Online Book Club: Book Reviews & Questions - Life Of Pi By Yann Martel
At times profound, at others humorous, the novel, Life of Pi, is the story of an Indian boy who, because he is named after a French swimming pool (Piscine) and doesn't like the nicknames which result, shortens his name to the irrational mathematical number Pi - 3.14... Pi becomes a Christian-Hindu-Muslim, and debates the faith of atheism. His father, a zoo keeper, decides to relocate the family to Canada. Unfortunately, a ship wreck means that Pi is left alone in a lifeboat on the Pacific Ocean, with only a zebra, a hyena and a Bengal tiger for company. The main thrust of the story, which includes wonderfully descriptive passages, is about his survival for the following eight months.
READERS' GROUP QUESTIONS
- How did you feel about the end of the book? Shocked? Surprised? Disappointed?
- Debating the merits of zoo-keeping, Pi decides that, "There is no more happenstance, no more 'freedom', involved in the whereabouts of a lizard...or a deer than in the location of a knight on a chessboard. Both speak of pattern and purpose." What, actually, is freedom? Are any of us really free?
- Examining faith, Pi reasons that, "It was my first clue that atheists are my brothers and sisters of a different faith... Like me, they go as far as the legs of reason will carry them and then they leap. What does he mean by this? How can atheism be called faith?
- When looking at agnosticism, Pi feels that "to choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transport" What do you think of this idea?
- "We commonly say in the trade that the most dangerous animal in a zoo is Man...we mean how our species' excessive predatoriness has made the entire planet our prey,." says Pi. In what ways do you think this might be true?
- In respect of escape (from the zoo) Pi observes that, "This madness can be saving. Without it, no species would survive... animals don't escape to somewhere, but from somewhere." Later in the book, he speaks of moving because of the "wear and tear of anxiety." Given that leaving and cleaving is a Biblical principle, how might this urge to move on be a God-given impulse?
- How might Pi's premise that "socially inferior animals are the ones that...(are) most faithful to (their keepers), most in need of their company, least likely to challenge them or be difficult," explain sycophantic behaviour?
- Pi finds similarities between faiths: "Hindus in their capacity for love are hairless Christians...Muslims bearded Hindus...Christians hat-wearing Muslims." Later, when confronted by Pi's religious leaders in the park, his father says: "you can't reprimand a boy for loving God?" What do you think the author is trying to say to the reader, here? Do you agree with him?
- What do you think Pi means when he talks about: "the main battlefield for good"? and then goes on to describe it as "not the open ground of the public arena, but the small clearing of each heart."?
- Pi says "time is an illusion" and that he survived his ordeal in the life raft on the open sea only because he forgot time. How might this concept be beneficial when we go through difficult times? How might a belief in eternity affect our view of time?
- What significance – if any – did you find in the story of the floating island? Is there anything we might learn here, from the effect of the waves on the shore?
- What were some of the most memorable pieces of writing / description for you?
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Author of a number of books, one a Sunday Times No 4 Bestseller, Mel Menzies offers resources to inform inspire and encourage. This article, in its original form, can be found at http://www.melmenzies.co.uk/
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