I sort of expected myself to cry.
I mean, reading a story about a sixteen year old guy whose thrown into the ocean, and forced to kill to survive… that has to be a pretty emotional story. Surprisingly, I didn’t even feel like crying.
I love emotional stories. I love hearing the crack of the book as I sink into its story and become so filled with emotions that when I emerge, I feel washed over and void of personality. With every sentence and every page, I become more of a character in the story than myself. I cry for them, I cry with them. I smile and laugh and chuckle quietly so no one in this human world can see.
Before I began to read Life of Pi, I was prepared for an highly enlightening emotional roller-coaster. I assumed, simply because the story is about a boy who is alone with an adult Royal Bengal Tiger in the world’s vastest ocean atop a lifeboat, that I would A) be enlightened by this brave survivor; B) cry; and C) have my heart ripped to shreds by the voice of this boy. I have finished this book, and here are the final results: A) I am somewhat enlightened; B) I had shed not one tear; C) My heart is still in one, whole piece; And here is why. While most books about desperate people who desperately need to survive are filled with emotional highs of human connection, Pi, our protagonist, is alone, with only one animal. Also, while my eyes were glued to the pages as I was forging along in the book, I often found myself desperately trying to read faster, and faster, and faster. This was not simply because I loved the book oh-so-much, nor was it because I was so-filled with emotion. I was reading as fast as possible because I was gripped with fear. I was terrified for this boy. Urgently, I needed to know if Pi was going to survive. To his left was an angry adult tiger, to his right was hysterical hyena. Below him were hungry, devilish sharks, and above him was the scorching, merciless sun. Storms loomed in the distance, fresh water dripped dry, and food would not be caught. I watched as this boy fought a tiger through sheer mental force, egged on his trembling hands to just kill the fish and eat it, and pleaded the sky to let down some tears. There was no room in my brain to contemplate his pain. He had a race to win! If he won, he would live. If he lost, he would face the ultimate end.
Perhaps the most emotional part of the book is found towards the end. I was having one of those ihavetoreadaheadtofindoutwhathappens moments, so I flipped ahead. My eye was caught by interesting font, which I soon learned was used to represent dialogue in Japanese. Here is a bit of it. This is between Pi Patel and Mr. Okamoto, a Japanese investigator for the shipping company Pi and his family took with their zoo animals. Spoiler alert!
Mr. Okamoto: “But for the purposes of our investigation, we would like to know what really happened.”
“What really happened?”
“So you want another story?”
“Uhh…no. We would like to know what really happened.”
(they continue back and forth…)
Pi Patel: “You want words that reflect reality?”
“Words that do not contradict reality?”
“But tigers don’t contradict reality.”
“Oh please, no more tigers.”
“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.” (they continue…) Give me a minute, please.”
“Here’s another story.” (to hear the story he tells, begin reading from page 337)
Why does it take so much for us to understand a story? Why does Pi, a boy who has already suffered through so much, have twist and morph his story into something seemingly entirely different so they would listen? Is it not enough to hear the truth?