Life of Pi

Living a Lie: Yann Martel’s Pi and his Dissociation from Reality

Piscine Molitor Patel, the protagonist of Yann Martel’s acclaimed novel Life of Pi, survives a horrific 227-day ordeal trapped aboard a directionless lifeboat with only a 450-pound Bengal Tiger, named Richard Parker, for company. Pi’s account of his misfortune spans the majority of the work, and it takes him hours to recount it to the Japanese investigators at the novel’s conclusion. His description is so vivid, so extensive, and so detailed that it would seem, despite its admittedly outlandish elements, deeply founded in actual events. Indeed, to fabricate something of such intensity would be unthinkable—and this is in fact the case. Pi almost unthinkingly constructs a fantasy alternative to the appalling truth of his experience in order to shield his psyche from the truly dreadful circumstances of his survival. Pi alters the actuality of his time on the lifeboat in such an unwitting manner as to be able to believe this figment of his imagination without hesitation, insistent on the truthfulness of his original account. It is only after a “Long silence” that Pi is able to bear witness to the actual facts regarding his experiences on the lifeboat (381). Author Joan Didion suggests that we must “tell ourselves stories in order...

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