The Quest for the Meaning of Life Essay

Yann Martel’s novel, Life of Pi, is an inspirational story of a young boy fighting for his life as a castaway with the company of a Bengal tiger. Through his religious beliefs and perseverance he is able to survive, but with great difficulty. In an allegorical sense, this story is brilliant. Pi recreates his story using animals to metaphorically represent the humans who were in his treacherous, archetypal journey because it appeals to everyone more than the frank and straightforward story. Attraction to this allegory proves the deeper point that life is meaningless without believing in the beauty and art of the quest at hand.

Pi’s quest begins by his family attempting to move to another country. This tragically ends when the ship he and his family are on sinks and he becomes a castaway. There are many obstacles during his experience as a castaway Pi must overcome. Of course there are the literal obstacles of Pi trying to find food. He goes to all lengths just to consume a little bit of precious nutrients. At one point he even eats the “heart liver and lungs” of a masked bobby bird, “swallowing (sic. ) its eyes and tongue with a gulp of water” (232). He is also constantly thirsty, and the endless body of salty water around him is such an evil temptress.

He lacks clothing, and therefore his body is literally deteriorating away. His mental state is also a very large obstacle. Pi is alone and lonely. Although being alone is hard to deal with, it is a choice. Being lonely is not a choice, but a circumstance that one in put in. Loneliness is very depressing on any human being including Pi. This could be the very reason why Pi created Richard Parker. Having just someone or something there to share the pain of being a castaway with makes surviving a little bit easier. Pi even says “he kept me from thinking too much about my family and my tragic circumstance” (164).

This makes Pi feel no completely lonely and having some support with him. Without Richard Parker Pi would not have survived and been able to tell this inspiring tale. Ironically Richard Parker is one of Pi’s biggest obstacles as well. This is where the beautiful allegory comes into play. On a surface level, Richard Parker is dangerous because of the simple fact he is a huge 450-pound tiger. He can physically harm Pi “limb to limb, organ by organ” (158) with his massive teeth and claws. On a deeper level, Richard Parker is metaphorically Pi himself. Martel allegorically comments on humanity and life here say that you are your biggest tempter.

You must believe in yourself in order to pursue on in life’s journeys or else you have no reason to keep moving forward. Perhaps this is why Pi created the animal story. After telling the Japanese men the two stories, Pi asks them which story they preferred. They both answered “the story with the animals” (317). Why? The story with the animals is more pleasant and meaningful. It is easier to take in than the awful and blunt nonfictional story. Although on both literal and metaphorical senses Pi makes the archetypal decision to survive, in the story with the animals it is as if Pi has more of a purpose of living because of Richard Parker.

He rationalizes that in order to survive he must tame Richard Parker so he will not eat Pi. In an allegorical sense, Pi has to tame himself to no eat away at this physical and emotional mind or else he will die. This gives him life in a sense. In one scene Pi and Richard Parker find themselves in a very intense storm. Pi describes the lightning they see and how “that close encounter with electrocution and third-degree burns as one of the few times during his (sic. ) ordeal when he felt genuine happiness” (233).

The reason he feels happiness is because the lightning represents life. It is as if a breathe of fresh air is overcoming him through lightning, and its beautiful. It gives him hope and inspiration. Through Richard Parker and “breathes of life” like the lightning Pi finally finds things worth living for which, through the help of God, keeps him alive. When Pi finally returns back to civilization, he is a changed person forever. Just as the archetype of a hero should be. Physically he becomes cold very easily and turns away from salt.

Emotionally he hoards food, and turns into an outcast. Since no one truly understands what he went through, other than perhaps Richard Parker who in fact is Pi, he cannot relate to anyone and becomes an outcast. Something beautiful, however, does come out of his horrific struggle he went through. He is able to share this inspiring and outrageous story with the world and live in peace once again. Overcoming struggle is what makes life so beautiful and meaningful, and Pi overcame one of the most massive struggles a person could go through.

I feel as though a conclusion to this paper would be rather pointless regarding this novel. Pi’s story is difficult to stop reading when the pages run out because his life does not end, he wins the battle. He has struggled and persevered through his quest and comes out a different person, but his story, just like his name, will continue on. Concluding this paper contradicts the sole purpose of this story, to not to stop at the surface level of this paper, but to have imagination so “we don’t (sic. ) end up believing in nothing and having worthless dreams”.