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“Showing Convincingly How Characters Develop And So Achieve A Sense Of Identity Is An Essential Way In Which Novelists And Poets Engage Fully With Their Readers”

1781 words - 8 pages

“Showing convincingly how characters develop and so achieve a sense of identity is an essential way in which novelists and poets engage fully with their readers”

Identity, in Life of Pi, is crucial to the storyline and plot. We, as the reader, see the transition of Pi Patel, finding and developing qualities within himself that help him to finally overcome his great ordeal at sea. The one thing, arguably, that keeps Pi alive is identity; the exploration for identity is unique to humanity and is especially unique in Martel’s novel. Pi endures an eternal struggle based around culture, religion and upbringing. The author unravels and develops this search for identity within Pi ...view middle of the document...

Martel’s use of simile when comparing Pi’s feelings to the smell of “piss” is comical as he utilises the exact thing that is being used against Pi to describe Pi’s emotions, perhaps to show how much the character despises being called “pissing”. The new name he chooses is Pi. The difference between the names Pi and Piscine has great significance in the deeper search for identity. Martel refers to a pool as “proper rectangularity” with “formal flatness”. This firm, set concept of a swimming pool is in stark contrast to the infinite connotations of Pi as a mathematical term; a comparison that is played on when Pi is stuck in the middle of the ocean. It may be argued that Pi chooses his name because he wishes to be something bigger than he is, and superior to all the hateful comments that he received. However, this ideal of his own identity is obliterated when he faces what seems to be the infinity of the ocean. This realisation comes when he says, “Life is a peephole, a single, tiny entry onto a vastness”. The long, drawn out sentence conveys the wistfulness behind his words, perhaps in order to show how he is sad about his matter, as if all he knew was found out to be wrong. This vastness could be perceived as the religious perception of the world beyond human experience, echoing his tale of what Sage seeing the universe in Vishnu’s mouth. He compares himself to Sage, in that he felt like “the volume of things was confounding” and this idea is allusive of the way in which there is a set, known volume to a swimming pool. In this sense, it may be argued that he achieves a sense of identity, familiarising himself with the fact that he is simply “like a pinprick hole on [his] map”, aware of his littleness when compared with the vastness of the ocean, the “finite within the infinite”.
In some ways, Pi’s cultural upbringing gives him a sense of identity, and the differences in culture between India, his home country, and Canada, the country he moves to after being rescued, are compared. He tells of how he ate in an Indian restaurant in Canada for the first time and the waiter asked if he was “fresh off the boat”. Pi seems embarrassed to identify himself with his own culture as it seemingly makes him feel inferior; “he had no idea how deeply those words wounded me. They were like nails being driven into my flesh”. This sharp image conveys the extreme discomfort that Pi felt at the time – whilst “fresh of the boat” is meant to be comical and ironic as he really was fresh off the boat, we as the reader also feel sorry for Pi and his struggle to be able to identify himself with a certain culture. This idea is very similar to that in Great Expectations Estella mocks Pip’s hands and calls them “coarse”. The internal response of Pip echoes that of Pi’s when he says, “I had never thought of being ashamed of my hands before; but I began to consider them a very indifferent pair”. The idea that...

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