Magical Realism in Life of Pi Essay Example

The magical realism literary genre and style is defined as a description of stories that generally describes tales that combine fantasy with reality to create a mythical occurrence. Events that happen could be utterly unrealistic and impossible in our lives, but are seen as mundane and normal in the story. These occurrences make the reader question if they could take place in real life or not. Life of Pi and Beasts of the Southern Wild display the genre incredibly well. In Beasts of the Southern Wild, we see a young girl named Hushpuppy who fondly remembers her mother being able to turn on the stove with just a touch. In Life of Pi, Pi’s uncle was swung around by his ankles at birth to get water out of his lungs which gave him skinny legs and a large chest. While both movies are amazing examples of magical realism, Life of Pi did a much better job when concerning how well magical realism was displayed.  Life of Pi uses magical realism to demonstrate the main character’s religious journey and how he deals with the troubles faced in his life. 

Life of Pi is presented as “a story to make you believe in God,” which already implies that  religion will be an important factor in this story. A boy named Piscine Molitor “Pi” Patel is raised in a zoo in India. Though his family is Hindu, Pi follows Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism and practices all 3 of these religions at the same time, despite protests from his father saying that if he believes in everything, it’s the same thing as believing in nothing. His mother supports him, saying that religion tells us about our hearts. Pi and his family set out for Canada with their animals.

The ship he and his family were on ran into a storm in the Mariana Trench and Pi becomes separated from his family. He ends up stuck on a boat with a orangutan, hyena, zebra, and a Bengal tiger named Richard Parker. Very quickly, it is just Pi and Richard Parker left on the boat stuck together in a fight for survival. The first instance of magical realism is the physical struggle with the tiger on the lifeboat. Pi and the tiger eventually come to an understanding and accept each other, which could represent Pi’s internal fear and uncertainty in faith. The next example is when Pi is forced to catch, kill, and eat a Mahi Mahi to survive. Pi, being Hindu, practices vegetarianism so he becomes understandably upset over having to kill the fish and starts to cry. The fish changes colors from blue and green to a dull grey, the color change of the fish representing the struggle he was going through. Later on, Pi and Richard Parker are both starving when suddenly a swarm of fish with wings fly out of the water and over Pi’s boat. This moment is an example of magical realism where God provides food for Pi and Richard Parker in a time of great desperation. 

Magical realism presents itself in more incredible ways; while wading out in sea, Pi notices Richard Parker staring into the water. Pi begins to look down at the ocean and stares in the water to what could be described as a galaxy in the water. Land and marine animals are seen underwater perspective dives deeper into the depths of the ocean. We then see jellyfish glowing and morphing into a portrait of his mother. His mother symbolizes unconditional and universal love and support in his life. This is interpreted by Pi as God presenting himself to give Pi hope in the face of despair and giving Pi support on his journey. 

Subsequently, Pi and Richard Parker go through a massive storm where lightning repeatedly strikes the water and spreads across the top of oceans and creates a vein-like image. They find themselves on a carnivorous island that is overrun with meerkats and pools of acid water. Pi stops and decides that he needs to keep moving on and not give up on his journey. God shows himself once more in the storm, letting Pi know that he is there with him. The island symbolizes God telling Pi that he can’t give in and needs to keep moving on and survive. Richard Parker and Pi wash up on a Mexican beach. On the beach, Richard Parker parts ways with Pi and heads for the jungle. Richard Parker stops and stares at the path ahead of him, before leaving Pi behind and continuing on into the jungle. Pi loses consciousness and is found and brought to a hospital. Shortly after, two Japanese investigators that were with the freight company Pi’s family come and ask to speak with him about what happened to the ship.

Pi tells him his story and the two investigators unsurprisingly do not believe his story about tigers and man-eating islands. The two investigators ask for a story someone could actually believe. Pi then goes on tell them a story where himself, his mother, the ship’s cook, and a sailor all survived and made it to the lifeboat. He tells them that the cook killed the sailor early which created a rift between the cook and Pi’s mother. The cook and Pi’s mother continuously fought with each other until the cook ultimately killed her also. Pi then confesses that he killed the cook as revenge. We can quickly make the connection between the animals and the supposed survivors; the orangutan was Pi’s mother, the hyena was the cook, the zebra was the sailor, and the tiger was Pi himself. This creates doubt in our minds, leaving us wondering which story was actually true.

Life of Pi masterfully used the magical realism genre to display a young man's religious journey against all odds. Pi was thrown into an adventure alone out at sea. He was forced to leave everyone close to him without having the chance to say goodbye. From facing a spiritual storm to finding a human tooth in a plant, God was always there guiding Pi to find his truth in life. Pi didn’t believe in just the dogma of religion, but the idea of universal love and believing in something passionately. Magical realism helped Pi grow and develop his character and beliefs.



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