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Customer Discussions > Life of Pi forum

analysis of R.P., Island, Ending, more <spoilers>

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Showing 1-24 of 24 posts in this discussion
Initial post: May 21, 2006 7:00:41 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 30, 2007 3:14:44 AM PDT
K. Robichaud says:
Richard Parker is God. Richard Parker is also Pi--the inner most Pi, which is God: God is within.
A good way to think about it is to think of the poem "Footprints"(" where a man is looking back at his life as represented with two sets of footprints--his own and God's. The man asks God why one set disappears during the most difficult times in his life. He asks: "Why did you leave me?" and God responds: "Those were the times I was carrying you." If you think back in the book, Pi notices Richard Parker only after his mother is killed (represented by the death of Orange Juice). Once his mother dies, he needs God to get him through this horrific ordeal--and Richard Parker appears: out of suffering comes growth and understanding. How did he not notice an enormous Bengal tiger before this on a raft? Because he did not NEED God until this point. Pi's training of Richard Parker is representative of Pi's learning to develop his relationship with God within. Thinking back to the footprints poem, it becomes clear why Richard Parker leaves Pi once he lands ashore: Pi no longer needs him to "carry" him; he has made it through the most difficult of trials. This interpretation also explains the extreme feelings of loss that Pi feels when Richard Parker leaves.
The God analysis works because the first hundred pages of the book is all about Pi trying to find God, and his inability to choose a religion. If you look the scene with the Blind Frenchman, the dialogue is very Beckett-like which reinforces the idea of searching for God through Beckett's works such as "Waiting for Godot" or "God."
If you look at the book circle questions at the end of the book, we learn that green is the color of Islam. Martel takes us to the unbelievable extremely green island b/c he wants us to make the leap of faith that is required to accept the sometimes fantastical stories of religions. When Richard Parker comes onto the island ALL the Meerkats look over in his direction in a praying like stance. Then they gleefully allow "God" to devour them with no thought--only the promise of after life. The meerkats facing Richard Parker in prayer can be viewed as the Islamic all praying towards Mecca or "God." It follows that Martel is criticizing suicide bombers with the meerkats--who, foolishly and with no regard for their lives--give themselves to "God's will." Completely comfortable on an Island with no foundation that devours them by night.
In an interview with Ray Suarez, Martel states: "Yeah, except that if you look at religion, what's remarkable is how the mystics of each religion speak the same language. So if you look at the Muslim mystics, the Sufis; if you look at Christian mystics, like St. John of the Cross; and Hindu mystics, it's remarkable how they all speak the same language, which is a language of a personal relationship with god and a language of love, where God is love.
It's once you get further away from the mystics that you start getting differences, which sometime seem unbridgeable. Now, I think those unbridgeable differences are due to dogmas, and sometimes dogmas stray very far way from faith. And the other key thing to point out, too, is that you can kidnap anything, including very good ideas, so there is nothing in Islam that justifies killing innocent people, and yet some Muslims will do that in the name of Islam; just as there are some Christian fundamentalists, for example, here in America who will kill doctors who perform abortions. There's nothing in Christianity that in any way condones that."
The Island is there to make the story step into the unbelievable--make you take the leap of faith, in order to believe the first story.
The tooth represents the animalistic tendency within us and perhaps also the ego, or "shadow;" the island, an obvious allusion to eden, also shows that Pi must now learn to control/overcome these hindrances on his path towards Godhead.
The ending shows how religions may have taken true stories (the second ending)and changed them to be more miraculous because they are the "better stories" (the first ending) than the actual hardships endured. Martel is saying that perhaps it matters not which story "Christianity, Muslim, Buddhist, or Hindu" we choose, because these are just stories to help us understand the true nature of spirituality--rather, what matters is how we incorporate God into our own lives.
But Pi ultimately realizes that God is still with him and was with him always.
In an interview with Martel, after being told "I hope more people read your book," Martel responds: "May Richard Parker always be at your side.",6000,848131,00.html
I also find it very interesting that Pi is from Pondicherry--home of the mystic sage Sri Aurobindo.
"'Well, as I understand it, Integral Yoga (developed by Aurobindo)is basically a set of principles to guide one all the time, in every circumstance. I mean, he's written about it in various ways, and there are many dimensions to it, but in its essence, it's actually simple. It comes down to three things, which he called aspiration, rejection, and surrender(sound familiar). So first, you have to aspire one-pointedly to realize the Divine with your whole being. And although this aspiration can start as simply a mental act of will and intention, it ultimately has to come from a much deeper place, from your own soul's longing for that divine perfection. Then, when he speaks of rejection, he's saying that you have to reject anything that arises within you or outside of you that would obstruct the fulfillment of your aspiration. Granted, at first the subtlety of what to reject and what not to reject might not be so obvious. But if your aspiration is genuine, you will fairly quickly come to a place where it's easy to see directly what is a help and what is a hindrance. And then your aspiration is tested because you have to be willing to make the right choice.'"

In reply to an earlier post on May 30, 2006 6:05:53 PM PDT
Craig Scott says:
I thought Richard Parker was Pi. The Pi that lurks within. That part of any human that is not self conscious. That part of every human that over-rides the conscious with its own concerns... namely, the survivial of the organism. Man at his most base. Biology at its most awesome. Focused, relentless, pragmatic and possibly irresistable.
Martel's quote lends creedance to your supposition that RP is God. But perhaps there was a level of subconscious or unconscious wrting on Martel's part.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2006 1:44:40 PM PDT
M. Beaulieu says:
But biology is probably the best explanation to human behavior for atheists. The book can be seen as speaking of four system of beliefs: Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Science (in this case biology). In support for that the book relies a lot upon theories on animal behavior and more specially about hierarchical relations among animals, Martel constantly uses the concepts of Alpha and Omega animal (a very Christian terminology for God) to explain (in biological terms) how Pi manage to survive with Richard Parker. Also, the island is totally unbelievable but from a strictly biological point of view such an organism would makes a lot of sense and can be able to survive...

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 18, 2006 1:47:08 PM PDT
M. Beaulieu says:
But biology is probably the best explanation to human behavior for atheists. The book can be seen as speaking of four system of beliefs: Hinduism, Christianity, Islam and Science (in this case biology). In support for that the book relies a lot upon theories on animal behavior and more specially about hierarchical relations among animals, Martel constantly uses the concepts of Alpha and Omega animal (a very Christian terminology for God) to explain (in biological terms) how Pi manage to survive with Richard Parker. Also, the island is totally unbelievable but from a strictly biological point of view such an organism would makes a lot of sense and can be able to survive...

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 8, 2006 2:29:33 PM PDT
Enjoyed your analysis of Life of Pi. Would like to read "Footsteps" poem but can't find it. Who is poet and where might I obtain it, or can you e-mail it to me: Thanks.
Paul Carlat

In reply to an earlier post on Jul 26, 2006 10:56:58 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 20, 2006 2:00:41 PM PDT
Donna Rullo says:
I love your analysis on the Richard Parker as God. Yes, you are right here in that when Pi expressed his deepest pain in not closing the relationship w/ a formal good-bye, displayed a more profound disappointment at the core of his belief system. It was planted in him as a boy, to find God in the only venue available to him: organized religion. One religion couldn't fill the bill; therefore, he practiced three...(why Judaism was left out?), but he was a seeker nonetheless. In the last chapter of part 2, Pi longed to speak the farewall to RP and thanked him for saving his life and regretfully expresses how man has failed him (God)in formulating the Truth of God's voice when he states, " you have known the confined freedom of a zoo most of your life; now you will know the free confinement of a jungle. I wish you all the best with it. Watch out for Man. He is not your friend." This is the moment of Truth for Pi. I suspect that he discontinues his religious practices from this point on, and begins his true faith practice w/o organized religion as his guide. This notion is confirmed when in Part 3, the interviewers couldn't understand the facts of Pi's experience. This elucidated to the readers that the common man is incapable of understanding the Love of God and has to make Truth into a simpler form: religion and fiction.

Thank you for your insights. You truly challeged me to come to a deeper understanding of my own faith as well as seeing Pi's revelation at the end of his profound journey for Truth.

Donna R.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 16, 2007 6:58:22 AM PDT
[Deleted by the author on Sep 21, 2007 3:07:03 PM PDT]

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 16, 2007 7:02:11 AM PDT
K. Robichaud says:

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 16, 2007 3:11:51 PM PDT
K. Robichaud says:
great comments.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 18, 2007 1:07:23 PM PDT
LTP says:
I just finished reading the book for the second time--it's one of my favorites. I had also given the book to my dad (I actually give a copy to all people that I love) and when he told me he had finished it last week, I said "don't you love that Pi is Richard Parker?"...well he called me several nights later and was confused by that. I think in many ways it's obvious that Pi and Richard Parker are the same--the man (boy) and the survivalist; man at his barest genetic make-up. Where does God fit in to this relationship? It's hard to articulate but I do not believe that Richard Parker is supposed to be God in any way--I just don't see it. I believe that God is within Pi (when Pi is being man) but not necessarily within Richard Parker. I think Martel's comment about RP being at one's side is more to say, don't give up on yourself--if you feel defeated, look to your inner strength and find God.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 21, 2007 3:10:21 PM PDT
K. Robichaud says:
I need to reread it b/c it's been awhile; I'm going to teach it soon, was trying out some ideas and would love more dialogue as there is little in print. Thanks for your insights, I'll get back to you in few months.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 22, 2007 5:39:38 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Sep 30, 2007 2:40:31 AM PDT
K. Robichaud says:
I think we may be thinking of God in two different ways (maybe not). I am not talking about God as deity or anything of the sort but more as the infinite potentiality (or the tao) which essentially is Self. What makes this book genius is its ability to act as a mirror in which the reader takes/interprets what he/she needs (the power of the parable, or first ending). Richard Parker represents all of these things because it represents our inner most self--which the mystics, whom Martel discusses in the above quote, believe is God.

"'No, no. It starts right here in Pondicherry just a few years back, and it ends, I am delighted to tell you, in the very country you come from."

"And it will make me believe in God?"


"That's a tall order."

"Not so tall that you can't reach.'"

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 23, 2007 7:50:55 AM PDT
LTP says:
I do agree with that--so yes, by interpreting RP as his inner-most self (his core being) as well as recognizing that the concept or ideal of "god" is within each individual, then yes, RP is god as well as Pi (or what lurks/lives within Pi).

I just love the book....

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 30, 2007 2:40:50 AM PDT
K. Robichaud says:
Me too.

In reply to an earlier post on Sep 30, 2007 2:51:45 AM PDT
K. Robichaud says:
I don't think Judaism was left out but rather that, for the sake of realism, three religions seems more realistic. Also, historically, I am not sure if it would have been accurate. I think Martel choose to represent the judeo-christian view with only one religion because he wanted to cover the religions with the greatest differences to show that they essential arise from the same tenets.

In reply to an earlier post on May 28, 2009 9:43:58 PM PDT
Bobby Eff says:
We are the Japanese interviewers at the end. This marvelous story unfolds and you go along wondering is this plausible? It is beautifully told and we still do not believe so then Pi gives us the "out" OK Jesus did not walk on water he just pretended and we can all choose which to believe, which the majority will say "Oh ok he was really talking about a sailor, his mother, etc " Pi is saying this miracle did happen but if you still choose not to believe than here is a different more believable ending that will put you back in your comfort zone. It is not an issue of what happened, but what we believe happened.

Posted on Jul 10, 2009 3:02:30 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 10, 2009 3:02:51 PM PDT
Doug R. says:
Maybe someone here can explain why we should celebrate deception, delusion, a retreat from reason and that a belief in a fantasy is a metaphor for belief in God?

Posted on Sep 9, 2009 2:59:42 AM PDT
Joshua Ham says:
Donna Rullo said:

"I suspect that he discontinues his religious practices from this point on, and begins his true faith practice w/o organized religion as his guide."

Which is curious because when the author visits Pi at his home in Canada, the place is packed with Ganesh statues, crucifixes, and prayer mats. Sounds like Donna is stating what she *wants* to be true rather than what the book explicitly says.

I'm still trying to figure out what I think of the book. Is it uplifting? Wellllll.... sort of. Certainly there's joy on some level that Pi made it through his ordeal, regardless of exactly how it happened. And there's satisfaction in the fact that he has ended up as a well-adjusted and sane adult. But like Doug R. just said (well, 2 months ago anyway), the book seems to undercut the value of truth. The story that makes you feel better is adopted as the true one. So I guess if I daydream hard enough about being the starting third baseman for the Boston Red Sox, it will be meaningful in some sort of not-true-but-still-useful-for-structuring-my-life sort of way...?

Another thought: I've noticed that reviewers, etc., refer to the "no animals" version of Pi's story as being obviously more believable than the "animals" version. And admittedly the "animals" version is hard to believe, especially the encounter with the other lifeboat and the time on Meerkat Island. But there are also giant holes in the "no animals" story. The cook was snapping up flies with his hands and eating them (is this even physically possible?). The cook is brutal and gruesome to the point of being a parody. The cook eats several months' worth of survival biscuits in one night (unless I've misread something there). The cook meekly allows Pi to slaughter him without putting up a fight (and we know how highly the cook values his own life -- he has already resorted to deception, mutilation, cannibalism, and murder in his fight to survive). This story is hardly more convincing than the "animals" version.

Well, there's more to say but this is long enough as is.

Posted on Dec 19, 2010 3:13:44 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Dec 19, 2010 3:21:23 AM PST
kcl2006 says:
Life of Pi was a very interesting book. I think that it was based on faith (in God) vs. disbelief (some could call this atheism). I think its unfair to say that surviving the ocean with a tiger on board is plausible - the entire book is based on fiction anyway - Martel made the story up. Martel makes his readers go on a journey in search of God with Pi. This is from the beginning to the end. Pi researches as many religions as he can in the first part of the book, and we learn with him too. Pi believes in them all (forcing readers to balance them all equally) and he practices them each in his own way. Then an awful event takes place - the sinking of the ship and losing his family in it. This extreme and terrifying event sets Pi on the second part of his journey - to test his new found faith in God (originally founded on land, in india). He endures test after test, battling survival against the ocean and a tiger, battling the dark whispers of suicidal thoughts. Pi is thrown overboard by man (crewship men) in the effort to use him as bait to lure the tiger away from the lifeboat. When Pi realises this later on his journey, he loses hope in man, and turns to God more. His faith deepens and hardens, and it gives him life - he manages, under God's will, to survive. And he does survive, even through blindness, he survives by hallucinating/dreaming; God takes him to a safer place in his mind (and why not?) where he can recharge his batteries. The revealing of the teeth on the fantasy-island gets Pi back to reality, as gruesome as were the findings, he is recharged and determined to live on - to survive. So, why can this not be true? Martel takes us to the end of the book, with the two Japanese men interviewing Pi. We are given two accounts of what happened - one with animals, the other with humans. Martel lets us decide, let's the readers choose where they have decided to go with their new learning of different faiths and ultimately, God (all through Pi). It's up to us to decided whether we believe the more 'realistic' story with humans (for those choosing Atheism) or whether we believe in the story with the animals (for those who have taken that leap of faith in God). Ultimately, Pi has come to the end of his journey, he is back on land in Mexico. He chooses God. And although the interviewers end up picking and choosing the animal story so lightly (remember they haven't endured the ocean like readers have with Pi), Pi chooses God and remembers God and says "God bless you" to the interviewers. Pi does not care whether they believe one story over the other. He has found God, in his own unique way. This is a story about testing our faith and revealing what we would really choose under those circumstances - some sort of worldly 'logic' with humans, or the complete miraculousness that only comes from God.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 4, 2011 10:29:07 PM PST
OrganicMango says:
Thanks for making the connection between the island and Islam. It makes sense. I agree that the book carries a message about spiritual truth rather than atheism in and of itself.

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 21, 2012 9:50:29 AM PST
s. pavlovich says:
Thank you for this excellent interpretation. Read this book a while ago, and loved it, but the symbolism was a little elusive to me. Having just seen the movie, and reading your analysis, I went back and saw the movie again, and looked at Richard Parker as a symbol for God/Pi's relationship with God/Pi's God within. Makes a lot of sense in the context of the story. Looking forward to re-reading the book again too.
BTW, Kudos to Ang Lee who, even though some things in the movie were changed, seems to have really understood the meaning of the book. You dont get that always in a film adaptation.

Posted on Aug 27, 2013 9:01:12 AM PDT
zoozoolover says:
I am having a hard time understand how the island alludes to the garden of Eden; can someone explain it to me?

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 30, 2013 7:14:27 PM PDT
Well said. You are one of the few readers that related to it like I did.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 15, 2013 5:04:07 PM PDT
buzzin012 says:
The cook knew that he was going to die. That's why he cowarded and allowed Pi to kill him.
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Discussion in:  Life of Pi forum
Participants:  15
Total posts:  24
Initial post:  May 21, 2006
Latest post:  Oct 15, 2013

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