


message 8: by Christina (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:39PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Christina It reminded me of an episode of Mash - towards the end, the main character Hawkeye goes crazy and nobody know why. He keeps telling a story of how they were all hiding in a bus and a woman had a hen on her lap and it kept making noises and in the end she kills it. It's a least a two part episode - and not untill the end does he remember - and we find out! - that the woman did not have a hen, but a baby on her lap. He replaced the child with a bird to cope better. I think it's the same here so one more vote for the second story.
I loved the book too - amazing, amazing, amazing. Did not feel any argument to believe in God because of it, rather in human survival instinct. But loved it!


message 9: by LINDA (last edited Aug 25, 2016 01:40PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

LINDA I believe that the story with the people is the actual story.

It initially struck me as a way to explain some of the styles of writing within the Bible. I struggle with the Bible, because there so many stories within that appear to be fictitious to me.

If the story about the people illustrates what actually happened, then the story about the animals is a way to illustrate the same story with the people, in a more creative exciting way.

I feel that perhaps this same device may have been used in generating some of the stories of the Bible to make them more interesting and readable, though not necessarily untrue.

Just think, if the entire book of 'The Life of Pi' had been written as people, and not animals, it would not have been nearly as satisfying.

This book did not make me believe in God, but it at least got me to be a little less skeptical about the stories within the Bible.


Katie My friend and I were debating, and perhaps I need to go back and re-read, but I felt that of all the characters, Pi was Richard Parker. Is this how everyone else felt?


message 11: by Kate (new) - rated it 4 stars

Kate your question...'why did Pi tell the story the other way?'...don't you think that the story would have been far too atrocious if we had read this account with human characters as opposed to the animals. it was SO savage. also, how amazing was it when you got near the end of the book and realized that it was people you had been reading about? FYI there is an illustrated version coming out in 08, the author was on NPR discussing.


Katie Illustrated version is already out - I was looking at in a bookstore this weekend. Is beautiful - I'd like to own it. $30 US I believe.


Kahla Yes, Pi was the tiger, and the tiger did not really exist.


Cynthia This question is exactly why this book has stayed with me. I believe it is about the power of and need for storytelling itself. Literature has always been part of religions. Either story, both, true.


Alyssa I agree with the comments that Nif made that the story with the animals was a way to preserve Pi's faith in people after the horrible event he had been through.

I was utterly shocked at the end when Pi told the story with people instead of the animals. I was completely horrified at that story and think it was for his own sanity that he changed the story to have animals. Part of me still wants to believe that it really did all occur with the animals though.

I much preferred the 'animal story' though that emphasized resourcefulness and bravery rather than the 'human story' that depicted absolute savagery.


Megan The two stories cannot exist without eachother. They are the same story. Does anyone have any thoughts regarding the flesh-eating algae forest, the meerkats and the teeth?


Emily Rule So, if ya'll have determined that the second version is the real one, than why did Pi not give an animal to the frenchman? Why was he left human? Also, why did he go into so much depth about the training of Richard Parker? How can his actions with Richard Parker (the whistle, the feces, even the building of the raft) compare with his own journey? Did he have to train himself? And, if not, than why go into so much depth about it? If it weren't for these two points I would totally believe the second story, but these questions leave enough doubt in my mind that I simply can't.


Megan It's a parable. It is truer in a spiritual sense than the black-and-white facts of the events. Like all parables, it was embellished, not fabricated, and bits that are invisible to the objective reader of the facts are added metaphorically.


Anoush First of all: this is a fictional story. That ought to be taken into consideration...

While I was reading it I felt that the author was somewhat detached from Pi himself. And that I didn't like. But as I read on, I really started thinking about my own perspective on life, how do I live it, what would I do in his situation, would I just lay there and die, give in; or do all the things he did to survive? Hmmm....

When at the end he asks the Japanese men: "which story do you prefer?" I believe he's asking the reader: "How do YOU perceive life? Are you a pessimist, a romantic, an optimist? Would you rather be with humans, who very often act so inhumane, animalistic; or with a tiger, who is 'Less' intelligent, yet doesn't over think everything to a point of losing his purpose on Earth, his function?"

I'm being haunted by this book and that's already good.

P.S. So... Which one are you? Which story do you chose? I trust that they are both true depending on YOU, the human, the reader.
I sadly have to say that for me it's the second one, although I'm trying to believe (with all my might) that it's the first one. Because it's more romantic and well... "better"...



Niral I've read this book thrice and only now understand the meaning.

It really depends.

Those who have a specific faith, religious or atheistic (as Pi notes that he finds it to be its own faith), are likely to believe in the exaggerated, illogical, irrational story, the one with animals. An agnostic likely takes a more humane, logical story, the one with humans which is told dully in one chapter.

The entire book is designed in a way to give faith of some kind to the reader. The version with animals is incredible, not believable, but we like it better. Why? I dunno. It's more exciting. It was difficult to believe that the second story was the "real" events, as I believe most of you were initially.

The first story is likened to some kind of faith. True or not, doesn't matter. It colors life. Bible, Qoran, Vedas, atheism, whatever. The point is to have a faith, whatever risk. Pi uses the term "leap of faith,"- exciting, dramatic, dangerous, almost fun.

The agnostic is quite frankly at the core, scared to choose. They try to reason, but don't take sides. At the cliff, they never perform the leap of faith. They sit and miss the fun, simply because they demand evidence in something inherently shrouded in mystery and irrationallity, illogicality. Just like the number pi. It is the businessmen at the end of the book. demanding some rational explanation rather than having an imagination. Comparable to denying the existence of the quotient of 22/7 because you do not know the end of the number (see what I'm getting at?).

All in all, I would believe the first one, simply because, while not true, it is that leap of faith. In the same way, I was born and raised religiously, not to any real extent, but I keep my religion because I grew up that way. It doesn't play a huge part of my life, but after reading this book, the faith is... not stronger, but sturdier, simply because it's more enjoyable this way.

Nif's point, I agree with it. But the idea goes further than that, to an obvious connection with faith.

It really isn't a question of romanticness, or optimism, just faith, which is close but not really the same thing.

Maegan, if you read chapter 22 and then 7 (the most important chapters in the book, and 22/7... not creepy, but genius) then Pi explains his affinity for the atheistic "faith." I am not an atheist, but it is in its own right a way to believe. You go as far as reason takes you, then you jump. Thus, Piscine says that having faith of some form is key, rather than agnosticism, where one demands proof of something that inherently is without proof, "and miss the better story." Pi cannot prove to anyone his tale of survival, but one can simply believe the realistic facts, or be creative.


message 21: by Amir (new)

Amir Shahbedin hey guys im having trouble answering this question about this book and i thought someone from here could help me

"Imagine that the author of your text has been invited to talk to a class group about their text. An interested student stands up and asks, “What message did you hope the reader would receive from your work? How did you hope to achieve this?” Talk about the response."
your help would be appreciated


message 22: by Amir (new)

Amir Shahbedin 1. In the text that you shared are many characters. Show how the relationship develops between at least two characters from the text, using examples that show you have understood their emotions, behaviour or physiological condition.


message 23: by Ben (last edited Jun 02, 2011 10:43AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ben Which version did you beleive?

I see the whole point is that it doesn't matter which one is "objectively true." The book is a rejection of realism. Much like those of us who try to grasp metaphysical questions (i.e. does God exist?), Pi's Japanese audience at the end of the book have no way of knowing which story is true. They have to accept it on faith either way. This is hinted at earlier in the book when Pi states that atheists "miss the better story" (i.e by not believing in God). You can believe the story with the people, and it is true that it reflects the "objective reality" of humankind's grim history. Or, you can take a leap of faith to believe something magical that doesn't leave you feeling empty and disgusted with humanity.


message 24: by Amir (new)

Amir Shahbedin what do you reckon the message of the book is


Bella Street Wow, you guys are deep! I read it once and didn't really understand it, but I LOVED it so much, I read it again. Still struggled with the meanings. I finally asked someone and found out Pi was Richard Parker, which I suspected, but wasn't sure. What really threw me was the island.

Finally someone said it was a construct. Pi assumed he was peace-loving and kind, but when the tiger slaughters the meercats with malicious pleasure, he can't deal with that side of himself, so he imagines a tiger doing it. I love the way Richard Parker always dogs Pi, like we struggle to shake off the darkness that invades our hearts and minds.

I didn't really think the author was trying to take sides on a religion. I think that showed that Pi also assumed he was open-minded, when really his instinct was to survive like everyone else. GOSH, I LOVED THIS BOOK!

I have the author's next one in my TBR list...


message 26: by [deleted user] (new)

I didn't think either version was true.


Bella Street It would be hard to say which version was true--because most of it was Pi's coping mechanism--how he felt about himself, God, and what was happening around him.


Carol I think there is no doubt that both stories are the same. That's why he asks the japanese man which one did he "prefer", not "believe". They are just two ways of seeing life. The realistic/pessimistic one, or the faithful one, filled with hopes and fantasy.


Samantha My logical mind says the non-animal version, but I choose to believe the Richard Parker version. I have corresponded with Yann Martel told him this. He said he was glad that I chose that version. Does anyone have a theory about meerkat island?


message 30: by Liz (new) - rated it 4 stars

Liz This discussion is great but I'm still not sure which one was true. I really want the first one to be true but if it was, why would Pi have invented the second one? Why would he have made up such a horrific story about the canibal chef and especially when it involved his mother? Very intriguing...

It was an amazing book but I must confess that I didn't find his having all the different religions convincing. The Bible says that there is only one God and yet he believed in all the Hindu Gods aswell.

I'm not sure what to think about meerkat island...
:)


Samantha HAS ANYONE READ PRESIDENT OBAMA'S ESSAY (HE INTERPRETS THE WHOLE THING AS HE SEES IT) ON THIS BOOK ??? I can't find it and it's driving me NUTS! I'd love to hear what he thinks about meerkat island for your comment

Thanks for your comment, Liz. I believe the author left the two versions for us to decide. The horrible story is most likely what happened in my opinion - it just makes more sense. The animal story was most likely imagined in order for him to cope with the tragedy and his long ordeal.

I personally loved all his religions - I'm agnostic, as believing in one religion discounts all others and says they are wrong (as far as I know, maybe some religions don't do that). He had all his bases covered - hah! Wonder if he took to Judaism, Buddhism and Jehovah Witness when he arrived in Canada - haha.

I read one essay online that interpreted meerkat island as eden. I, however, do not buy that. Perhaps he was dying and becoming comfortable with his death and discovered that it was dangerous, hence the teeth and snapped out of it to save his life...?

There are so many layers to this book - probably, someone familiar with religions would find more metaphors etc.


Jacqueline This discussion helped me to sort out what I thought happened in this book. The second, probably true, version threw me for a loop. I couldn't believe it. Maybe I'm too gullible and believed that a tiger and a boy could coexist. I agree with what the majority of the people wrote about how he used the animals to maintain his faith in human nature.

It was just heartbreaking. This story was amazing and I'm so glad I was given this book.


Irene I wonder how the movie will either portray the characters. the book did come with depictions. Loved this book.


message 34: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike Cavosie The story with animals is the better story.


message 35: by Jacque (last edited Aug 12, 2011 02:16PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jacque My take is similar to Nif's. The story with the people is what actually happened, but Pi's story is what mind his gave him to preserve his psyche. And I think Carol nailed it when she posted

"I think there is no doubt that both stories are the same. That's why he asks the japanese man which one did he "prefer", not "believe". They are just two ways of seeing life. The realistic/pessimistic one, or the faithful one, filled with hopes and fantasy."

My take on the island is that it was a way for Pi's mind to reconcile what he had to do to survive. The island had to become deadly part of the time in order to sustain itself, just as Pi did. Pi was the tiger, but he was also the meerkats. And when Pi was safe, the tiger ran off because Pi didn't need to be him anymore.


message 36: by Ana (new) - rated it 5 stars

Ana I believed the second version. Pi needed the story of the animals. He had an incredible will to live in the face of the unthinkable. The animals kept Pi's mind, body and spirit from shattering.


message 37: by James (JD) (new) - added it

James (JD) Dittes I have taught the book several times in 9th-grade English classes. One of the things I appreciate is how much one's own faith is affirmed by the book, whether you believe in Christ, Krishna, Muhammad, or Nohbdy.

I always ask students "Which story is true?" The kids who were already believers always raise their hands. Of curse it's true, we can get behind a story like that. The kids without faith tend to be relieved by the last five chapters, because they knew something was fishy all along.

All belief--or lack thereof--is based on story/myth. I thought that was the point of the book. We can adopt the myths we hear or make up new ones to suit our needs at the moment.


message 38: by Chantal (new) - added it

Chantal Barlow I think the first story is true. I'm kind of confused by the ending though.


Jason Believing that parables are true events is fundamentalism, which I don't believe is the intent of the author. Instead, I think that Martel is leading us to "believe" in parables because of the universal truths that they present - but not to believe in the facts that they present. The Life of Pi is a parable because it is a more interesting story when told that way, as opposed to a factual account.


message 40: by Chantal (new) - added it

Chantal Barlow This is a really good way to think about it, Jason....It helps me undestand it better! Thanks! :-)


message 41: by Laurie (new) - added it

Laurie Love my kids and i agree that the animal story is the true one. when we really analyzed it, it was the more logical of the two. the easiest argument is how the second story discounts the small animal bones in the boat. the banana discussion also leads us to believe that the two interviewers won't believe truth and that pi gives the second story just to be done with them and their stupidity. we find no credibility in the second story.


message 42: by Laurie (new) - added it

Laurie Love Emily wrote: "So, if ya'll have determined that the second version is the real one, than why did Pi not give an animal to the frenchman? Why was he left human? Also, why did he go into so much depth about the tr..."

i so agree.


message 43: by Laurie (new) - added it

Laurie Love Amir wrote: "hey guys im having trouble answering this question about this book and i thought someone from here could help me

"Imagine that the author of your text has been invited to talk to a class group abo..."


if i had written the story i would have most wanted to convey what hopelessness looks like and the practiacalities that can see us through. thru pi's narration we can see not only his hopelessness but how he workds thru the practical aspects of how to both survive and overcome. in the end i would hope that people would understand that experience changes us. and as a side note i thru in the ending because there will always be people who cannot believe truth; it's best to take your cookies back from them and move on.


message 44: by Chris (last edited Mar 19, 2012 01:04PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Chris As human beings, at the bottom of our hearts, we all want to believe that the story of Pi with all the fantastical occurrences and animals is the real one because WE ALL prefare the story with a happy ending rather than the contrary.

Just like when it comes to believe in any kind of religion.
All religious doctrines ultimately boil down to our salvation, be it in an eternal life or reincarnation etc... That is, the happy ending factor in real life which confirms our existence from not being actually futile and pointless.

But then again it does not have to mean that the story with the happy ending is actually the one with the ultimate truth.


Jcavalier Despite claims quoted from reviewers, my beliefs were not changed by this story, albeit I enjoyed it immensely. I agree with some (Goodreads) comments that affirmation of readers' existing beliefs might be the story's magic -- myself included! "We find what we seek."

As a 'devout Agnostic', I recoiled early in the text from the interviewer's premise that agnosticism equates to "dry, yeastless factuality" and "to choose doubt as a philosphy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation". On the contrary, what might be construed as "doubt" I view as philosophical flexibiity and open-mindedness. To engage the author's analogies, why travel a road "limited" by others' white and yellow lines or pavement (e.g., established religious doctrine) if a point beyond the horizon is the ultimate spiritual goal. And there probably is a place for unleavened bread on all tables. Not to mention facts...

The story is a spiritual coming-of-age tale. Was Pi's religious explorations teenage revolt of his father's agnosticism? Probably so... which leads me to believe the "better story with animals" could be his method of philosophical reconciliation with his father's beliefs. At first I thought the author intended the "first story" to represent known religious doctrines, but I've since changed my mind.

I'm comfortable that Richard Parker represented Pi (e.g., both had name issues; both departed without goodbye -- Pi from his father). The Frenchman? Maybe he represented the father as both stepped onto a marine vessel unaware that they would met death there. Pondicherry had been French; Pi's father was relocating his family to a French environment. And so, maybe his father's Agnosticism -- and by extension the Frenchman -- represented a dynamic that did not change for Pi, albeit both were "swallowed" by greater forces.

Any thoughts on what the various vessels represent?

The island was a moving 'vessel' as well representing Pi's spiritual challenge. Light (day) versus dark (night); life-giving abundance during daylight versus nighttime hellish acidity. Staying with the 'known' (organized religion) versus continued venture into the uncertain (ocean = Agnosticism?). Interesting that fish (Christianity icon) were one of two compelling food (for the soul?) devices (trapped in pools first alive then dead) along with Pi's observation that the island algae/foilage was the color of Islam (also both saving and killing).

Pi stated that his family's zoo had no meerkats, but he described at length the island's numbers, harmlessness and the "ceaseless noise" they made. Could the meerkats represent the multitudes of organized religions (and the three holy men who, as Pi described the meerkats, were adamently vocal and moved in "unity of their gestures" when all three encountered Pi with his family)?

Pi decided to leave the island's "ceaseless noise" and continue into the "unknown", ultimately finding a place in his father's French environment. Enroute there, Richard Parker departed, as well with no goodbye just as Pi had lost his father... and boyhood.


Pallak I believe the first version is what actually happened with Pi... His love for Richard was evident !


Lynne (Tigger's Mum) I preferred the first story, the second was just a throwaway story for the unbelieving business men, who had to have some sort of explanation to take back with them.


Ducklings I choose to believe the first one, because it's significantly less miserable :)


Pallak Ducklings wrote: "I choose to believe the first one, because it's significantly less miserable :)"

I agree ! That was less miserable !


message 50: by Chantal (new) - added it

Chantal Barlow I totally agree too! The second one was very gory! :P


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