Monday, November 16, 2009

Journal #2

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.

1 comment:

  1. You need a links list to do the apologia. I should be seeing fragments of apologia and explication by now. Run, run!