Jeff Ramos English101 Mr. Adams 11-21-2012 What to Believe In the novel Life of Pi, Yann Martel uses the protagonist Pi to demonstrate how faith, ritual and ones will to live save one from the barbaric and carnivorous reality. Pi Patel, lover of faith and various gods and their beliefs loses his family after a shipwreck and drifts on the Pacific Ocean with the zebra, hyena, orangutan and tiger named Richard Parker, each struggling in their own way to survive. In the end, Pi presents two different stories and leaves it up to the reader to decide which version is ultimately true.
Personally, I would believe the animal story was made up by Pi because the human story was too much for him to endure. But how do we define truth? Is something true simply because it is believable? Is something untrue because it seems unrealistic? The dictionary defines truth as 1) the true or actual state of a matter; 2) conformity with fact or reality; 3) a verified or indisputable fact, proposition, principle or the like. The relativity of truth is not emphasized as a major theme until the last part of the novel, when Pi recaps the entire story to the officials from the shipping company who are questioning him.
Pi lets them choose the version they prefer, and for them that version becomes truth. In this world, people believe the version of truth that they are most comfortable with. People would rather believe a colorful version of a story, over the gruesome details of the story that actually happened. For example, as Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba were interviewing Pi, he asks them “So tell me, since it makes no factual difference to you and you can’t prove the question either way, which story do you prefer? Which is the better story, the story with the animals or the story without animals? Mr. Chiba: the story with the animals.
Mr. Okomoto: Yes. The story with animals is the better story. ” (317). After hearing the two versions of Pi’s horrendous account, the interviewers agree the story with the animals is the “better” story, however; never do they say they believe it is true. As humans we tend to think that something is untrue just because it is unbelievable or we just haven’t had an opportunity to experience a certain situation yet. For example, when Pi is describing the atheists and agnostics last words he says “I can well imagine an atheist’s last words: “white, white? L-L-Love! My God” – and the deathbed leap of faith.
Whereas the agnostic, if he stays true to his reasonable self, if he stays beholden to dry, yeast less factuality, might try to explain the warm light bathing him by saying, “possibly a f-f-falling oxygenation of the b-b-brain,” and, to the very end, lack imagination and miss the better story. ” (64). This shows how the agnostic did not believe in god because he felt that it was untrue and unbelievable. Yet when he or she experiences it, they surely would become a believer. Pi seems to be bothered by the agnostic and their decision to doubt, to lack belief in anything. Another quote from Life of Pi shows that simply because Mr. Chiba and Mr.
Okomoto have never actually witnessed a floating banana they automatically believed that it is untrue and believe it would sink. ““Bananas don’t float. ” “Yes they do. ” “They are to heavy. ” “ No they are not. Here, try for yourself. I have two bananas right here. ” … “They’re in. ” “And? ” “They are floating. ” “What did I tell you? ”” (292-293). Through experience Pi knows that bananas float. Once Pi proves to the interviewers that indeed bananas do float, they believe. How do we decide what to believe? The theory of knowledge can guide us in deciding what to believe, what to ignore, what to question, and what we don’t know.
It is different from assumptions, rumors and myths. Which version do you believe? Do you think Pi, as a young boy, comes up with the fantastical tale to cope with the ugly truth? Or, is it somehow not the point to decide what actually happened? Maybe the beauty of the first story outweighs the believability of the second? Martel spends so much time developing the first story, and not much on the second. While it might seem totally unlikely, the details are all put into the first story. Ultimately, in Life of Pi, Martel leaves the decision of what to believe up to you.