Sunday, April 19, 2009

Life of Pi (#20)

When my teacher announced that we were going to be reading this in class I was a little skeptical. It's a really hyped book and I thought it was a little weird that we weren't dedicating our time to F. Scott Fitzgerald or Shakespeare. But once I started reading I began to realize why my teacher had picked this book for us to read.

I don't usually write about the books we read for school, but I have to break that unwritten rule for this book. Because, simply put, Life of Pi was amazing. And I'm really glad that I read this in school because there's actually a ton of symbolism that I wouldn't pick up on if I read it by myself.

For example; when Pi's on the boat, everything is orange - the tiger, the life jackets, the whistle, the tarp, etc. Had I been reading this alone, I wouldn't have realized that orange was the only mentioned color. And that in fact, orange is representative of the second Hindu chakra which in turn represents relationships, violence, basic emotional needs, and pleasure. And that Richard Parker himself is sort of the embodiment of the second chakra. Yeah. That's the kind of crazy symbolism stuff I'm talking about.

Also, I learned that Richard Parker's name isn't a coincidence or just some random thing Yann Martel came up with off the top of his head. In Edgar Allan Poe's only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, published in 1838, Richard Parker is a mutinous sailor on the whaling ship Grampus. After the ship capsizes in a storm, he and three other survivors draw lots upon Parker's suggestion to kill one of them to sustain the others. Parker then gets cannibalized. In 1846, the Francis Spaight foundered at sea. The survivors resorted to cannibalism, with seaman Richard Parker being the victim. In 1884, the yacht Mignonette sank. Four people survived, drifted in a life boat, and finally killed one of them, the cabin boy Richard Parker, for food (thank you Wikipedia).

Edgar Allen Poe's fictional book was published 40 years before the canibalism of the first Richard Parker. Poe's character had the same name and was in the same predicament as a real life man 40 years later. That is just plain freaky if you ask me.

So I think Yann Martel was pretty stinking smart to name his tiger that. It only makes sense.

But that wasn't my favorite part of the book. My favorite part was the ending, where you're presented with all of this stuff and left to decide for yourself what to think. But for me, that wasn't the point. I think the point of the book was to prove that it doesn't really matter if those events happened. Is the reality of the story really what matters? Isn't it the story and its meaning that actually matter? It's all about what you perceive to be reality and how you react to things based on that.

So basically, this book is amazing. Read it if you haven't.


  1. Wow...Have this on my shelf and never read it because it was a gift and not my type of thing, but I'm definitely going to give it a try!

  2. I read about half of this a couple of years ago but I never got around to finishing it. (And...I never noticed the orange thing either). I'm definitely going to pick it up again, though.

  3. This one sounds amazing! I will definitely have to pick it up soon! Amazing review LiV!

  4. This is my book club's selection for May!

  5. i liked the ending best too. It was the only humorous part and it really left me with a major question mark. Best ending ever!

  6. This has been on my wishlist for years. I should read it. That Richard Parker thing is very interesting. I doubt I would have known if you hadn't told me though!

  7. Thanks for posting about this-I read this a while ago and totally missed the orange stuff! Your teacher sounds really interesting!

  8. I haven't read this but tha's so awesome that your teacher picked a great book for you guys to read. I've heard really great things about this book and I really enjoyed your review 8)

  9. You just made me want to read this book. :)


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