‘Life of Pi’ Ending Explained

Published 1 year ago by , Updated February 19th, 2014 at 10:25 am,

Life of Pi Ending Explained Life of Pi Ending Explained

Ang Lee’s Life of Pi is racking-up critical acclaim (read our review) and pre-award season buzz along with solid box office numbers. Though, for every mention of the film’s beautiful 3D or amazing CGI tiger, there’s a fuddled viewer confused by the movie’s controversial ending.

Readers of Yann Martel’s original novel (the ones who made it to the end) have already faced the challenging last-minute question presented by the story’s narrator, but filmgoers expecting a fanciful adventure at sea have been understandably caught off-guard by the finale. No doubt, viewers will debate the ending with friends and family – but to help steer discussion we’ve put together a brief analysis of the Life of Pi ending, explaining why the final question may not be as cut and dry as some moviegoers seem to think.

It goes without saying that the remainder of this article will contain MAJOR SPOILERS for Life of Pi - the movie and the book (especially the ending). If you do not want to be spoiled about either, turn away now.

Life of Pi Shipwreck Life of Pi Ending Explained

For anyone who hasn’t seen (or read) Life of Pi and isn’t concerned about having the ending spoiled, Pi’s adventure concludes in a Mexican hospital bed – where he is interviewed by a pair of Japanese Ministry of Transport officials. The agents tell Pi that his story – which includes multiple animal companions and a carnivorous island – is too unbelievable for them to report, so Pi tells them a different version of the story: one that paints a much darker and emotionally disturbing variation of events. After both stories have been shared, Pi leaves it up to the viewer (or reader) to decide which version they “prefer.”

Personal “preference” has larger thematic meaning, when viewed in the context of the overarching story; however, before we analyze the ending (via the question) in greater detail, we’re going to briefly lay out the two versions of Pi’s story.

In both accounts, Pi’s father contracts a Japanese ship to transport his family, along with a number of their zoo animals, from India to Canada in an effort to escape political upheaval in their native country. The stories are identical up until Pi climbs aboard the lifeboat (following the sinking of the cargo ship) only re-converging when he is rescued on the Mexican shore. The 227 days that Pi spends lost at sea are up for debate.

Life of Pi Richard Parker Life of Pi Ending Explained

The Animal Story

In this version of Pi’s tale, the cargo ship sinks and, during the ensuing chaos, he is joined on the lifeboat by a ragtag group of zoo animals that also managed to escape: an orangutan, a spotted hyena, a zebra with a broken leg, and a Bengal Tiger (named Richard Parker). After some time, Pi watches helplessly as the hyena kills the zebra and then the orangutan before it is, subsequently, dispatched by Richard Parker. Pi then sets about conditioning the tiger through rewarding behavior (food and fresh water), so that the two can co-exist in the boat. Though Pi succeeds, the pair remain on the verge of starvation – until, after several months at sea, they wash ashore an uncharted island packed with fresh vegetation and a bountiful meerkat population. Pi and Richard Parker stuff themselves, but soon discover that the island is home to a carnivorous algae that, when the tide arrives, turns the ground to an acidic trap. Pi realizes that eventually the island will consume them – so he stocks the lifeboat with greens and meerkats and the pair sets sail again. When the lifeboat makes landfall along the Mexican coast, Pi and Richard Parker are once again malnourished – as Pi collapses on the beach, he watches the Bengal Tiger disappear into the jungle without even glancing back.

Pi is brought to a hospital – where he tells the animal story to the Japanese officials. However, when the agents do not believe his tale, the young survivor tells a different version of his journey.

Life of Pi Suraj Sharma Boat Life of Pi Ending Explained

The Human Story

In this version of Pi’s tale the cargo ship still sinks, but instead of the ragtag group of animals in the lifeboat, Pi claims that he was joined by his mother (Gita), the ship’s despicable cook, and an injured Japanese sailor. After some time, fearing for the limited supplies in the boat, the cook kills the weakened Japanese sailor, and later, Gita. Scarred from watching his mother die in front of his eyes, Pi kills the cook in a moment of self-preservation (and revenge).

Pi does not mention his other adventures at sea (the carnivorous island, etc) but it’d be easy to strip away some of the fantastical elements in favor of more grounded (albeit allegorical) situations. Maybe he found an island but realized that living is more than just eating and existing – deciding to take his chances at sea instead of wasting away in apathy on a beach eating meerkats all alone. Of course, that is purely speculation – since, again, Pi does not elaborate on the more grounded human story beyond the revelation that he was alone on the lifeboat.

Life of Pi Whale Life of Pi Ending Explained

The Ending Explained

Even if the connection between the lifeboat parties was missed, the writer makes the connection for the audience (or readers): the hyena is the cook, the orangutan is Pi’s mother, the zebra is the sailor, and Richard Parker is Pi. However, the film’s juxtaposition of the animal story and the human story has led many moviegoers to view the last-minute plot point as a finite “twist” – which was not the original intention of Martel (with the book) or very likely Lee (with the film). Viewers have pointed to the look of anguish on Pi’s face during his telling of the human story in the film as “proof” that he was uncomfortable facing the true horror of his experience. However, the novel takes the scene in the opposite direction, with Pi expressing annoyance at the two men – criticizing them for wanting “a story they already know.” Either way, much like the ending of Inception (read our explanation of that ending), there is no “correct” answer – and Life of Pi intentionally leaves the question unanswered so that viewers (and readers) can make up their own mind.

Facing the final question, it can be easy to forget that, from the outset, The Writer character was promised a story that would make him believe in God. In the first part of the narrative, we see Pi struggling to reconcile the differences between faith interpretations (Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam) – acknowledging that each of them contained valuable elements, even if they tell different stories (elements that together help him survive his ordeal at sea regardless of whether or not he was there with a tiger).

As a result, the larger question is impossible to answer definitively and, as mentioned, the “truth” of Pi’s story is of little concern to Martel or Lee. The real question is – which story do you, the viewer/reader prefer? Interpretation is subjective but the question is intended to serve as a moment of theological reflection. Are you a person that prefers to believe in things that always make sense/things that you can see? Or are you a person that prefers to believe in miracles/take things on faith? There are no right or wrong answers – just an opportunity for introspection.

Life of Pi Island Life of Pi Ending Explained

Pi is faced with a heavy challenge: telling a story that will make a person believe in God. Some listeners might remain unconvinced but in the case of The Writer, who openly admits that he prefers the story with the tiger, and the Japanese officials, who in their closing report remarked on the feat of “surviving 227 days at sea… especially with a tiger,” Pi successfully helps skeptics overcome one of the largest hurdles to faith – believing in the unbelievable.

Since Pi marries The Writer’s preference for the Tiger story with the line, “and so it goes with God,” it’s hard to separate the question entirely from theology. Evidenced by his multi-religion background, Pi does not believe that any of the world’s religions are a one-stop shop for the truth of God – and his goal is not to convert anyone to a specific dogma. Instead, his story is set up to help viewers/readers consider which version of the world they prefer – the one where we make our own way and suffer through the darkness via self-determination, or the one where we are aided by something greater than ourselves (regardless of which version of “God” we may accept).

That said, aside from all the theological implications, and regardless of personal preference, it’s insular to view the ending as simply a dismissal of everything that Pi had previously described (and/or experienced) – since, in keeping with his view that every religious story has worthwhile parts, a third interpretation of the ending could be that the “truth” is a mix of both stories. Like Pi and his three-tiered faith routine, the viewer/reader can always pick and choose the parts that benefit their preferred version of the tale.

Life of Pi Suraj Sharma Life of Pi Ending Explained

The “truth”: Pi survived for 227 days at sea, married the girl of his dreams, had children, and lived to tell two stories.

Like any quality piece of entertainment, a lot of this is subjective and there are multiple ways of interpreting the Life of Pi ending, so feel free to (respectfully) share your interpretation with fellow moviegoers in the comment section below.

For an in-depth discussion of the film by the Screen Rant editors check out our Life of Pi episode of the SR Underground podcast.

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Follow me on Twitter @benkendrick for more on Life of Pi as well as future movie, TV, and gaming news.

Life of Pi is now playing in theaters everywhere. It is Rated PG for emotional thematic content throughout, and some scary action sequences and peril.

TAGS: life of pi

2,794 Comments - Comments are closed.

  1. Just to inform everyone one the second story never happen you have to assume it happen by belief otherwise pi lied about it because it is not on par with his first story that we all saw….read my last posts

  2. An interesting theory that I toyed with a bit was that in the animal story, while Richard Parker represented Pi, Pi himself represented God. I’m not going to try to prove or disprove it, but I suggest playing with the idea a bit. It’s fascinating.

  3. First of all, I really enjoyed reading your thoughts on the movie. I was pleasantly surprised when I finally watched it myself last night, it actually moved something in me. It is a compelling story of monstrous trials on the unforgiving seas. But what really got to me, was the ending. I love the story of the tiger and Pi, and it got ruined because it had to turned into something morbid. Good films acquired analysis, that’s why they are interesting. But this one…SMFH. Not that I believe that Pi turned into cannibalism, but if you choose to believe the ‘human’ story, it’s a completely different movie.

    For me, the animal story works. It’s a fairytale not “127 hours”.

  4. I believe the movie was very thoughtful. Whether the first story or the second one is right, i enjoyed watching Pi being brave in struggling and facing all the challenges that came in the way of his survival. Made me think how people should always work harder and never lose hope in reaching their goals in life.
    regarding the true story, both of them could be right. However, surviving 227 days in the ocean takes a very faithful man to get through it. His strong belief in god was the main cause of his survival. Either with the tiger or alone after killing the cook, he had to stick to something bigger in order to survive.

  5. After watching the film for a second time, I suddenly had a light bulb moment with the ending. I apologize if I am repeating a previous comment, I have not read them all. I just wanted to share my thoughts as it has been on my mind. Pi says (summarized), ” In both stories the ship sinks, my family dies and I am lost at sea, which story do you prefer?” After the writer replies “The one with the tiger.” Pi later states, ” As it is with God.” That sentence set me off. There are many religions and the common thread is that most have a God, with certain values you have to follow to please him/her. As humans we don’t believe every story we hear and something that is made very clear throughout the story is that Pi has multiple religions. The men who question Pi do not believe his first story about the animals, so he tells a slightly different version that would be more believable for them. Is that not how it is with religion? Different stories with similar structure. I can’t speak for all religions, but Christians, Catholics, Jews and Muslims all have a different “religion,” but the common thread is that they believe in a God. Rather than seeing the similarities, people choose to see the differences. Perhaps the story is saying that in order for us to believe there is a God, we have to hear multiple versions of the same story before we hear one that seems possible to us…. Another thing that I see people are saying is that he makes up the animal story to cope with the harshness of the reality of the second story. Perhaps this is true too. This could be a story like Jonah surviving 3 days in a whale’s stomach. It may be impossible to believe but maybe that was the story that was chosen by the “writer” too. In my opinion, regardless of which story is true, the message is: different people believe different things, and although you see what other people believe in as “the wrong choice,” perhaps try see the similarities between beliefs, rather than the differences.

    • I like your ideas very much Jethro. Thank you!

    • I see all Holy Books as Philosophical allegories meant to teach less intelligent sheep cultural and moral values that are necessary to live in civilization. Deep thinking Philosophers are not understood by many people. Duuhh , all to often I am one of those that don’t understand, but I’m trying to use rational thought to figure it out. Have an open mind, keep it simple and build on that over time. I think that in part was what Tsim Tsum was saying, but I need to read that again several more times. :-( :-)

  6. YOU WILL NEVER KNOW THE TRUE MEANING BECAUSE IT WAS PURPOSELY LEFT OPEN. This movie was marketed to mainstream movie goers for obvious reason. This is a cerebral movie, and in that category it shines! The story is a deep blue ocean of symbolism! The book is packed with conficting details and clues, and the movie adds the visual, but there is no confirmation of critical facts. The audience is being toyed with and teased, and there is no formal conclusion. I can’t imagine the retentive types being at all amused with this film. They probably need to find a blog to help cope. Chuckles.

    The author, and the movie people accomplished what they intended. Its fiction, but it is supposed to be thought of as real. I guess life aint always pretty, but we can imagine a prettier one? I totally get… that the movie played out as a visual representation of Pi’s fictitious story. Pi doesn’t want to go into detail on the real one so we don’t see that one. You dig? The director does a good job. I think the second story is true but for more sensitive audiences, we have the first one. This was obvious by the VERY serious look on Pi’s face when he tells another version. Its a non-verbal statement. Still, this movie surprisingly flatlines precisely when your expecting to be uplifted and inspired. Since I watched it with my eight yr old daughter, I can say it was visually stunning. Also a bit odd. And almost… “a foreign film with a stale ending”. I will point out, that the first story, is the one Pi would be telling his wife and children…Peace be with you.

    • 227 days at sea with a few biscuits?

      Killing and eating fellow humans is a taboo.
      So we need symbolisms and analogies to make it acceptable.

      The survivors of that plane in the Andes could have come up with something equally nice, instead of admitting to cannibalism.

      • JohnA, if the cannibalism is true, the bodies would not have been edible for very long. Remember, he caught fish and collected rainwater and had enough biscuits for something like 30 people for one week until the whale incident. Then toward the end of the journey he found meerkats on an island, although eating those uncooked is a whole different ballgame than eating fish raw.

        I can believe he had enough food from the beginning that the cannibalism possibly never happened, but that’s just me.

        • Cannibalism? Did he say that his mom was yelling at the cook for using the sailor as bait?
          I just had a thought: one could argue that Pi merely had the unpleasant memory of the cook mistreating his mother…he likely had never seen anyone do that before. So in his mind he would be the “perfect” one to kill his mom.
          On the other hand, I thought it was weird that the survival manual he had included instructions on how to deal with a large animal….
          But who knows. 227 days lost at sea and delirious with loneliness, dehydration and hunger is more than enough for his memory to get mixed up. But…it’s just speculation on my part. This movie was amazing and really played with my head! :-?

          • Tiffany, I remember thinking that the survival manual mentioning how to deal with a large animal was weird, too. A manual like that would not have instructions like that. I had forgotten about that and it is very revealing about how Pi’s mind was working at that time.

            I’ve seen it twice and want to see it at least one more time. After reading so many of the comments here I feel like I will be able to put everything together a lot better as I watch this time.

            • he was making up the animal guide part with sarcasm, to humor himself.

          • To me the movie is rich in symbolism. I see the tiger as a metaphor for the part of a human being that self preserves(or ego), thus we see Richard Parker spring into action when Pi sees his mother being killed by the sailor. His mother (orag utang) stands for faith, while the sailor (hyena) stands for the lack of it, the zebra (japanese guy) stands for the middle path (We’re given a clue about this when the japanese man offers Pi’s family rice and gravy), finally Pi himself (in the longer story) is that part of man which observes and is capable of analyzing things. The struggle between his mother, the sailor and the japanese man on the boat is a representation of the struggles within man to attain spiritual understanding. The rest of the movie symbolically depicts how Pi attempts to come to terms with the revelation about a part of himself that wasn’t apparent to him thus far (ego/tiger), as well as his journey through the ocean (his spiritual journey).

            Ergo, he sets forth trying to “tame” the “tiger” in him that comes in the way of him understanding himself and God. This resonates with what the eastern mystic traditions tell us about our ego being the greatest hindrance to a human being truly experiencing and understanding life. The survival guide could very well be the symbolic representation of religious/spiritual books that guide Pi through the vast ocean as well as help him understand a part of himself he’s not entirely comfortable with (tame the tiger or ego). The shore of mexico is again the representation of him coming to a realization about the mystery of life, Thus we see Richard parker (Pi’s ego) going back to the forest, since pi has no more use for that part of himself. This story contains in it the very essence of a man’s struggles to understand himself, which so many spiritual guides tell us is the path to understanding God.

            One would now ask about the need for two sets of metaphors. Well, Pi himself gives us a hint about this when he asks us to choose which ones we want to believe at the end of the story. It could be one based on faith in God or one devoid of such concepts.

            • I loved this movie, the cinematography was amazing.
              Yogi your version is very insightful. I do believe the movie was full of symbolism. The fact that the tiger did not look back when leaving pi spoke volumes to me, telling me that pi did not need that part of his ego to survive any longer.

              • I’m with this interpretation myself.
                However I haven’t found what is the symbolism in why he was so sad that the tiger didn’t look back…
                Why would he be sad that his wild nature left him so abruptly?

                • Here’s my take on why Pi was sad when Richard Parker didn’t look back …

                  He had not learned his lesson. Pi still believed that animals feel emotions, just like humans. Although this is sometimes true, it is almost never the case with a tiger – some rare exceptions being tigers raised with humans from birth, and even in these cases, there is still a great likelihood, the tiger would turn on its owners/handlers.

                  Pi believed that he and Richard Parker had formed a bond after having been through so much together. The reality is that there was no Richard Parker on the life boat. This was just Pi’s delusion. I’m not sure if Pi realized this many years later, but he most likely did not realize it when he was finally rescued. He thought that Richard Parker had ignored him and was crushed with sadness. But, as has been said before, even if Richard Parker were real, he would not have felt the feelings Pi thought he did or should, because he is a wild animal.

                  Since, in reality, Richard Parker was merely a part of Pi’s psyche, then he hadn’t learned the lesson his father tried to teach him – just because you feel love for an animal doesn’t mean the animal feels the same way about you. It’s pretty easy to equate a wild animal with the instinctual, “animal” part of the brain. In doing so, it’s easy to see that you’d be as likely to form a friendship with the deep, dark recesses of your mind as you would with an actual tiger. But, because Pi did not understand this, he was emotionally devastated.

                • Saying good by to any part of ourselves is never easy.

                • I think he didnt look back only to give the story more levity towards the tiger being his alter ego

        • to add, Eating fish (never mind the raw/uncooked) was something like a sin that he committed in order to survive. “a skinny vegetarian boy”, as he called himself, who had to commit a sin against his believes for the sake of survival was not mentioned in any reviews or analysis. I really wanted to point that out.

      • sea biscuits ?

    • What is the deal about the huge storm and pi uncovering the cover that protected the tiger and then asked the gods why they were scaring him when you could obviously see that the tiger was suffering miserably during that one electric storm scene.

    • This was a very moving story and regardless of the truth between the two I don’t feel you should have been taking your 8 year old let alone yourself!

    • If God is guiding our life, to what degree do we have free will? It was inevitable that I would make this comment. Pi is a great movie.

      • It’s not God’s will and* free will, it’s His will or* your free will. After finding God you realize His will for your life is far greater than anything your will could ever accomplish. My life is the proof.

      • It’s not God’s will AND free will, it’s His will OR your free will. After finding God you realize His will for your life is far greater than anything your will could ever accomplish. My life is the proof.

      • It’s not God’s will AND free will, it’s His will OR your free will. After knowing God you realize His will for your life is far greater than anything your will could ever accomplish. My life is the proof..God bless!

      • It’s not God’s will AND free will, it’s His will OR your free will. After knowing God you realize His will for your life is far greater than anything your will could ever accomplish. My life is proof.

    • I loved the book as well as the beautiful movie

  7. I took the movie/story at more face value than anyone that has commented. I guess I am the gray area between completely over analyzing or understating what I saw. I took the story he told of what happened as the truth. He was on a boat and survived months in the company of a tiger. I suppose that could be turned and twisted into to any infinate number of things too. I pretty much saw the ending as being told the truth, all be it fantastic and miraculous, and being given the choice to believe it or make up my own version of the truth to fit my particular patterns of belief. They were both told with emotion and comviction but one was beyond full comprehension unless experienced for ones self and the other a watered down version anyone could believe whether they experienced it or not. Faith is pretty much along the same line. We are told what is held by those that experienced it as the truth but because we have not felt nor experienced it in the same way we can choose to believe it or not based on our own personal experience and view of life here on this Earth and beyond it. Just that simple and complex all at the same; like any believer.

    • SueMamma, very well said. I actually took it at face value, pretty much, when I saw it, too. Maybe it was a fairy tale Pi created in his own mind to cope with horrible realities, but, reality does not exist. All that exists is our perceptions of reality. What Pi perceived was real to him, and that was what was presented to us, the viewers.

      Any way you take it, this movie was extraordinary.

    • It’s not God’s will and* free will, it’s His will or* your free will. After finding God you realize His will for your life is far greater than anything your will could ever accomplish. My life is the proof. :)

  8. Wow!! Sue mamma you have said it best yet!
    Wow!! That’s exactly how I felt. Just couldn’t
    put it into words that well!!! Finally someone see’s
    what I see about the story!!

  9. A terrible bullsh*t movie. Way too long and borrring!

    • Oh, Ken, maybe you should stick with movies that have a lot of action and ammo and high body counts. I’m not slamming those movies because I like some of them. Skyfall, well done. A Good Day To Die Hard, fun.

      Everyone has different tastes. I am a movie lover and have seen hundreds, maybe thousands. This one was extraordinary and beautiful.

  10. I noticed that Life of Pi incorporated the story of Noah’s Arch and the story that is about a man that is tested by the Devil taking away his family and everything he ever cared about just to make the man disbelieve God although it didn’t work even though the guy went through so much he was still faithful to God. In this case Pi was Noah and the guy of the story about the devil taking away everything in hopes of making him disbelieve plus an awesome twist.

    • Noah’s Arch didn’t sink.

      • Hey Hector and Victor, it’s ARK, not Arch. I’m just sayin’. :-)

        • You are right! Spelling is important Andrea yet, you understood!

  11. I’ve just watched this movie and had no issue with ending at first. I saw that Pi’s first story of the tiger to be the true one, he had regained the innocence his former years where he was willing to place his hand in the tiger’s cage. But the two men in hospital were like his father lacking faith believing only in the brutality of an animal such as a tiger and they were much more able to believe in the brutality of humans too. I believe the fact the tiger didn’t turn to say goodbye also highlighted it was the true story, a realistic behaviour of a tiger that saddened pi but made this story more complex. Then again his line, which do you prefer complicates matters maybe he is asking the viewer are you more like me or my father. Either way loved this film!

  12. I loved the movie. When Pi was trying to feed the tiger and his father interrupted him and gave him a lesson he mentioned to Pi that the animal is only reflecting your own emotions. That was a hard lesson for Pi to learn and Pi mentioned that it changed him. So, I believe that in order to cope with the events that happened on the ship,on the boat, and leaving India, he created the animals in his mind and also relying on the lesson that his father was trying to teach him when he tried to feed the tiger. Tom Hanks in Cast Away had created Wilson in order to cope with being solitary for so long. When Tom Hanks lost Wilson, he too also wept like Pi did when he was being taken away having an emotional breakdown from the one thing that kept them sane in their time of despair.

    • I thought this story was awesome and I did see similararies between Cast Away in that the human spirit is trying to prevail against odds. Tom Hanks had Wilson and Pi had a bigger picture. Anyone that didn’t enyoy this movie has no feelings.

  13. Life of Pi is based on Brazilian author Moacyr Scliar’s 1981 novella Max and the Cats,

  14. I realize most of the posts here speak of the potentially spiritual aspect of this wonderful story, but I believe there may also have been quite a bit to do with Pi’s struggle with remaining vegetarian. To that point I believe his training of Richard Parker with the tapping of the stick in conjunction with the use of the fish may have been his interpretation of training himself to eat meat; going against his own vegetarian beliefs. There was quite a bit of talk about vegetarianism (at Pi’s house when preparing dinner for the writer, at the family dinner table, on the boat with the chef which led to a fight, when he mentioned eating the crackers while R.P. ate the fish, when he prayed to God for sending the big fish he killed, and even when describing the island as “carnivorous”. I know it’s probably not the main theme for the movie, but it certainly was a frequent topic of mention. Anyone else pick up on that?

    • Yes, I did. You pointed out some very important things that helped me with my understanding. Thank you!

    • Most definitely. When Pi had to feed Richard Parker.

  15. Why i’m so dumb? I don’t get it the message of the film, could someone explain to me?

    Sorry for my bad english.

    • uop, you are not dumb. This was meant to entertain and it did. Some of us are thinking it to death when really one word would tell it all: beautiful.

      Maybe the message is that we should all have faith like Pi did. His faith was why he survived his ordeal. Faith in God/The Universe, faith in yourself and your own abilities, and faith in love.

      It’s just a good movie!

  16. L’Etranger (in French!) and The Brothers Karamazov, both clearly seen being read in the film, should provide further consolation to those seeking intellectual affirmation and confirmation of the above. Dosteoesky makes good reference to the plight of Jesus in The Book of Job, taunted by the Devil for 40 days and 40 nights in a test of faith similar to our hero. As for Mersault ……….

  17. Guys I’m pretty sure the manuel for how to survive with a wild animal is something that Pi is adding to the survival instructions.
    The reason I say this is because the last step states “Disregard all the previous steps.” I doubt an actual manual would give steps then say, “Actually none of this works.”
    Pi is merely just writing his own manuel for his experience.

  18. As far as the story goes, obviously you have to keep in mind that it’s more than just a story of a boy who survives a shipwreck. It’s how he deals with the overwhelming experiences he is forced to confront. It portrays the incredible capabilities of the mind and resilience of the human spirit. Rather than choosing to relive horrific events (e.g.: loss of his entire family, cannibalism, etc.), Pi either consciously or subconsciously chooses to take a different approach in order to do a number of things:

    • Survive the shipwreck/boat journey
    • Retain his sanity
    • Deal with survivor’s guilt
    • Cope with life after the rescue

    In the scene where Pi tries to feed Richard Parker his father stops him, pointing out that assigning human traits and characteristics to animals, which is what Pi was doing, is a mistake. His father says that as much as people might like to believe animals feel the same things people do, this is not always the case.

    On the boat, Richard Parker is not only Pi, it’s also Pi’s subconscious. This gives insight into what Pi has to do to survive and also says something about different aspects of who we are as people. There are dark corners of the mind that thankfully, most of us never have to confront. Many of us aren’t aware of these parts of our personality or refuse to admit they exist. It’s only in extraordinary situations such as the ones Pi is forced to confront that they manifest themselves.

    In the end, Pi is saddened by the fact that Richard Parker just walks off into the jungle and gives no acknowledgement of the experience they shared. But, this gets back to the whole idea of “anthropomorphizing” – assigning human traits to animals. Pi was doing the same thing with his subconscious – trying to assign rational feelings to a dark part of his mind that had no need for such things. It came out, helped him survived and left when it was no longer needed.

    That’s my take on it anyway.

    • I agree

  19. I really did enjoy watching this movie already. It is based on a true story like “Cast Away” & “Madagascar” What an Adventurer ? It made me believe my eyes that I have vision myself from Heaven on Earth that Pi became “The Wisest Man of India” who was lost at seas ?

  20. I’ve watched the movie two times one time at the theater and I just watched it at home. In each time I watched it I get different vision and maybe better understanding of the story, but the most thing that I believe I understood really well from the first time is “In order to know God you have to know yourself, and through knowing yourself you will know God”
    I thought I’d share this with you folks.
    peace…

  21. I liked it, but while I watched the first story unfold I felt that it was unlikely that four animals would have made it aboard. I felt it was a reality cover from the mind of PI to protect him from the reality of what was taking place. Don’re think you are above this happening to you for it is real possible. The sharks would have pushed him over and are him on the little raft.

  22. I liked it, but while I watched the first story unfold I felt that it was unlikely that four animals would have made it aboard. I felt it was a reality cover from the mind of PI to protect him from the reality of what was taking place. Don’re think you are above this happening to you for it is a real possible. The sharks would have pushed him over and are him on the little raft.

  23. I liked it, but while I watched the first story unfold I felt that it was unlikely that four animals would have made it aboard. I felt it was a reality cover from the mind of PI to protect him from the reality of what was taking place. Don’re think you are above this happening to you for it is a real possible. The sharks would have pushed him over and ate him on the little raft.

  24. Does any one else think that maybe, just maybe, the tiger DID indeed look back but we couldn’t see it because of all the bushes…just sayin…

  25. Does any one else think that maybe, just maybe, the tiger DID indeed look back but we couldn’t see it because of all the bushes…IJS

  26. Did anyone else think that the comic book Pi was reading as a kid may have influenced his later fantasy delusional type experience when the sea turned a funny color and all the sea creatures were cruising round. I didn’t really make the connection until watching the movie the second time round.

    Anyway. Awesome flick – job well done!

  27. Though I much prefer the animal explanation to the human explanation, I think the story definitely tilts to the human explanation. The tiger landed with Pi in Mexico? If so, there most probably would have been CSI-type indications that a tiger was on board the lifeboat, even possibly indications of the other animals should they have survived the previous lifeboat inundations, but definitely the tiger marks should have survived. Meerkats living on a mysterious island eating fish? Check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meerkat: they live in a different part of the world and fish are not part of their normal diet, and how can so many of them live so close to one another?. And if the meerkats seem to survive in monstrous numbers, why can’t a human? A human tooth found like a needle in a haystack? Except for Pi, only the animals survived the ship’s sinking? Who let them out of their cages and how did they get to the upper deck and then into the boat? Just too many long shots. The explanation for the investigators “believing” Pi’s animal story is that they didn’t want to agree with the human story as it would have left the boat company with legal and insurance problems — their employee cook killed the passengers. Add to that the definite emotion and tears shown by Pi during the telling of the human story, adding to that the unacceptability to his faith of seeing/doing all the things that occurred during the human story. Bottom line, much as I might dislike it, with all the problems for the animal story, believability odds for the human story versus the animal story, IMHO, are about 100 to 1.

    • I believe the animal story, because I don’t see why people would attack each other so early into their experience on a lifeboat. I think it would take much longer, and that lifeboat had a lot of rations on it, and I’m sure four people would be able to catch a lot of fish to eat as well. They’d also realize that nature was their biggest enemy at the time and not each other.

      Also, the ship’s sinking was portrayed as a very sudden and surprising event, so I find it more believable that only a few people were able to escape. The non-animal story would be going back and saying that more people were able to wake up in time to realize the storm was really bad, and then on top of that realize that it was capable of sinking the boat. Pi didn’t even realize it was such a threatening situation until he saw someone washed overboard. Furthermore, if 4 people were able to escape in one lifeboat, that would give me the impression that the storm’s sinking of the ship wasn’t so sudden and others would have gotten to other lifeboats. Those 4 people in the non-animal story came from 3 separate cabins on the boat as well, showing that people were able to escape from all over the boat. But then we have to wonder how all the animals were able to escape if the animal story was real. However, perhaps only a select group of animals were saved by the shaking of the ship and the water surging into the ship. Or one of the crew realized the ship was sinking in time and quickly opened as many cages as he/she could. So the animal story still holds up.

      On the other hand, I don’t get why the orangutan didn’t immediately come over next to Pi to get away from the more aggressive, dangerous animals. A zoo animal and especially an orangutan or other similar animal would be used to humans and see them as protectors somewhat, or at least a friend or ally. Also, when the orangutan hit the hyena over the head and seemed to knock it out, why didn’t it then either try and throw the hyena overboard, finish it off, or just get out of there and go over with Pi on the safer area of the boat at the moment?

      Then there’s the factoid about how bananas don’t float. Well, actually an individual banana does sink, but it takes a while. And there might be enough air between each banana when they’re still in bunches to make the whole thing float. And even if all that is wrong, the monkey himself should be able to float, so maybe the bananas were just being swept along by the currents of the ocean, making them appear to float.

      So, I don’t claim to know what story was definitely true, but I still believe the animal story the most. It was also the one he told first, and he only really told the second story because the insurance people didn’t believe him.

      • Dan M., thank you! A lot of good points.

  28. the scenario that doesn’t exist i.e. the story with tiger is fascinating.

    so the question which one do you prefer?, the fascinating one which doesn’t exist or the reality which is not so comfortable.

    So is with god the fascinating one to many :-), I prefer the second story without Tiger.

  29. On second thought, I think that Richard Parker symbolized the inner Pi. The struggle he had to go through in training the tiger (himself) how to survive. As the evil within, he, the tiger inspired him to eat fish. The scene where the flying fish was hitting their faces, and they had to fight over the largest fish. Even though he is a vegetarian Pi had to fight his inner self (the tiger) to overcome a religious believe or commit a sin to eat meat. At the end, he became human again. He was saved, however, he lost the strong aggressive personality he held while on the boat. He became weak, he became a human on earth again. Part of him was relieved to be saved, but the other part really enjoyed the complex of that demanding personality and he cant believe that he possessed such to survive

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