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Life of Pi and the Function of Religion

Profile image of Katherine  Heigh

This brief interdisciplinary paper explores the psychological function of religion demonstrated in Yann Martel's Life of Pi. Drawing on research into Terror Management Theory, this essay describes how Pi's unique religious orientation helps him to survive his ordeal at sea.

Related Papers

Jeff Robbins

This paper provides a literary analysis of Yann Martel's novel, "The Life of Pi." Specifically, it considers why it makes the claim that it is a story that will make you believe in God. What does this claim say about the nature of contemporary religious belief? To address this question, the paper draws on religious theorists Steve Bruce and Marcel Gauchet.

life of pi religion essay pdf

Journal for Cultural and Religious Theory

Daniel Reiser

The present study examines a strikingly modern and original interpretation of the Kabbalistic theory of tsimtsum, of the withdrawal of God and the ensuing veil spread over the ultimate reality, in Yann Martel’s bestselling novel Life of Pi. This interpretation advances two different possibilities, the veracity of which cannot be determined, regarding whether tsimtsum is literal or allegorical. These two different readings hold vastly divergent implications for the human soul, its approach to life and its perception of God. Martel’s interpretation is herein compared to classical Jewish sources from Lurianic Kabbalah to twentieth-century thought. In addition, I argue that the creative interpretations of Life of Pi touch directly upon broader questions of faith and meaning, and thus I place them into conversation with the of the teachings of William James, Martin Buber and Ludwig Wittgenstein and in a confrontation with Karl Marx’s and Friedrich Nietzsche’s secularism.

DUJES Volume 30 issue 7

Mahabub Kamal

This thesis sheds light upon some distinguished features of Life of Pi which have been interpreted in the light of an ‘Inside Out’ or practical approach. Apparently, Martel’s Life of Pi promotes ‘Anthropomorphism’ and denounces ‘Anthropocentrism’, since the author himself is critical of it. In addition to that, the text also symbolizes nature with the deeply-rooted thoughts of human psyche. On the contrary, by exploring the Eco-critical features of the text, I have tried to prove that, in one way or the other, anthropocentric influence is there and the nature Pi has to unceasingly struggle with is completely indifferent towards his physical and psychological turmoil. Through some liberal arguments and reasoning, this study shatters the traditional interpretations of the text and facilitates us to see it in a new light.

Roczniki Humanistyczne

Joanna Klara Teske

The essay discusses Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, focusing on the novel’s use of contradictions to present the theme of the theistic, atheistic and agnostic beliefs. The novel seems to defend the thesis that theism is rational (on pragmatic rather than epistemic grounds), atheism in its choice of commitment resembles faith, whereas agnosticism can be identified with dogmatic materialism and a passive attitude towards life. To illustrate this view the novel engages the

Dragoș Osoianu

This paper aims to establish an onto-epistemological connection between the realm of animals and the realm of human beings within the context of the narrative discourse of the novel Life of Pi. The binary and essential oppositions between reason and imagination, atheism and religion, human and non-human, subject and object, culture and nature are deconstructed in order to reveal a unity of homogeneous dichotomies. The concept of Material Ecocriticism is applied to this work with the goal to highlight the fact that the ethical energies of “doing” are pragmatically and semantically situated between the ontology of “being” and the epistemology of “knowing”. These shallow contraries ought to be comprehended through and within the larger context of immanence in which all beings and objects share the same existential substance and in which they are axiologically equal. Thus, the human and societal agencies encounter the agentive forces of Nature, which partially reshape and renegotiate the cultural discourse. The main character, Pi, represents the cosmopolitan thinker in terms of his multicultural and religious background. Through the agency of imagination, he unifies the plane of immanence with the mythical and religious state of the unconscious, and the ecology of society with the forces of animals and Nature. Key Words: Material Ecocriticism, immanence, agency, religion, Life of Pi

Open Cultural Studies

timucin edman

This article intends to lay out a comparative study of Karma philosophy and literature scrutinizing Yann Martel’s novel Life of Pi through a panentheistic approach. Because Karma is one of the predominant philosophies in the novel and permeates the general atmosphere, this article intends to scrutinize Yann Martel’s novel Life of Pi through a panentheistic approach. Although karma is a very complex issue, since anyone committing evil acts can claim to be a mere agent of karma delivering punishment to others for sins they committed in their past lives, it is true that according to karma, our actions have consequences which affect the entirety of our lives, and this can also be seen as free will. Yet while this approach tends to focus on the action and reaction mechanisms of life, the flow of life in the universe should still be carefully contemplated, since if we believe the first story, Pi’s survival not only depends on his choices, but also on the opportunities that the universe of...

Intertexts: A Journal of Comparative and Theoretical Reflections, Vol. 14:1

Gregory Stephens

Along with "Out Too Far: Half-Fish, Beaten Men, & the Tenor of Masculine Grace in Old Man & the Sea," this was written soon after departing Jamaica (where I taught both texts), and initiates a body of work re-visioning human-animal relations. Yann Martel framed Life of Pi as “a story that will make you believe in God.” I use three approaches to the “new vision of God” this fiction is said to inspire: 1) Revisioning the Creator by rethinking human-animal relations 2) The balance of science and religion as a necessary part of “believing in God” 3) The privileging of a good story over either religion or science. Pi gets a new faith precisely by having to “worship” outside of institutional contexts, while surviving 227 days alongside a Bengal tiger. Martel’s “better story” trumps either science or religion. The better story is itself an object of adoration, a means through which one glimpses faith. Martel notes: “The theme of this novel can be summarized in three lines. Life is a story. You can choose your story. And a story with an imaginative overlay is the better story.” Thus, “believing in God” requires us to suspend disbelief while we listen to fantastic stories about a world in which truth is stranger than fiction. As various voices in Life of Pi remind us, the “better story” is the one that includes animals. So the story that makes us “believe in God” decenters human beings. This better story puts animals back at the center of both our secular and religious imagination.

In Adam T. Bogar, ed. Critical Insights: Life of Pi. Hackensack (New Jersey, USA): Salem Press, pp. 136–147 (ISBN 978–1–64265–667–1).

Alberto Oya

The aim of this essay is to show that Yann Martel’s Life of Pi can be read as illustrating what philosophers usually name as pragmatic arguments for religious belief. Ultimately, this seems to be the reason why, in the short prologue that accompanies the novel, Martel claims Life of Pi to be “a story to make you believe in God”. To put it briefly, these arguments claim that even conceding that the question of whether to believe that God exists or that He does not exist cannot be decided upon the evidence we have, we are still justified to decide to believe in God because of the practical beneficial consequences this belief will bring to us. In Martel’s Life of Pi it is this kind of pragmatic reasoning that originates and what makes the “story with animals” preferable over the “story without animals.” I also point out that these arguments appear more convincing if they are not understood as referring to belief in the ordinary and common usage of the term, as the acceptance as being true the factual claim that the world is such that God does actually exist, but as referring to a subjective, non-truth-dependent way of understanding the world and of relating to it. I show that this is precisely the kind of conception of religious faith that is illustrated by the character of Pi through the novel.

John Kuriakose

Yan Martel's Life of Pi – the story as well as its religious ideology—exhibits apparent intertextual correspondence with the concept of " Universalism " the Indian mystic Swami Vivekananda preached to the world more than a century ago. Martel's central character Pi represents this concept of religion, which finds the same set of universally valid principles in all religions of the world, and thus embraces all religions with the willingness to worship God in all places of worship, irrespective of whether they belong to Islam or Christianity or Buddhism or Hinduism. This perception of religiousness of Life of Pi comes as a solution to the concerns of the present religiously divided, material and greedy world that speaks a lot in vain about ecumenism, interfaith and constructive interaction among religions. The story of the shipwreck with the horrible experiences of Pi in the lifeboat in the presence of the Indian tiger Richard Parker and his eventual survival validates this concept of God and works out a formula for a harmonious coexistence of religions and other conflicting forces in the world. Thus the book becomes a great religious allegory in tune with the fundamentals of all religious traditions: a pilgrimage on the sea of Karma to be united with the Absolute, a metaphor of the Atman seeking to realize Brahman, and an allegory on the concept of retributive justice of God by which sins are punished and virtues rewarded.

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life of pi religion essay pdf

Yann Martel

Everything you need for every book you read..

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Yann Martel's Life of Pi . Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Life of Pi: Introduction

Life of pi: plot summary, life of pi: detailed summary & analysis, life of pi: themes, life of pi: quotes, life of pi: characters, life of pi: symbols, life of pi: theme wheel, brief biography of yann martel.

Life of Pi PDF

Historical Context of Life of Pi

Other books related to life of pi.

  • Full Title: Life of Pi
  • Where Written: Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada
  • When Published: 2001
  • Literary Period: Contemporary Fiction
  • Genre: Fiction, Magical Realism
  • Setting: Pondicherry, India, the Pacific Ocean, Mexico, and Toronto, Canada
  • Climax: Pi finds land
  • Antagonist: The hyena/French cook
  • Point of View: First person limited from both the “author” and the adult Pi

Extra Credit for Life of Pi

Richard Parker. Martel got the name “Richard Parker” from Edgar Allan Poe’s nautical novel The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. The name also appears in at least two other factual shipwreck accounts. Martel noticed the reoccurring “Richard Parkers” and felt that the name must be significant.

Zoo. The historical Pondicherry did have a zoo in 1977, but it lacked any tigers or anything larger than a deer.

The logo.


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  4. Who Discovered Pi?

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  1. Religion and Faith Theme in Life of Pi

    Francis Adirubasamy first presents Pi 's tale to the fictional author as "a story to make you believe in God," immediately introducing religion as a crucial theme. Pi is raised in a secular, culturally Hindu family, but as a boy he becomes more devoutly Hindu and then also converts to Christianity and Islam. He practices all of these ...

  2. Why is religion important to Pi and how does it aid his survival?

    In chapter 17, Pi explains how he came to be a believer in three different religions: Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. Hinduism was his religion from his birth. He says he learned from it ...

  3. Life of Pi Critical Essays

    Critical Evaluation. PDF Cite. The central theme of Yann Martel's Life of Pi concerns religion and human faith in God. However, the novel pointedly refrains from advocating any single religious ...

  4. Religion And Survival Life Of Pi English Literature Essay

    Life of Pi is a story of the survival of the Indian boy 'Pi' at sea for 277days. He has been raised up with Hindu religion, and then later he discovered Christianity and Islam. The believability of God is one of themes in Life of Pi. Pi practices three religions at once he pursues studying religion and zoology in university and respects ...

  5. In Life of Pi, which three religions does Pi follow and why

    Quick answer: In Life of Pi, the three religions that Pi follows are Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam. He follows Hinduism because he loves and connects with its sensory experiences, Christianity ...

  6. Life of Pi and the Function of Religion

    The aim of this essay is to show that Yann Martel's Life of Pi can be read as illustrating what philosophers usually name as pragmatic arguments for religious belief. Ultimately, this seems to be the reason why, in the short prologue that accompanies the novel, Martel claims Life of Pi to be "a story to make you believe in God".

  7. Life Of Pi Religion Essay

    Life Of Pi Religion Essay. 440 Words2 Pages. Pi believes in the unknowingness of religions because they provide better stories and a better appreciation of the things around him than scientific exploration. Because Pi is a Hindu, Christian, and Muslim, incorporates many of these religious stories into his narrative.

  8. Life of Pi Study Guide

    Martel studied philosophy at Trent University in Ontario, and later spent a year in India visiting religious sites and zoos. His first three books received little critical or popular attention, but with the publication of Life of Pi in 2001 Martel became internationally famous, and he was awarded the Man Booker Prize in 2002.

  9. Life of Pi Essay

    In Life of Pi, Pi is an Indian boy whose faith is his life. He is lost at sea after his family's ship to Canada sinks. He is alone on a lifeboat in the Pacific ocean , save for a Bengal tiger. The story of his survival is a story of perseverance by faith in the face of overwhelming adversity. Authors have always used religious allusions and ...

  10. Life of Pi Essay

    Life of Pi Essay - Free download as Word Doc (.doc / .docx), PDF File (.pdf), Text File (.txt) or read online for free. essay

  11. Themes in Life of Pi with Examples and Analysis

    Lastly, throughout his religious training, he remains steadfast and trusts the process of living, staying tolerant. Theme #10. Philosophy of Life. The novel also revolves around the theme of the philosophy of life since Pi experiences life through faith, miseries, and happiness. He learns that to live a life a person should be patient and faithful.

  12. Life of Pi: Suggested Essay Topics

    Suggestions for essay topics to use when you're writing about Life of Pi.

  13. PDF © 2018 JETIR December 2018, Volume 5, Issue 12 Religion and Pi Life of Pi

    island. Pi's religious beliefs though helped him to have hope but the science helped him to rationalise the event in order to survive. Life of Pi is a novel of hope and belief. The survival of a teenage boy was seen to be a vengeance of a sailor who due to ship wrack got stuck in the sea. Martel used religion to develop the character of Pi.

  14. Religion in Life of Pi essay.pdf

    Pi can make an atheist believe in God by providing him with concepts that can provoke faith in even the biggest non-believers. The concepts that he brings forward are the beauty of nature, the survival against the hardest odds and finally the the power of symbolism in life. Survival against insurmountable odds Faith. p. 76 Perseverance Beauty of nature and religious imagination Importance of ...

  15. Life of Pi: Mini Essays

    Pi is the sole member of his family to survive the sinking of the Tsimtsum, and he is able to do so largely because he has inherited (from Mamaji) strong swimming skills and an affinity for water. Now Pi must propagate the Patel line. When we learn that Pi is a father, the author tells us, "This story has a happy ending.".

  16. Life of Pi Religion Essay

    Life of Pi Religion Essay - Free download as PDF File (.pdf), Text File (.txt) or read online for free. Scribd is the world's largest social reading and publishing site.

  17. What is the role of faith in "Life of Pi"?

    As you prepare to write your essay, locate 2-3 quotes from Pi that reveal his need to find meaning in life and his concerns about religion. One quote could come from his dialogue with his parents ...

  18. Life of Pi and Religion

    Essay on Life of Pi and Religion In the first part of Life of Pi, Pi Patel tells the reader about important memories from his childhood before the ship accident and his adventure as a ... PhDessay is an educational resource where over 1,000,000 free essays are collected. Scholars can use them for free to gain inspiration and new creative ideas ...

  19. Life of Pi Essays

    Life of Pi Essays - Free download as Word Doc (.doc / .docx), PDF File (.pdf), Text File (.txt) or read online for free. Essays on the book Life of Pi


    Pi goes through a significant religious awakening in his formative years, eventually subscribing to a variety of religions: Hinduism, Catholicism, and finally Islam. 7. Although the religious leaders don't accept Pi's plural religions, his family gradually does, and he remains a devout follower of all his religious paths for his entire life.

  21. In Martel's Life of Pi, how does religion help Pi survive at sea

    Finally, in chapter 74, Pi goes into more detail about his faith in God and how it helps him through his ordeal at sea. He practices any ritual that he can think of from his three main religions ...

  22. Life Of Pi Religion Essay

    The book of "Life of Pi", by Yann Martel is a novel of finding yourself through religion. The main character named Pi, believed in God and faith. He comes across a journey that showed him how to be a better person. The book shows how Pi struggled through deciding which religion is best for him. And learning how to survive when everything ...


    a) State the reason Pi knows so much about the training of animals. (1) b) Explain fully how his knowledge of training animals later saves Pi's life. (3) c) In your view, is Pi suggesting that humans and animals are similar in some respects? Substantiate your response. (2) 3.