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Life of Pi

Life of Pi


by Yann Martel

The Spiritual Journey; the Religious Stuff

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

We've already bombarded you with the idea that nothing in Life of Pi is straightforward allegory. Same goes for Pi's ordeal on the Pacific. There's a lot of religious symbolism, and the whole deal sometimes seems like an allegory for the soul's spiritual journey. If it is such a thing, however, it's much more complex than your average everyday religious allegory.

That said, here's some of the religious stuff:

  • Orange Juice floats up to the lifeboat looking like the Virgin Mary.
  • Pi spends three days and three nights on the extended oar. Christ figure, anyone? In the New Testament Jesus is dead for three days and three nights before being resurrected. Heck, Jonah was in a whale's belly for three day and three nights too.
  • Pi smears fish scales on himself like Hindu tilaks.
  • He slaughters and eats fish, turtles, etc. in semi-ritualistic ways.
  • He suffers like the mystics (check out St. John of the Cross's Dark Night of the Soul – Pi's got nothing on this guy).
However the minute specific details complicate the allegory, much of Pi's Pacific ordeal strikes us as very real. Sure, you can interpret Pi's journey as implicitly spiritual, but you can't forget he's also a castaway, with all the tools and problems of a castaway. Somehow, Martel inhabits this middle ground.

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