The Role of Religion and Morality: Survival in the Life of Pi by Yann Martel (2023)

Jocelyn Lok-Yee Lee

Escuela secundaria Iroquois Ridge, 1123 Glenashton Dr. Oakville, Ontario, Canada

(Video) Life of Pi | Allegory & Faith

Correspondence: JocelynLok-Yee Lee, Iroquois Ridge High School, 1123 Glenashton Dr. Oakville, Ontario, Canada.

Email:The Role of Religion and Morality: Survival in the Life of Pi by Yann Martel (1)

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The Life of Pi, a novel by Yann Martel, captures the imagination and awareness of life's most basic instincts. Faced with the terrifying realities of survival, Pi's moral system is being unbearably challenged like a castaway at sea. Balancing Pi's primacy of survival with moral awareness and demonstrating the terrifying distances creatures will go in the face of extinction, Martel illuminates how miracles can be validated from a neutral religious perspective. Pi's pluralistic faith is based on a moral ethic that is felt rather than judged. Martel skillfully uses storytelling and insight to give meaning and hope to ritual celebrations. Pi confronts the grueling events chronicled in the human condition and realizes that the ferocious tiger Richard Parker metaphorically embodies his connection to nature. In the midst of a courageous struggle between faith and reason, the reader must consider what actions may be morally acceptable. Pi's life, therefore, reflects a transformative journey of hope in which fear is alleviated not only by the courage and strength discovered in purpose and moral meaning, but also by the support of those who seek to understand his moral nature.

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Keywords:Religion, Metaphor, Reason, Courage, Morality, Survival, History, Awareness, Faith, Hope, Fear

Quote this article:Jocelyn Lok-Yee Lee, The Role of Religion and Morality: Survival in Yann Martel's Life of Pi,Training, Bd. 3 no. 6, 2013, p. 340-343. doi: 10.5923/

(Video) The Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, an animated summary

Item Overview

1. Introduction
2. Storytelling
3. Ritual customs
4. The role of morality and religion
5. The human condition
6. Conclusions

1. Introduction

In Yann Martel's novel Life of Pi, the protagonist Pi Patel is trapped in a lifeboat with an orange Bengal tiger named Richard Parker, a hyena, an orangutan, and a zebra. Like a castaway on the high seas, Pi fights for his life as he faithfully clings to what remains of his morality. He faces a life-threatening affliction in the midst of despair when, despite extenuating and inhumane circumstances, Pi is confined to a ship and lives on strict rationing of food and fresh water day after day. . Pi marks his territory and finds his place by surviving with the wild animals that used to live peacefully in his family's zoo. Pi's religion and morals are tested beyond imagination. While her pluralistic beliefs in Hinduism, Islam, and Christianity allow her to bravely overcome her ordeal, her narrative conforms to a religious belief that not only enables her to survive, but also gives her a sense of self-awareness and dignity as a human being. As his upbringing and ritual practice give her the discipline to face the uncertainties of his death, Pi is aided by moral instinct and the support of a fellow discovered in the orange Bengal tiger, Richard Parker. Thus, Pi can maintain his religious beliefs while he accepts his life-changing ordeal.

2. Storytelling

Faced with the harsh reality of her situation, Pi uses a unique narrative method to share her experiences of surviving in extreme situations. Martel stimulates the imagination by connecting essential concepts of religion and morality through faith-inspiring narratives. Pi tells two Japanese researchers an account of the series of zoo animals that shared the rough sea voyage with him in the third part of the novel. However, Pi also tells the men an alternate version of the story that is the polar opposite of the first. In this story, the animals are replaced by humans. The miracles that inspire hope in the first story turn into acts of sheer horror and barbarism. Because the reader's perspective often indicates one's spiritual state, those who believe in early history tend to favor the existence of God, and those who believe in alternate history tend toward atheism. Martel suggests that narrative and perception interact in a way that illustrates how religion and morality have a major impact on Pi's survival.[1] The events of Pi's sea voyage are perhaps too gruesome to directly address the kinds of events that Pi indirectly reports to her interrogators. Assuming that human history is factual, anyone, especially a young vegetarian, would be tremendously disturbed and traumatized by the horrifying series of events that would later require cannibalism. By reframing his story as an incredible religiously inspired story about humanoid animals, Pi can see a more morally ethical approach to dealing with the tragic conditions imposed on him on the small lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

3. Ritual customs

While the storytelling serves as a means of survival, the ritual that follows a structured religion also keeps Pi alive. Religion can be defined as a set of beliefs about the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe[...], generally involving devotional and ritual observances, and often including a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.[2] A fundamental aspect of religion is the performance of rituals and therefore plays an obvious and important role in the survival of Pi. Because a ritual gives structure to abstract ideas and emotions, and can actually be seen as an alternative form of storytelling, Pi manages to strike a deal with Richard Parker on training the Bengal tiger to become a partner in instead of a life-threatening one. Enemy. Also, early in the novel, Pi notes that zookeepers can tell if something is wrong with their animals by noticing small changes in their daily routine. Because animals, like humans, are creatures of habit, Pi's unwavering belief in and devotion to God allows him to find common ground between three different religions. Christianity, Hinduism, and Islamic religions teach you the importance of following an organized and regularly practiced schedule. Ritual observations also allow Pi to become familiar with the conditions of his own survival. Pi says: “I know that zoos are no longer pro-people. Religion faces the same problem. Certain illusions about freedom plague them both.”[3] According to Pi, animals caged behind the metal bars of a zoo appear to be trapped, but the animals can be freer if shelter, food, and shelter are provided to them. diary. While committing to a religion may seem just as restrictive, the discipline the ritual provides actually leads Pi to focus on getting through his ordeal.
As Pi intently searches for life-changing opportunities, her moral conscience can even be seen in the context of the importance of the territorial nature of survival. Pi distinguishes his territory from Richard Parker's by delineating the boundaries. Given the small size of the lifeboat, the limits create a relatively peaceful relationship between Pi and Richard Parker. Richard Parker gives Pi essential survival value, both as a companion and as an obstacle. To Pi's benefit, although Richard Parker's presence initially seems like a death sentence, the obstacle symbolized by Richard Parker as perceived by Pi is surmountable. Pi is able to rise to the challenge of taming Richard Parker and benefits greatly from avoiding the great despair he would otherwise have faced when facing the loss of his closest relatives. Therefore, Pi seems to have realized that without Richard Parker he would not have survived. Her religious beliefs and his morals, fueled by his survival instincts, allow her to stay alive throughout her oceanic ordeal, creating daily habits and rituals that help her survive.

4. The role of morality and religion

Since Richard Parker can be seen as an aspect of Pi's own personality, the notion that a clear line can be drawn between Pi and Richard Parker through ritual is symbolic of Pi's need for moral recognition of his identity. . as character. Pi's civilized, moral, and human side can be seen in contrast and association with her animalistic nature. With the fusion and dissolution of the interests of humans and animals as enemies and allies, the Pi experience respectfully reflects man's bipolar state, existing between fear and hope. Observing the Pi ritual gives her a sense of purpose and hope in a way that allows her to bravely face his fears. After continued cruel and torturous defiance of his religious practice, Pi finds himself accepting his vulnerabilities as part of the human condition.[4] Martel seems less committed to belief in God than to supporting and empathizing with the suffering of those seeking understanding.
The challenge of overcoming and surviving his ordeal allows Pi to reflect on the fundamental human qualities that connect him to his larger sense of self that lies within himself, others, and nature. By retelling the story of his experiences with animals, Pi manages to alleviate the need to face the true cruelty of which we humans are capable. Martel seems to be saying that morality feels better with a clear, nonjudgmental conscience, and prepares readers to see the wonders of life from a religion-neutral perspective. As Pi continues his relentless search for understanding to unravel the mystery of his being and God, his acceptance of an open mind and relentlessly inquiring is met with the realization that atheists, though of a different faith, are in fact his brothers. and sisters with a common experience. . Pi acknowledges the sincerity of atheists in seeking the truth through reason and evidence. However, he remains aware that faith must ultimately take over, as faith allows Pi to face his fears and realize hope with his connection to nature.
Pi seems to have reflected that an eternal being might not be complete until it can experience limitation. This recognition may reflect his resignation from an inquiry into the possibility of understanding the fullness of an all-knowing God. One might wonder, if you have an omniscient God, how can God know limits? Given the different worldviews and religions Pi has been immersed in, Pi seems to have recognized his vulnerabilities by embracing discovery by sharing experiences through observations of him. As his investigations draw him closer to animals and the ecology of which he is a part, Pi's enduring sense of humility maintains a sense of mystery that stands between faith and reason. Therefore, taking a leap of faith and getting lost in a story of humans and living beings can be the most rewarding for Pi when it comes to recovering a consciousness that meets the Eternal to reach perfection.[5]
By embracing different beliefs, Pi acknowledges the understanding of unity in different voices while allowing others to draw their own conclusions, a process that perhaps sees faith and reason as protagonists rather than adversaries to choose from. Starting with Dr. Brené Brown, Faith and Reason can perhaps be seen as best friends and as "...a place of mystery where we find the courage to believe what we cannot see and the strength to overcome our fear of truth." uncertainty". [6] On the other hand, although related extremes, fear and hope can be seen in a different light for Martel. On his journey, Pi discovers that fear fuels hope and affirms the moral purpose and meaning of life. Although Pi claims that he has never lost faith in God, facing his fears clearly challenges his faith. He becomes too weak to perform his religious rituals on a regular basis, allowing his need for survival to overwhelm his moral system. He eats meat, kills live animals and can even eat human flesh.[7] Martel shows how far the creatures will go when threatened with extinction. The reader must reflect on Pi's tireless efforts to overcome his ordeal and the kinds of actions that might be morally acceptable in such a dire life-or-death situation.

5. The human condition

Pi's loss of innocence in overcoming his ordeal is an understanding that Martel brings to light not from one religious perspective over another, but to force the reader to reflect on the human condition for meaning and hope. While all beliefs stand the test of experience and Pi finds common ground in spirituality and the wonders of religious pluralism, it is clear that Pi himself uses his own rational intellect to get as far as possible. However, all the narrators, including Pi and Martel, require the trust and belief of the audience. The position of Pi, the skeptical Okamoto-san, that his imaginative story is true is argued from the perspective that it is the best story. While Martel seems to inspire everyone to be open with the moral awareness that accompanies ritual and storytelling, the force of Pi's argument is not a direct reflection of a rational claim to absolute truth.
One implication that emerges from Pi's reflective position is that believing in stories allows for a moral awareness connected to the world around us. The framework given to our understanding of the universe and our place in it reflects the hopes, values, and meanings inherent in the stories. Intrinsic values ​​give meaning to life in ways that facts based solely on observation cannot. While Pi's interactions exude an idyllic life of wondrous contemplation while exuding a spiritual presence, his inquisitive nature revels in humor rather than alienation with facts. It can be seen that when Pi reflexively confronts his emotions, his survival instinct keeps his body alive so that his spirituality can exist as well. Martel seems to imply that variants of reality will be resorted to, not only because such fictions give us a reason to look forward, but also because they give us the belief that the journey is worth the suffering and the joy of living is worth it. . is .
One can also question the comfort of an existence that does not make sense to reason and what life would be like in a purely fortuitous or factual world. For those who are confident and rational, believing a belief can be seen as a bridge between facts and the heat of emotion. Just as the qualities of love can be elusive and hard to believe when asked of someone who has been captured by it, God is indeed elusive as hard to believe when asked of a believer. Martel invites the reader to become aware of how nature presents itself and how it returns to itself, since the ability to believe can therefore be seen as a sign of awareness. So the wonders of history can be designed to preserve a theory of natural law while remaining open to events beyond the capacity of nature.[8]

6. Conclusions

In short, Martel becomes aware of the elemental instincts of life and balances the primacy of Pi's survival needs with his morality and religion. A question to ponder is how, when faced with survival, people not only commit inhumane and barbaric acts when oppressed, but also turn to the faith and hope of a deep moral conscience. In the midst of survival and in the context of fear, Pi raises the possibility that the ferocious tiger may symbolize the survival instinct of Richard Parker's own personality. As the reader realizes that Pi himself may be responsible for some of the horrific events he recounts, it becomes clear that survival trumps a courageous moral conscience that proves the state of one's practiced religion. While each of Pi's three religions—Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam—has its own stories, it is clear that each of these stories may simply be aspects of a larger universal story about the human condition. Martel seems to imply that we have an intrinsic moral nature in our religious beliefs and, in the long run, we shape our lives and ourselves with the truth concerning the believer. The process never ends and the decisions we make are ultimately our responsibility. Since Pi's life begins with an old man in Pondicherry telling the narrator, "I have a story that makes you believe in God," storytelling and religious belief can actually be seen as a larger ritual involving the freedom from a morality that offers choices. . When Pi becomes depressed by Richard Parker's defection, it becomes clear that he believes in the mythical story of him. Overcoming and surviving a trial can mean not only facing unbearable fear, but also seeing the ray of hope that faith offers. Pi's continued quest for survival, therefore, needs no validation other than the morality assumed through his personal choice of practiced religion.
(Video) Life of Pi is Misunderstood | Video Essay


[1]SparkNotes Publishers. "Subjects." savings notes with Spark Notes LLC., 2006. Web. June 20, 2013
[2]"Religion." unabridged version. Random House, Inc. June 18, 2013.
[3]Shmoop Editorial Team. "Religious Dating: The Life of Pi Page 1". chat with. Shmoop University Inc. November 11, 2008. Web. June 15, 2013.
[4]Galinsky, Adam D., Gillian Ku, and Cynthia S. Wang. "Perspective Taking and Intersection of Self and Other: Fostering Social Bonds and Facilitating Social Coordination" Group Processes and Intergroup Relations. 8.2 (2005): 109-124. Sage Publications. Network. June 19, 2013.
[5]Jenkins, John Mayor.Galactic Alignment: The transformation of consciousness according to the Mayan, Egyptian and Vedic traditions.Rochester: Inner Traditions International, 2002. Impressum.
[6]Brown, Brene. The gifts of imperfection: Let go of who you think you should be and accept who you are. Hazelden, 2010. Print.
[7]Kulina, Alice. Chazelle, Damien, editor "The Life of Pi Subjects". GradeSaver, Np 30 Nov 2008. Web. June 16, 2013.
[8]Lewis, Clive Staples.Best of C. S. Lewis, The Great Miracle.New York: Christianity Today Inc., 1969. Imprint.


What role does religion play in PI's survival? ›

Religion is a key component in Pi's survival because it lets him understand that he has to coexist with other creatures, it leads Pi to accept that even if he did not survive he would be redeemed, and it gives Pi the hope for survival.

What is the role of religion in Pi's life essay? ›

Pi uses religion in the story more or less as an escape and as a distraction from what is happening in his life. He kept his morals and values strong and as a result, he fights insanity. Imagine being in Pi's position. Imagine losing everything your family, your belongings and being lost at sea.

What does Martel say about religion in Life of Pi? ›

It is known that Martel carries this belief from an interview were he states "all religions fundamentally are distinct, but they are similar in that they are all a means of getting closer to God”. Pi portrays this belief in the story in a quote were he states "..

What does life of Pi say about religion? ›

Pi believes that the mere fact of living from day to day will qualify as a miracle, showing the presence of God with him. As long as Pi remains faithful—and works hard—he can survive. Faith in God is an opening up, a letting go, a deep trust, a free act of love—but sometimes it was so hard to love.

How does the idea of survival play out in the life of pi? ›

How does the idea of survival play out in this text? Of central importance to this novel is the theme of survival, even in seemingly impossible and adverse conditions. For Pi, the challenge of surviving operates on several levels. First, there is the necessity of physical survival: he must keep his body alive.

What are the 3 religions in Life of Pi? ›

POTTER: In some ways, the story of young Piscine Patel, known as Pi, defies belief from the start. The son of a zoo-keeper, the boy is raised Hindu but also practices Christianity and Islam, to the disappointment of his father. Dad: You cannot follow three different religions at the same time Piscine.

How does PI justify his belief in all three religions? ›

Ingrid Chen Pi's belief in multiple religions is an extended metaphor. He tells two different versions of the same story, but both have the same ending and result, and so it is with his religions. The three religions are different, but the people who believe in them all live in the same world.

What are Pi's moral beliefs? ›

Pi believes that love is the most important thing, and everyone and thing should be loved and cared for. His love for God pushes Pi through is life, in fact Pi had such a strong love and need for God he used each of his religions as a way to connect with God more deeply.

What is Martel's message about religion in the novel? ›

In Martel's novel, the idea that through faith, one can find salvation, is present during Pi's times of doubt. Pi believes in three different religions at the same time, he is amazed and in awe of the different beliefs and wants to get closer to, and love God by practicing them.

How does Pi's perspective change towards each religion? ›

Pi sees no contradictions between any of these religions. He accepts them all as part of one divine reality, a belief that some would call pantheism, or the idea that the whole world is a manifestation of God. This is not true of his mentors or his parents.

How does PI's survival diminish his humanity? ›

When he is shipwrecked, Pi's survival instincts emerge. However, the manner in which Pi fights to survive diminishes his humanity. His moral beliefs are discarded. He transforms from being a staunch vegetarian and having a deep reverence for life to killing and resorting to cannibalism.

What does PI claim is the key to his survival? ›

Pi also confronts the reality of trying to survive while sharing the lifeboat with Richard Parker. After carefully reviewing his options, he concludes that he will have to keep the animal alive. Only by caring for the tiger can Pi protect himself from being killed and eaten by him.

What lesson did PI learn to help him survive? ›

Three important things that helped Pi survive on the lifeboat are religion, protection and caring for the animals. As Pi was a child in India, he was raised a Hindu. As Pi grew older, he discovered new religions, two of which being Islam and Christianity. Pi decides to practice all three religions.

How does each of Pi's three religions enrich contribute to his life? ›

The three religions are different, but the people who believe in them all live in the same world. The three religions reflect Pi's ability to accept that there can be more than one truth, more than one right answer. Jahan Before his story in the sea begins, Pi explains what drew him to each religion.


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