Sometimes a lie is better than the truth. Now I’m not saying that you should lie to your parents about the dent on their car or lie to your friends about getting lucky with that girl last weekend, but every so often a situation comes along in which a small fabrication will better warrant the situation. In the novel Life of Pi, the author Yann Martel tells a fantastic story about a young boy at sea, trapped on a lifeboat with a 450lb Bengal tiger.
During their journey, the unlikely castaways face an epic adventure of survival; crossing paths with such characters as a homicidal hyena, a motherly orangutan, a dead on arrival zebra, and a French blind cannibal. In the end the two find sanctuary after 227 days upon their arrival to the coast of Mexico. Now I know what you’re thinking. “This sounds pretty unbelievable”. Well you’re right to think so, but the truth in this case, is something you’re better off not knowing.
The end of the novel brings about the knowledge that the animals in the story were in fact people and their grim deaths, including that of his mother, Pi had witnessed. Given the setting, this shouldn’t be seen as a lie, but rather as story telling. The act of story telling is a great thing. It can drum up adventure in the heart of the audience, make you feel a great deal of emotion for someone you’ve never met or isn’t even real, but to some it is a way to cope with an occurrence in which the truth is too terrible to deal with.
We’ve always been taught never to lie and therefore it is an act that is seen as wrong be any means, however, given the right circumstances telling a lie, whether it be to yourself or to others, is the best possible way to avoid a traumatic experience of the past. Throughout the story Pi tells the more enjoyable version of his story, though the realization of this does not occur to the reader until the end of the novel. Through retrospection it is easy to see the fiction and the significance it holds.
To the best of my knowledge the first part of the story appears to all be true, however, in this segment Pi does find way to state his distaste for those who only wish to believe what can be proven true and logical. The best example can be found in chapter 22 in its entirety. Being a strong believer in God, so much so that he embraces three of His religions, it is surprising that Pi can easily accept the choices of Atheists, but denounce those who are agnostic (those who don’t know who to side on the subject).
Chapter 22 reads, “I can well imagine an atheists 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 imagination and miss the better story. ”(Martel 80) Pi describes factuality as dry and yeastless, further strengthening the readers understanding of how he feels about logical facts. The second part of this quote that is significant is his use of the phrase “the better story”. Showing that what isn’t real is often the ‘better’.
With the end of Part One of the novel comes then end of what’s real and transitions into fiction. Since the second part of the story is a fabrication in its entirety, it seems redundant to try to state the many times when fiction trumps over the truth. Instead, it seems that the better idea would be to pinpoint the section where Pi is driven to admit the truth behind his adventure at sea. The best examples of the fact vs. fiction theme come after a lengthy interrogation on Pi by Two Japanese men who represent the company who owned the freighter which was transporting Pi and his family across the ocean.
After being asked the true nature of his story one too many times Pi finally broke the ice with the simple question, “So you want another story? ” (380) This was then followed by the significant statement, “The world isn’t just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn’t that make life a story? ” through examination of this comment it is found that he means that life is just a story told by the storyteller.
Pi is saying that he willing to tell the to representatives the real story, but in knowing the real story they are missing out on the previously discussed “better story”. He brings this up further with the quote, “I know what you want. 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. ” (381) It’s obvious that Pi is warning the two men once more that the truth isn’t always what you want to hear and also further representing the theme of truth vs. iction. Though this novel is filled with different themes, and many of those who read it speculate on which is the main theme. I believe that the theme of the importance of story telling is without a doubt, Yann Martel’s main point that he tries to get across to the reader. He makes it evident in all parts of the story and the twist at the end is based on the subject. In all it is important to remember that lying is bad, but sometimes the truth is too. Storytelling is a healthy medium between the two and can even help to cope with the most traumatic of experiences.
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