• Uncategorized

Life of Pi

Lifeof Pi


Lifeof Pi is a movie that explains the story of a boy who spent 227 dayson a boat with a wild Bengal tiger. Pi starts the movie by tellingthe narrator “I have a story that would make you believe in God.”On several occasions, Pi seems like an abject defender of religionwhile on other occasions, he seems to defy religion. Does that meanthat the movie life of Pi seeks to prove science wrong? Definitely,in the film the protagonist shows that he believes in both zoologyand religion. Is that even possible? Do these two faiths contradictone another? Using transpersonal theory this research will seek toidentify the role of religion, the interaction of different faithsand how Pi contradicted faith in the movie. In the same story, Pifaced the challenge of surviving for 227 days on a single lifeboatwith a Bengal tiger. He had to devise ways of survival andassimilation in order to balance between saving his own life andmaintaining the life of the tiger. He claimed that he needed thetiger alive to keep him alert. This made them have a perfect workingrelationship between them which beats most theories of science. Laterthis paper will seek to show how Pi used the theory of assimilationto survive the challenges he faced.

Accordingto the Abraham Maslow, transpersonal theory seeks to express extremewellness of a human being. It is interested in those persons who haveexpanded “their normal sense of identity.” Transpersonalpsychology uses the spiritual beliefs of all religions includingIslam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, Christianity and Judaism as wellas insights into the human ability and consciousness in expandingself-actualization.

Accordingto the movie, it is evident that protagonist almost certainlybelieved in the existence of God. Transpersonal psychology seeks tobring into context the full objective of human spiritual beliefs,needs, and development. This aims to bring a balance between ourpersonal spiritual needs and material requirements without conflicton either side (Bradford, 2011). Pi shows great wisdom in choosing toserve God. He goes beyond the unlimited comparison between whichreligions and within his knowledge and understanding chooses tofollow what he thinks is right. Transpersonal psychology involves thespiritual connections in the wellbeing of humans and various humanexperiences towards religion and the belief in God. It featuresdifferent aspects of the human connection to the spiritual world.These include states of consciousness, the potential and knowledge ofa Supreme Being and recognition of spiritual powers (Chinn, 2013).

Inthe movie , it is clear that he finds self-actualizationand develops a search for higher meaning in life. His quest to serveGod brings a heated debate among the preachers of the town. Pi wasborn and brought up in the Hindu religion. He managed to memorize allthe gods of the Hindu religion and their purposes. Later in life, hisquest to seek the understanding of the spiritual world made himattest the Christian faith upon being told by the Christian priestthat God loved him. However, later in life at the age of 16, heaccepted to be a Muslim. Pi attested to three religious beliefs.Indeed, the theory combines several approaches of religions andbeliefs and it is clear that Pi wanted to combine several spiritualconnections while seeking divine intervention. He did not care somuch about the outward appearance he gave to the family and thepreachers but rather his spiritual connection to his beliefs. Hesought to free himself from the outward perspective of reality as hefound knowledge and self-awareness (Fuller, 2015).

Inaddition to having faith in something, the life of Pi had severalother characters that showed support to the transpersonal theory.Pi’s teacher Mr. Kumar always visited the zoo. He even called thezoo his ‘temple.` On the contrary, he once said in class thatreligion was a form of darkness. This shows his openness anddifference in beliefs. Pi recognized the lack of faith in religionfrom his teacher and said that he was the first serious atheist heever came across. The teacher had told him a story of when he wasyoung and waited on God to heal him but did not happen. Specifically,on the atheist issue that bothered Pi, he wondered how one could havea decision not to believe in any God (Hewitt, 2012).

Humanexperiences and behaviors ranging from social challenges, socialcontempt, and severe dysfunction are all experienced by Pi in themovie. It is always interesting to see how human beings relate totheir spiritual beliefs in critical situations. Transpersonal theoryencompasses the relation of people to their spiritual beings atvarious experiences in life. In the movie, Pi faces many challengeslike religious faith, challenges in between his childhood andadulthood and also his move between continents. Pi in his transitionacross the ocean comes to see God in a different way. He manages tonot only make the tiger a companion but also making a servant for thetiger. This context shows how much there is a balance between scienceand religion. The transpersonal theory seeks to administer thebehavioral changes a person goes through when subjected to extremeconditions. Pi managed to balance the two tasks of being a providerand a companion to the tiger.

Atthe end of the movie, Pi meets two Japanese insurance representativeswho question him on the cause of the ship to sink. They resistedbelieving Pi’s story that he had encountered a carnivorous islandthat was alive. Pi was told to make up a better story where he toldthe two Japanese officials a new story altogether. The Japaneseofficials’ choice not to believe Pi shows a lack of faith andbelief in both God and Science. Major differences can be identifiedbetween reality and fiction. This, therefore, makes us have a choiceas to which side of the story to support. Transpersonal theory offersthe self-realization and ability to choose not only what we are tobelieve but to use self-consciousness and common sense in choosingwhat to believe and what not to believe. Therefore, the two Japaneseofficials show that belief in God would involve suspense of faith inscience and vice versa (Polard, 2012).

Piwas raised by a zookeeper therefore, his relationship with animalsis expected to be good. He also trained to be a scientist. This isexpected to bolster his animal to human relations. In the movie, Pifaces a difficult task of surviving on the same boat with the RichardParker. Pi had been initially warned by his father about his extracloseness to the tiger. He is forced to find ways to assimilatehimself and the tiger for their mutual survival. Assimilation can beviewed as cooperation between two or more parties. Assimilation canbe described as a process in which two or more otherwise differentgroups shed some of their characteristics in order to correlate andlive together. In the story, Pi overcame his fear of the Bengal tigerand became a provider and a companion to the tiger. On the otherhand, the tiger being a territorial animal had to shed off some ofthe boat space to Pi in order to work together. (Scheunemann, 2011).

Thebiggest problem with human beings is that we believe that all animalswere created to serve. Those animals that are not capable of beingtamed are considered wild animals. People tend to confine them inzoos and national parks. This creates an illusion that we have fullcontrol over their wildness. Richard Parker was confined to a cage inthe zoo. When the Japanese ship sank, Pi lost all of his familymembers. He was seated on a lifeboat when he saw Richard Parker swimtowards the boat. He yelled words of encouragement to the tiger toswim over and join him in the vessel. Surprisingly this wasunexpected considering that he was calling a dangerous animal intothe boat. The truth is that Pi was left with no choice but to saveall he could, bearing in mind that he had lost his entire family.That was the beginning of the tiger-Pi relationship. This startedtheir mutual coexistence as a companion for the next 227 days.

Theact of survival is the most significant theme in the movie. This isbecause the film is themed to show the challenges faced by Pi and theTiger on their way to the shores of Mexico. This is from the startwhere in the zoo Pi found friendship with his favorite animal RichardParker. It is awkward how a tiger could be best friends with humanbeings. (Sparknotes, 2016).

Thequest for survival for the tiger and Pi comes up. For the two tosurvive they had to undergo some assimilation. Assimilation isexpected to be a two-way adjustment for the survival or coexistenceof two different species. This clearly happens in a bilateralperspective throughout the movie in the quest for survival for thetwo species of animals. The narrator shows exactly how Pi and thetiger stared dangerously at each other after all the alternativesources of food were exhausted and Pi was the ultimate source of foodfor the tiger. Both Pi and the tiger were forced by circumstances tobe assimilated for their mutual coexistence which was otherwise notbelievable. Assimilation shows how selfish animals and nature can beto survive (Shmoop, 2016).

Inthe ocean after the storm caused the sinking of the ship. Thesurvivor who swam all the distance from the sinking ship to thelifeboat was Parker. Evidently, swimming is not one of the strengthsof the animal, but on his quest to survive, it had to swim far andwide and force his way into the lifeboat. On the other hand, Pi wascalling on Richard parker to swim into the boat safely. This showedhow important life is and how the tiger could pull up its muscles inthe quest to survive (Lee, 2012).

Onthe boat, survival trumps morality in several occasions. Nonetheless,some instance could be defended by assimilation or adaptation. Thefirst incidence is the attack of the hyena on all the animals it sawon the lifeboat. This could be seen in a perspective that the hyenawanted to keep the boat for its own selfish reasons and could notmanage to see any other animals on the vessel. The hyena could simplynot assimilate to living with other animals in the boat, so it killedthe zebra and the orangutan. The zebra had broken its legs hence ithad no ways to boost its chances of survival. The Orangutan being avery small animal tried to defend Pi from hyena attacks. Later in theboat, it could not survive the Hyena’s advancements to kill him(Martel, 2001).

Pihad to use his creativity to make a floating raft. He then tied theraft to the boat to give space to the tiger to dominate the boatspace. This was because he could not survive in the same boat withthe tiger. He creatively used materials available to create atemporary floating structure. He managed to use his clothes toprotect his body from dehydration. Nevertheless, this was clearly anadaptive feature bearing in mind the distress call and need toprolong survival days in the ocean it was compulsory to create waysto survive the scorching sun. He broke the deadlock by spearheadingcommunication and relationship chain with the otherwise wild tiger [ CITATION Ken11 l 1033 ].


Themovie life of Pi has various themes. Some are evident towards the endof the film. Pi was forced to stay in the same boat with thedangerous tiger. He did this by giving demarcations boundaries andterritories in a way to create harmony and survival between the twoin the vessel. The tiger was territorial and marked absolutedominance in the boat for every inch of its area. For Pi to survivehe had to use his urine to give sectional boundary between them. Thisshows how important Pi had to fight for his own space and mutualrespect. This never comes easy, but assimilation made it happen. Insuch an awkward environment, regional divisions could ensure thatterritories were respected.

Piacknowledges that his relationship with the tiger made him survive.He claimed that even though he had to overcome his personal fears andtame the tiger, this was the best decision for him. With respect toreligion, Pi acknowledges that his relationship with God also gavehim the will to live. He compares his 227 days ordeal in the ocean asa religious trial.

Itwas rather the most unexpected and unbelievable feature thatassimilation imposed on Pi. He formed a partnership and forced theTiger to lose its wild features so as to be of mutual benefit. Itwould have been easier to kill the tiger, but he chose not to. Heclaimed that the tiger was an important animal to keep him alert andcreative. Pi was forced to fend for the tiger, and he was obliged tohunt lots of fish to feed the tiger. These actions went against hisbreaching his religious views of not killing. This was not necessaryhad he chosen the easier way to let the tiger drown. Apart from that,it was morally wrong but was the best way to survive. Was it right? Icannot tell, but it was a good decision to keep it alive. Fearing forhis life after the loss of the original food supplies and the endlesstrips into the boat to seek food he was forced by circumstance tocreate communication with the tiger. Though it was hard, he had tolose his fears to forge a survival plan


Bradford, K. (2011). TransPersonal Psychology. The Journal of TransPersonal Psychology, 1-156.

Chinn, K. (2013, February 24). `Life Of Pi,` An Emotionally Accurate Adaptation. Retrieved from http://www.neontommy.com/news/2013/02/life-pi-emotionally-accurate-adaptation

Fuller, M. J. (2015). Symbolic Interactionism Theory. 1-17.

GradeSaver. (2016). Life of Pi Themes. Retrieved from http://www.gradesaver.com/life-of-pi/study-guide/themes

Hewitt, J. (2012). Basic Concepts of Symbolic Interactionism. 1-7.

Lee, A. (Director). (2012). Life of Pi [Motion Picture].

Martel, Y. (2001). Life of Pi: A Novel. Knopf Canada.

Polard, A. F. (2012, December 2). Life of Pi: The Gift of a Tiger. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/unified-theory-happiness/201212/life-pi-the-gift-tiger

Scheunemann, J. (2011). Development of bicultural competence: Factors Facilitating Bicultural Identity Amongst Internationally. 1-14.

Shmoop. (2016). Life of Pi Theme of Man and the Natural World. Retrieved from http://www.shmoop.com/life-of-pi/man-the-natural-world-theme.html

Sparknotes. (2016). Themes, Motifs &amp Symbols. Retrieved from http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/lifeofpi/themes.html