Life of Pi by Yann Martel is a deep, thought provoking novel from the perspective of a religious boy named Pi. This book has many hidden meanings that emerge as the story progresses. On the surface, this book is a fast-paced adventure of a boy stuck at sea with an adult Bengal tiger. However, upon deeper examination, the book really shows that people would rather believe the better story to avoid dealing with the harsh reality.
In the book, Martel writes about Pi’s experience following a shipwreck in which he, along with a few zoo animals, survives. Pi was the only person who was able to get onto the lifeboat, but somehow, the zoo animals were able to climb on, too. Though it may sound far-fetched, Martel is able to make the experience seem possible. Pi and his family were moving to America along with their zoo business when the ship sunk. The zoo animals with Pi included a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a tiger. The tiger dispatches all but Pi, who is able to tame the tiger and survive. This is where the story could’ve ended, but Martel has one last twist to add. Two Japanese reporters come to Pi and ask him to tell them his story. Pi recounts the whole tale to them in detail, but they don’t believe him. Because of this, Pi tells them the same story except he switches all the animal characters with actual people. The book takes an ugly turn when the reader realizes that Pi’s story is really about what happened to his family on the ship and the animals symbolized each person. The reporters are understandably horrified. When asked by Pi which story they prefer, they answer without hesitation–the story with the animals. This answer is the spark of the main idea of this essay.
The author uses these Japanese people to represent man. These people are giving the answer that most people would say. Martel exposes a truth in this book–people would rather believe a lie than what actually happened. “‘So tell me, since 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 the animals or the story without animals?’ Mr.Chiba answered, ‘The story with the animals.’” In this quote, the author is proving the point that people often prefer to take the easier road to avoid the painful truth.
The story with the animals is gruesome and hard to read because of all the gore and violence, but it goes to another level of disgust when we realize that the animals in the story are really people, and one of them is Pi’s mother! The hyena is a cook, the zebra is a sailor, the orangutan is Pi’s mother, and Pi is the tiger. It is grotesque to read about an orangutan beheaded and eaten, but it is so much more appalling to read that the orangutan is actually Pi’s mother. Though that is the harsh reality, people still choose to believe the less painful, easier narrative.
In conclusion, the reason people would rather believe a false narrative instead of dealing with the harsh truth is because men are capable of greater evil than we would like to accept. The cook killed the sailor and Pi’s mother before Pi could kill him to save his own life. The cook is a terrible person, and people don’t want to believe that it is possible that there are these kinds of people exist in the world. They don’t want to believe that every person when pushed to their limits has the potential to commit heinous crimes against another. People don’t want to believe the depths of evil in one’s heart. They will perhaps tell themselves that they would never kill a person or eat a person, but that’s because they never faced extreme hunger or a deep thirst. People don’t know what they are made of until they’re facing death in the face. Unfortunately, most won’t ever know what they are capable of. Most people won’t ever experience anything like what Pi experienced.
It is a weakness in human nature that humans would rather believe lies than truth. The truth is, it is oftentimes easier to believe a comforting lie than a terrible truth. In this instance, the reporters wanted to believe the story with the animals because they are horrified by what emerges when humans are pushed to the limits. Sometimes, it is easier to hide from the truth so that you won’t be hurt. Yann Martel staged a perfect example of this view about human nature’s tendency to see what it wants to see in Life of Pi. When given two stories–one full of adventure and action, the other a horror story–it is obvious which version of reality people would rather believe. In the absence of evidence to support either story, the Japanese reporters could’ve chosen to believe either one. Though in their hearts, they know which story is true, they would rather believe the far-fetched story because it is easier to take in.