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Quotes

Quote #1

I ran up the stairs. I got to the main deck. The weather wasn't entertaining any more. I was very afraid. Now it was plain and obvious: the ship was listing badly. And it wasn't level the other way either. There was a noticeable incline going from bow to stern. I looked overboard. The water didn't look to be eighty feet away. The ship was sinking. My mind could hardly conceive it. It was as unbelievable as the moon catching fire. (2.38.15)

Usually, when the moon catches fire, you're in trouble. Martel gives us a stunningly clear sense of Pi's fear: the inconceivable is happening. The more unbelievable chapters in this novel, of course, depend on the reader's faith in the story. But the events in those chapters also frighten the pants off Pi. Aren't we the most frightened when the usual rules of the world dissolve? Isn't that both beautiful and frightening – sort of like the moon catching fire?

Quote #2

I was alone and orphaned, in the middle of the Pacific, hanging on to an oar, an adult tiger in front of me, sharks beneath me, a storm raging above me. [...]. After a while I made good use of the lifebuoy. I lifted it out of the water and put the oar through its hole. I worked it down until the ring was hugging me. Now it was only with my legs that I had to hold on. If Richard Parker appeared, it would be more awkward to drop from the oar, but one terror at a time, Pacific before tiger. (2.40.4-5)

It can't get any worse for Pi. He's alone in the middle of the Pacific hanging onto an oar extended from the bow of a lifeboat. A Bengal tiger is pacing in the lifeboat. Sharks are swimming below him. But Pi proves here that he's pretty tough. Even though there's a lot of talk in the novel about faith and spirituality, Pi is a remarkably pragmatic boy. If he is to survive, he has to deal with one problem at a time. "One day at a time" is probably the most cliché advice in the world, unless you're trapped on a lifeboat with a tiger.

Quote #3

I had a chance so long as he did not sense me. If he did, he would kill me right away. Could he burst through the tarpaulin, I wondered.

Fear and reason fought over the answer. Fear said Yes. He was a fierce, 450-pound carnivore. Each of his claws was as sharp as a knife. Reason said No. The tarpaulin was sturdy canvas, not a Japanese paper wall. I had landed upon it from a height. Richard Parker could shred it with his claws with a little time and effort, but he couldn't pop through like a jack-in-the-box. And he had not seen me. Since he had not seen me, he had no reason to claw his way through. (2.41.5-6)

Did you think Pi the Hindu-Christian-Muslim and eminent spiritualist would renounce the use of reason? Wrong. Pi uses reason to help him manage his fears. If Life of Pi, in addition to being a novel, is also a survival manual for our diverse, contemporary world, then Martel suggests you make use of every tool available. And yes, that means Yann Martel wants you to think.

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