Monday, November 23, 2009

Journal #4

After completing the book and looking many parts over, I’ve made some interesting observations about the animals who are originally stranded on the lifeboat with Pi. These observations began when I was reading part III of the book, in which Pi has landed his lifeboat in Mexico and is being saved. Pi is speaking with Japanese investigators to help solve the mystery of why the Tsimtsum, the ship him and his family were in, sank. After telling them his story, which spans all of Part II, his interviewers do not believe his story. They refuse to believe that he has survived with a royal bengal tiger in his lifeboat, which has conveniently escaped in the Mexican jungle, never to be seen again. They also refuse to believe his other claims, such as his accounts of a carnivorous island and his encounter with a blind Frenchman while he, too, was blind. Finally, after a great deal of arguing, Pi decides to tell them another story. He tells them a very similar story with strong parallels to his original, only that there are no animals on his boat–only humans. The story is also much more gruesome and violent. The characters in the story include Pi himself, representing Richard Parker, his mother, representing an Orang-utan; a French cook, representing a hyena; and a wounded Taiwanese sailor, representing the zebra whose leg had been ripped off. They are all trapped in the lifeboat together. The French cook, the hyena, starts by severing off the wounded sailor’s (Hyena) leg, and using his flesh for bait and eating part of it. He later eats the man when he dies. His mother, the orang-utan, is appalled by this act of cannibalism, and he kills her in an argument. Pi, horrified after watching his mother die, kills the cook, and makes his way to shore alone after 277 days. After offering this alternative plot line, Pi never admits which one is truly correct.
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.

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