C. S. Lewis once described faith as “the art of holding onto things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. ” This concept of faith is repeatedly tested throughout Yann Martel’s novel, The Life of Pi, which follows the life of Piscine Patel, or Pi for short. The book begins by following Pi’s diverse experiences in his hometown of Pondicherry, India, and later delves into his arduous journey of being stranded at sea for 227-days alongside an adult Bengal tiger.
From his time in Pondicherry to the end of his seemingly ceaseless time at sea, he is faced with many troublesome dilemmas and life- hreatening situations, all of which try the vitality of his faith and his will to live. Through the story of Pi’s life, Martel shows that, although being faced with doubt is inevitable, one must choose to overcome it with faith because constantly searching for proof to settle doubt is a hindrance to living a fulfilled life.
Martel suggests that overcoming doubt with faith is vital because it helps one’s ability to see the ‘better stories’ of life, rather than continually searching for similar, drier, stories that are solely based on proof and facts. These ‘better stories’ are full of magination, are a more comforting and morally satisfying option, and only require faith to believe. The other stories, however, require much more energy to establish and are considerably less gratifying. Pi uses this idea to explain his dislike in agnostics. 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, yeastless factuality, might try to explain the warm light bathing him by saying, ‘Possibly a f-f- failing oxygenation of the b-b-brain,’ and, to the very end, lack magination and miss the better story”(64). In other words, agnostics are stuck in a continuous cycle of not knowing where to put their faith and are constantly trying to seek confirmation for their tangled perceptions. Their lives are therefore consumed by doubt on a never-ending quest for the dry facts.
They end up completely missing the better story, and rarely meet their end being fully satisfied with life. Atheists on the other hand, have chosen to overtake this doubt by putting faith in a belief, even if this belief is contrary to that of any religion. Because they do not focus on finding proof, they are able to see he better story and so are more content with their lives. Later, near the end of the book, Pi is being interviewed by two men regarding the experiences he had at sea, and tells them his story of being trapped on the lifeboat for nearly seven months with a Bengal tiger.
He includes all of the other inconceivable situations he encountered and troubles he endured. The interviewers are incredulous and immediately start berating this story, saying that it cannot be the truth. They are adamant about knowing all the facts and use arguments such as, ‘Bananas do not float,’ and ‘No one could survive in the ompany a fully grown tiger for that long. ‘ Pi reluctantly gives in to their skepticism and tells the men another similar, much more brutal story, of how his journey went, and removes all of the elements they previously had trouble believing.
Afterwards Pi asks, “.. ince 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 animals or the story without animals”(317). Their opinion on this question is confirmed when they say in their news report: “Very few castaways can claim to have survived so long at sea as Mr. Patel, nd none in the company of an adult Bengal tiger”(319). This reveals that although they start out by being extremely assertive in needing to have proof of a factual story, they begin to overcome their doubts and have faith in the first, more fulfilling story Pi tells; the better story.
In both of these examples, Martel demonstartes that overcoming doubt with faith will allow one to see the better story, which is ultimately the most favorable option for improving nearly every aspect of life. The Life of Pi indicates that being doubtful and unfaithful also wastes one’s time away and hinders the ability to progress further in life. Pi continues to explain his disapproval of agnostics, and concludes by saying, “. surely we are also permitted doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation”(28).
This startling statement reiterates that if one spends their life doubting their every move and fails to have faith in a specific path, they will forever be stuck in a stagnant state, never being able to decided where to go next. Any attempts to progress forward will be as futile as using “immobility as a means of transportation. ” Having faith is also shown to save time while Pi s talking with his interviewers. Within only a few minutes after the interview starts, Pi tells the first version of his story–one that includes training a Bengal tiger on a lifeboat and encountering a carnivorous island.
Instead of believing this story, the men decide to take more time out of the interview to pressure Pi into telling them what ‘really happened. ‘ Pi responds to this by saying, “You want a story that won’t surprise you. That will confirm what you already know. That won’t make you see higher or further or differently. You want a flat story. An immobile story. You want dry, yeastless factuality”(302). Pi is mplying that by being unfaithful one is squandering their time because, in searching for the facts, they would only be provided with proof for what they had previously chosen not to believe.
In order to save time to explore more meaningful aspects of life, one must move on from a doubtful mindset and instead practice having faith in what is not initially proven. Martel also shows that having faith can help one survive, even in the most dire of situations, and that doubting this faith will wear on one’s will to live. Throughout the 227 days that Pi is stranded at sea, he repeatedly turns to his deep faith in God to comfort him and elp him get through the journey. He says, “So long as God is with me, I will not die”(148).
Most of Pi’s time in the lifeboat is spent performing rituals and prayers to keep himself busy, which is one of the pivotal reasons he had the motivation to make it to Mexico where he was rescued. However, as Pi nears the middle of his journey, he periodically starts to doubt the imperative belief that God is with him. Throughout these spells of ambiguity he tries to remind himself of his faith in any way he can, but concludes that, “God’s hat was always unravelling. God’s pants were falling apart. God’s cat was a constant danger. God’s ark was a jail. God’s wide acres were slowly killing me.
God’s ear didn’t seem to be listening. Despair was a heavy blackness that let no light in or out. It was a hell beyond expression”(209). Doubting his faith takes a large toll on Pi’s optimistic outlook on survival. The foreboding thoughts, which he had pushed away, come through once again and tell him to give up; However each time this doubting mindset catches him off guard, something else reminds him that he needs to hold onto his faith to continue on. Pi says, “The blackness would stir and eventually go away, and God would remain, a shining point f light in my heart.
I would go on loving”(209). By doubting God, Pi begins to lose his will to live, which is detrimental to his chances for survival; however Pi’s faith always finds a way to push through to him, and right when he starts believing in God again, his despair evaporates, and his hope returns. If it was not for the strong belief that God was with him throughout his adversities, the doubts in his mind would have taken over before he could have made it back to solid ground. Apprehension is ultimately an important aspect of humanity when experienced in brief quantities.
Without it, one would end p walking straight into the face of danger when there is a warning sign right in front of them. However, Martel wrote The Life of Pi to convey the message that one must not spend their life trapped in an endless spiral of this doubtful mindset, and instead choose to have faith in what there may not be proof for. In doing so, time is spared, countless aspects of life are improved, and the will to survive in dire situations becomes nearly indestructible. In this dynamic society, the choice between doubt or faith will always be there, but it is up to the people to choose the best story.