Doubt is useful for a while […]. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.
In the Author’s Note at the beginning of Life of Pi, author Yann Martel appears to promise “a story that will make you believe in God.” The novel does make an argument along these lines, and it is, perhaps, a compelling one for some readers (I don’t think it’s an argument the religiously devout will generally embrace).
But more than making a case for the existence of a higher power, Martel seems to be interested in the worlds we create around ourselves by telling stories. The issue is raised quite dramatically when, in a Shyamalan-esque twist of an ending, it is revealed that Pi Patel’s story actually conceals a much more disturbing reality about his 227 days as a castaway at sea.
It was not a comfortable or pleasant note to end the book on; if you had asked me as I finished what I thought of Life of Pi, I probably would have said that I didn’t like it. My disappointment was surprising, as there had been so many people who had recommended the book to me. Days later, though, as I was still mulling over important questions the novel had brought up, I had to admit that maybe the hype was justified.
All the world is a symbol that we, as human beings, imbue with meaning. Which story are we going to tell ourselves about life, the universe, and everything? Is it a hopeful story? Or is it a story of an impending doom looming over the world, of the irredeemable state of humanity? “Which is the better story?” Pi asks. Which of these realities do we live in? The choice, Martel’s novel reminds us, is ours.
My grade: A-