Life of Pi
by Yann Martel
Mortality Quotes in Life of Pi
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph)
My life is like a memento mori painting from European art: there is always a grinning skull at my side to remind me of the folly of human ambition. I mock this skull. I look at it and I say, "You've got the wrong fellow. You may not believe in life, but I don't believe in death. Move on!" (1.1.11)
A "memento mori" is an object – such as a skull – used to remind us of death. We know, we know: European art can be so gloomy. Here Pi says his own life has become a memento mori painting. Meaning, the events of his life only seem to remind him of death. But Pi doesn't stop there. True to form, Pi mocks his memento mori and says he doesn't "believe in death." Can you blame him? He survived for 227 days on the ocean. Death be not proud and all that.
But once a dead God, always a dead God, even resurrected. The Son must have the taste of death forever in his mouth. The Trinity must be tainted by it; there must be a certain stench at the right hand of God the Father. The horror must be real. Why would God wish that upon Himself? Why not leave death to the mortals? (1.17.21)
Pi struggles with the tenets of the Christian faith. How could its God suffer and die? Isn't that what God gets to avoid? Don't humans suffer and die while pining for the white light and glory of heaven? Pi's acceptance of Christianity, in some ways, prepares him for his own suffering and near-death experience on the Pacific. Christ elevates what Pi thought were solely human events: death and the suffering leading up to death.
The matter is difficult to put into words. For fear, real fear, such as shakes you to your foundation, such as you feel when you are brought face to face with your mortal end, nestles in your memory like a gangrene; it seeks to rot everything, even the words with which to speak of it. [...]. You must fight hard to shine the light of words upon it. Because if you don't, if your fear becomes a wordless darkness that you avoid, perhaps even manage to forget, you open yourself to further attacks of fear because you never truly fought the opponent who defeated you. (2.56.4)
This could have easily gone under "Themes: Fear." However, Pi struggles here with a particular type of fear: the fear of death. He realizes he must confront this particular fear – embodied, perhaps, by Richard Parker – or it will "nestle in [his] [...] memory like gangrene." Translated: Pi must become Richard Parker's master. Which he does in the very next chapter. Pi starts THE PI PATEL INDO-CANADIAN TRANS-PACIFIC FLOATING CIRCUS, whose sole goal is to train and subdue the deadly Richard Parker.