Life of Pi
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Belief in God
Belief in God is clearly a major theme in Life of Pi, and has been the most controversial in reviews of the book. Throughout the novel, Pi makes his belief in and love of God clear—it is a love profound enough that he can transcend the classical divisions of religion, and worship as a Hindu, Muslim, and Christian. Pi, although amazed by the possibility of lacking this belief, still respects the atheist, because he sees him as a kind of believer. Pi’s vision of an atheist on his death bed makes it clear that he assumes the atheist’s form of belief is one in God, without his realizing it until the end. It is the agnostic that truly bothers Pi; the decision to doubt, to lack belief in anything, is to him inexcusable. This is underscored in that essential passage in the novel when Pi asks the Japanese officials which of his two stories they preferred—he sees no reason why they should not believe the better story.
Pi’s devotion to God is a prominent part of the novel; it becomes, however, much less prominent during his time aboard the lifeboat, when his physical needs come to dominate his spiritual ones. Pi never seems to doubt his belief in God while enduring his hardships, but he certainly focuses on it less. This in turn underscores the theme of the primacy of survival.
When he is fourteen, Pi and his family go on a trip to Munnar. While exploring the place, Pi comes upon a Christian church. He watches the priest, then returns to the church the next day and has tea with Father Martin. Father Martin explains the story of Christ and his death, but Pi finds the tale irritating: he cannot believe it.
He meets with Father Martin for three days straight, continuing to ask questions. On his last day in Munnar, Pi tells Father Martin that he wants to be a Christian, and Father Martin tells him that he already is, for he has met Christ in good faith.
When he is fifteen, Pi comes upon the Muslim section of Pondicherry while exploring his neighborhood. He ends up in a small bakery, and while he is talking to the baker, the call to prayer comes and Pi watches the baker pray. He finds the physicality of it satisfying.
Pi returns to see the baker and asks him about Islam, which he finds beautiful. The baker, named Satish Kumar, allows Pi to explore this faith, and Pi recounts two experiences during which he encounters God.