Life of Pi Essay

780 words | 3 page(s)

The movie “Life of Pi” recounts stories within a story. Pi Patel tells novelist Yann Martel about his life as a boy. The account contains two styles of story, a realistic and more fantastic narrative. The movie concludes with the significance of the two versions for the novelist. Thus, the film features stories within its own story, and so I will focus on how this aspect of story telling compares with the Bible. First, the two stories in Life of Pi reflect the relationship between the Old and New Testaments. Second, Yann’s preference for the more fantastic story provides credit to the seemingly outlandish features in the Bible. And third, both recognize the power of stories for shaping the world.
“Life of Pi” depicts an adult, Pi Patel, telling a story to Yann Martel, a novelist. The story includes Pi as a boy on a boat with his parents. The trip seems quite realistic, as his parents are parents, moving the family to Canada, and the Japanese freighter contains what one would expect to find on such a ship. However, soon the ship sinks. Pi witnesses the death of his parents as he escapes on a life boat.

At this point the stories take a turn. For Pi battles a tiger and other animals that attempt to attack the boat. He eventually finds great affection for the tiger but soon reaches the coast of Mexico. When he recounts the story to the owners of the freighter, they do not believe him. So, he tells an alternative and more realistic account, exchanging the animals for human characters.

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This reflects the nature of the Old and New Testaments. From our perspective, the Old Testament seems more far removed from reality and even a bit fantastic. We read stories about entire cities collapsing, such as Jericho in the book of Joshua. God calls down to Moses and his people in Exodus. And even the typical lives of Bible characters, such as Isaac in Genesis or King David in Samuel, seem special when compared with our modern lives.

The New Testament contrasts, presenting the life of the church and peasants. We see Jesus teaching. We hear about the struggles of churches in Ephesus and Colossae. And we see the disciples learning, failing, and traveling around. The New Testament does contain outlandish stories, such as Jesus’ miracles or certain event in the Acts of the Apostles. However, these are not as odd or prominent as Old Testament phenomena. In short, the Old Testament appears fantastic and New Testament realistic. This corresponds with Pi’s stories, as one seems ridiculous and the other quite believable.

It is an amazing story, and Yann’s preference for it bolsters the claim that the Bible is indeed true. If not this, then it at least demonstrates that humans like a wild story. Therefore, God has appealed to our narrative desires. The film makers may have had this in mind, as Pi says, “And so it goes with God,” as if God himself enjoys such stories and so affirms his own Old Testament. It seems that a good story includes a bit of the unrealistic; that’s what appeals to us. God’s stories with his people include just such unrealistic events and people. The characters in “Life of Pi” give voice to the human’s attraction towards fantastic stories, a preference that God understands and caters to in the Bible.

Finally, the film and the Bible itself recognize the power of telling stories. Stories can shape the world. Yann speaks about Pi: “Mr. Patel’s is an astounding story, courage and endurance unparalleled in the history of ship-wrecks. Very few castaways can claim to have survived so long, and none in the company of an adult Bengal tiger.” Clearly, the story influenced Yann, and Yann wishes to share that influence with others. He notes the virtues of Pi and calls the narrative an “astounding story.” Thus, he draws lessons and transfers the influential power of story.

In the Bible, God commands his people to tell his stories to their children. For example, in Deuteronomy, when he gives them the law, he tells the parents to tell their children and their children’s children about what they have heard. In Matthew, Jesus tells his disciples to make more disciples, through teaching and illustrating what they have seen and heard. Thus, the Bible portrays stories as life-shaping tools just like “Life of Pi.” In conclusion, the film “Life of Pi” and the Bible correspond in how they treat stories. While the two works agree on many more things and disagree on others, I have underscored three central features between the two.

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