WARNING – If you have not finished reading Life of Pi, or plan to read it in the future, this contains major spoilers about the ending!
The first thing that comes up when you type in “Life of Pi” into Google is “Life of Pi True Ending” . I must admit that I too searched theories about ending the second I read the last page. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the story, the book is about a sixteen year old Indian boy who gets stuck on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean with a Bengal Tiger as his sole companion. After following the heart-wrenching events that they go through, they finally reach land where they part ways and they live happily ever after – or do they? Just when you think that everything had turned out just like you hoped it would, the book throws you a curve ball; Pi is interviewed by two Japanese men who want to learn more about the sinking of their ship, as Pi is the only survivor. The Japanese, who refuse to accept the story of his survival, demand that he tells them “true story with factual information”. Pi, quite frustrated at this point, tells them a different story. One more realistic, dealing with the vicious actions of humans as opposed to animals. Although they cringed, the Japanese accept this story with greater ease. As they begin to leave, Pi says something that has changed my entire view of the book. He says
“I told you two stories that account for the 227 days in between. Neither explain the sinking of the Tsimtsum. Neither make a factual difference to you. You cannot prove which story is true and which is not. You must take my word for it. In both stories the ship sinks, my entire family dies, and I suffer. 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?”
As a reader, you’ve already made up your mind that epic journey of survival with Richard Parker (the tiger) is the one that you want to believe; it’s the one that your heart is already set on. And although a reasonable explanation is that you have more information, and you have followed this first story from start to finish, I found it really interesting that in the story when the Japanese men are asked which on is the “better” story, they also prefer the story with the tiger – but why?
As Mr. Jackson had once said “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story” – The whole idea of a good story taking the place on the “facts” I think is very underrated. I think that this is derived from our desire to pursue the ultimate truth. Defining what’s real and what isn’t. Which leads me to the idea of perception, because to me life isn’t about what my eyes see, but about how my mind and heart processes those things; and art is how people present their ideas of the world around them in an attempt to explain them to others. What Pi went through was no doubt traumatic and life changing – so much to the point where he had to be able to process it however he could to move on with his life. I feel like Pi wanted to express his story in a way that people would understand his emotions as they were felt, and assuming that the story with the tiger was “fake”, I feel like Pi tried to depict his emotions throughout the experience in a genuine way, as opposed to having people getting caught up in the gory-ness and horrific events that happen in the “true” story.
This is Pi’s form of art – through storytelling, and this is how he processes the world. Some may call it childish, some may call it lying – but maybe we should begin calling it the truth.