Wednesday, November 25, 2009
As an English student, I have learned a couple of lessons. When you have almost three months to do a project, do the individual due dates. Had I have done this, a lot of stress on my part would have been resolved. Furthermore, I also found that this project was a lot more fun once it was started, and ideas flowed much easier once I started writing. It's only bringing yourself to that first attempt that makes things difficult.
As for the book I read, Life of Pi, I absolutely loved the book. It combined theology with zoology and taught me a great deal about those topics, connecting them in a way that has altered mty perspectives on a great deal of things, such as zoos, Christianity, Hinduism, and Islam. Interestingly enough, it made a very powerful justification for zoos to my vegetarian mind. Overall, this book was one of the best books I have ever read, and I enjoyed exploring it through this ISU.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Foster, Phoebe K. "Life of Pi: A Novel by Yann Martel." PopMatters.com Ed. ] Phoebe K. Foster. N.p., 4 Sept. 2002. Web. 23 Nov. 2009. .
Holcombe, Garan. "Yann Martel." ContemporaryWriters.com N.p., 2004. Web. 22 Nov. 2009. .
"Seventh Situation, Falling Prey to Cruelty or Misfortune." gordianplot.com. 21 feb 2009. MediaWiki, Web. 24 Nov 2009.
(Note: could not indent second lines of selections due to difficulties of blogger.com)
First of all, Polti’s seventh dramatic situation is characterized by having an unfortunate who is stricken by a master or misfortune, causing them to lose hope. It is characterized by having limitless sorrow. Indeed, Pi Patel, whose entire family is killed during the sinking of the cargo ship Tsimtsum is stricken by this type of sorrow. Even after his ordeal is done and he is being interviewed by Japanese investigators, Pi has only one response when they express their condolences. "Not as sorry as I am," he says over and over again. And although he is a victim of misfortune, he is in many ways a victim of his master, God, as well. After a moment of brief optimism, Pi says, "But God’s hat was always unravelling. Gods pants were falling apart. God’s cat [(Richard Parker] was a constant danger. God’s ark [(the lifeboat)] was a jail. God’s wide acres [(The ocean)] were slowly killing me. God’s ear didn’t seem to be listening. In this case, Pi’s master (God), is exhibiting cruelty towards him in the form of neglect, he interprets. This sense of abandonment only contributes to Pi’s suffering. Indeed, Pi does lose hope, and his sorrow is limitless, having lost everything but his life, which is still in danger from a 450-pound royal Bengal tiger. In the second story he tells, everyone in his lifeboat is killed off due to cannibalism and murder. In the end, he is left to fend for himself, alone in the middle of the Pacific. This fits Polti’s seventh dramatic situation perfectly.
The next descriptor of Polti’s seventh dramatic situation is characterized by being more and more hopeless as the story continues. Indeed, it does. After Pi realizes that his entire family is dead and his whole previous life is lost, he discovers that he is pitted in a lifeboat with a hyena and a 450-pound tiger. After the hyena is dead and he has learned to tame the tiger, he is still plagued by storms, imminent starvation, and even blindness for two days. While he is blind, he encounters another blind survivor in a lifeboat who attempts to kill him and is promptly eaten by the tiger, Richard Parker. When he discovers a mysterious oasis-like island with freshwater, copious amounts of algae, and meerkats, he finds that the island is actually carnivorous by night as the algae becomes like acid. It is only when Pi reaches land that his situation improves; nevertheless Richard Parker, his only ally throughout the entire ordeal, flees to the jungle without a hint of acknowledgement towards Pi. Indeed, through the entire duration of his ordeal, Pi’s situation becomes more and more unbearable to deal with.
Overall, Life of Pi fits Polti’s seventh dramatic situation, falling prey to cruelty or misfortune very well. Indeed, no other dramatic situation fits it in with the level of accuracy that this does. Pi, who is plagued by a crescendo of increasing sorrow and hardship after he becomes a lone shipwreck survivor is no doubt falling prey to misfortune. Furthermore, he also feels a sense of abandonment from his master, God, at times, and this abandonment amounts to the cruelty of neglect. Finally, his situation continues to get worse every time it seems like it is getting better. Hence, Life of Pi fits the seventh dramatic situation perfectly.
Monday, November 23, 2009
In truth, I have never really been a great fan of English class, or English literature for that matter. I am not naive enough to believe it has no value, yet, I am usually dissatisfied with the feeling that I am pushed to enjoy the written word, apart from just appreciating it independently. Yet, in this increasingly rational society, I am starting to realize the importance of literature such as Life of Pi. This is completely juxtaposing to the books I typically like to read: books that give me pure, unadulterated knowledge that describe something that I wish to learn about for the purpose of research or simple curiosity. What I found, interestingly enough, is that non-fiction and fiction both give this goal of pure knowledge, using different devices, and with very different results. Indeed, few other books have showed me the connection between the two like Life of Pi has, and, indeed, it has made me feel as enlightened as young Pi himself, who is almost my age during the tragic events of the story.
But what is the main difference, other than the obvious, between fiction and non-fiction, if they both achieve the same purpose? Truth be told, fiction such as this is the only form of literature that appeals to both the creative and logical fields of our mind--the imaginative and the scholarly. The pivotal importance of literature such as this is in the form of the result--the imprint it leaves on your mind. Whereas a knowledge book will allow you to look at an object and understand how it works, a fiction book will allow you to look at that thing and consider all of the possibilities and potential that that thing has beyond conventional understanding; it is simply more deep, more spiritual fulfilling, and as a result, more meaningful. What book achieves this in a greater way than Life of Pi? Keeping the truth of my limited knowledge of English literature aside, I will honestly say that no other book I have read has done this for me.
The book, to begin with, deals with the most primal and most complicated aspects of the human condition; the will to survive and the will to have faith, and intertwines them in a dazzling fashion. While doing this, it incorporates the psychology of animals in relation to us as well as in relation to themselves. Furthermore, it does it in a groundbreaking, post-modern style that combines humour juxtaposed with pure savagery derived from the will to survive. Pi, originally a vegetarian Hindu boy, keeps his native faith while adopting the Islamic and Christian faiths at the same time, and is then swept into the ocean with a 450-pound Bengal tiger. What could make for a better story? And what fact book what teach me about zoology, religion, and survival skills better than an engaging story that grips my attention? Surely the importance of this book has made it extremely important, even deserving of the term "classic", I might add. The book itself is wonderful, original, entertaining, and even educational, and this makes it that much more of a masterpiece in Canadian Literature. “This book goes where few books have gone before, bravely embarking on a metaphysical trek that explores the deepest of life's mysteries while remaining an exciting Ripley's-Believe-It-Or-Not style saga of a shipwreck victim's bizarre exigencies” (Foster, 2002).
In my effort to endorse this literary masterpiece, however, I must recognize that I am not the first to endorse it. Life of Pi has been the recipient of several awards, including the Man Booker Prize for Literature, the Hugh McLennan Prize for Fiction, and the Commonwealth Writers Prize, Eurasia region, for Best Book (Holcombe, 2004). And, although Yann Martel is primarily known for that single work, his other books, The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios and Other Stories (1993),and Self (1996), though not commercially successful (they both sold little over 1000 copies), were the subject of critical acclaim as well. The Facts Behind the Helsinki Roccamatios won the Canadian Journey Prize, and Self won the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award (Holcombe, 2004). Rarely does a Canadian author receive such attention on the world stage, and this makes the book all the more important.
For being an original outlook on the themes of religion, animal behaviour and survival, and being from a previously underrated Canadian author, Life of Pi is an extremely important book that deserves to be recognized and acknowledged in the way it is today.
-- Wiki article
--How Yann Martel wrote life of Pi
--Negative Book Review
--Biography of Yann Martel
--Interview with Yann Martel
--Audio interview with Yann Martel
--Video interview with Yann Martel
I looked through the book. I discovered that Pi told the original, more fantastical story to shelve the horribly disturbing accounts of what he saw in the second story from his memory. Pi, originally horrified by the tiger, becomes more and more like him as the ordeal continues. As he moves from a religious, vegetarian lifestyle, he learns to adapt to killing fish and turtles for food. His first kill, a flying fish, makes him weep. He describes the situation. "I was now a killer," he says. "I was sixteen years old, a harmless boy, booking and religious, and now I have blood on my hands." He claims he never forgets to include the fish in his prayers, but later on he finds killing easier. Later, after bludgeoning a dorado to death, he says, "It is simple and brutal: a person can get used to anything, even to killing." As these things begin to happen, Richard Parker is slowly tamed by P. By the middle of the book, Pi is taking joy from sucking the blood from a turtles tender stomach under its shell. As this is happening, Richard Parker becomes more tame as Pi becomes more like him. As he tames him, Pi marks his territory with urine to make sure the different parts of the lifeboat are separate; as a naked hunter he becomes completely animal with a human cunning. Interestingly enough, Richard Parker also leaves conveniently as soon as Pi reaches human civilization. In this way, the connection and possible unity between the two characters becomes apparent.
In addition, the orangutan, which paralleled Pi’s mother in the second story, was very much like a mother in the original telling. In page 123, Yann Martel starts the chapter with a description that perfectly described the loving aspects of a mother. "She came floating... in a halo of light, as lovely as the Virgin Mary." He later speaks of the orangutan directly as a mother. He later says, "I cried, ‘Oh blessed Great Mother, Pondicherry fertility goddess, provider of milk and love, wondrous arm of comfort,... are you to witness this tragedy too? It’s not right that gentleness meet horror.’ " This similarity is impossible to ignore, and might explain the reasoning behind the second story. Even more frightening in comparison is the description that Pi gives before she is killed by the hyena. "To the end she reminded me of us: her eyes expressed fear in such a humanlike way, as did her strained whimpers." There is almost no doubt that Pi is alluding to this in his second story, which is even more difficult to bear for a person who has lost his entire family.
Thus, there is a high probability that Pi’s second story is in fact the true one, while the first is trying to mask the gruesome truth of what really happened on the lifeboat. This similarity is an important thing about the book that can be found over and over as one skims through the pages again and again.
Monday, November 16, 2009
The Life of Pi never ceases to entice me as a reader. And finally, I think I've discovered the reason why. Yann Martel, I've realized, has a fascinatingly honest way of making descriptions, in a style that one cannot help but adore. He utilizes graphic imagery to make his description, yet keeps it tasteful by adding a powerful continuity and making even stronger connections to the rest of the book. For example, in page 128, Martel describes through the eyes of Pi Patel, the main character, the disgusting nature of a hyena in a format that is very akin to an essay. Pi Patel, the son of a (now late) zookeeper, describes in detail the low yet cunning dangers of a hyena, a fearsome creature that "attacks in packs whatever animal can be run down, its flanks open while still in full motion". His thesis is clear in the beginning of the paragraph. He starts the paragraph by saying, "I had not forgotten father's words. they are not cowardly carrion eaters...," later elaborating and completing the thesis by saying, "It is when the moon rises that the hyena's day starts, and it proves to be a devastating hunter." After establishing the thesis, Martel gives a grotesque description of the awesomely cruel and revolting nature of a hyena. He uses all the classic methods of an argument, by establishing ethos, pathos, and logos. The ethos, or credibility of the character is already established, as 16-year-old Pi has lived for years witnessing these animals. He also establishes this in the first line of the paragraph of the essay (which, interestingly enough, is following another separate paragraph in which he describes the revolting physical appearance of the animal alone), saying, "I had not forgotten father's words." The reader, who knows by now the wisdom of the character's father, immediately recognizes the significance of the words, and ethos is successfully established with one simple phrase.
Following this appeal, the author uses pathos to receive an emotional response from the reader, lightly flavoured with a bit of logos to enhance the reality of the deadly hyena's threat. Very early on, he describes their cunning in a way that relates to the reader. He says, "And they are clever; anything that can be distracted from its mother is good. The ten-minute-old gnu is a favourite dish, but hyenas also eat young lions and young rhinoceros." What better way to appeal to one's emotions than to bring innocent babies into the mix? Right before saying that, he says, "They go for zebras, gnus and water buffaloes, and not only the old or the infirm in a herd--full grown members too." This emphasizes the point established in the thesis, which refutes the idea that they are cowardly carrion eaters. Next, he purposely disgusts us by describing their gluttonous ways. Here he is using pathos. "In fifteen minutes flat, all that will be left of the zebra is the skull." Later he sickens us further with the concept of cannibalism among a pack. "Accidental cannibalism is a common occurrence during the excitement of a feeding," he writes, continuing with, "in reaching for a bite of zebra, a hyena will take in the ear or nostril of another clan member... it admits no disgust at this mistake...[as] its delights are too many to admit disgust at anything". Yet another attempt to disturb us--what kind of sick creature, we ask, would eat one of their own kind? Martel's relentless essay continues into more detail later in the story, describing how the animals drink from the water they urinate in, eat the rest of the bodies of those they accidentally eat parts of after a day, and even attack motor vehicles. He concludes by returning to the context within the story, ending the essay with, "That was the animal I had racing around in circles before me. An animal to pain the eye and chill the heart." By using a powerful narrative essay format within a story and using logos, ethos, and pathos, Yann Martel successfully demonizes the hyena in a way that churns the stomach of even the most passionate animal lover. It is descriptions like this that are really making me love this book.