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Headscratchers: Life of Pi
  • In the book, Pi describes the hyena as evil incarnate. Richard Parker isn't exactly seen as "majestic" or anything, but still has a more dignified presence. Any particular reason for this?
    • Troper is going off of the movie, but the hatred of the hyena seemed to stem from the fact that it killed the zebra and orangutang. Pi seemed to see all of the animals as allies, so he basically saw the hyena as a traitor. Richard Parker killed the hyena after that, so Pi seemed to make some connection that the tiger carried out justice for the hyena's "crime" (yes they're animals, but it's through the perspective of a scared teenage boy). If one took the second story to be true, the hyena represented the cook, who was pragmatic to the point of being terrifying, and ended up killing Pi's mother. Richard Parker represented Pi, and so his killing of the cook was, again, justice. At least, that's the impression this troper got.
    • Tigers are pretty and hyenas are ugly. It's not hard to see a tiger as a Noble Demon and a hyena as some kind of savage ghoul.
    • Hyenas are also really dangerous and wild beasts. Some acts at least try to tame tigers, know anyone that attempted a hyena and lived to tell the tale?
    • As if the attitude wasn't enough, the fact the hyena's normal Verbal Tic sounds like a laugh may be very much Nightmare Fuel to anyone having to deal with them
  • How does the second story make sense if the cook is present in both versions? Surely Pi could have just omitted him in the first story.
    • That's how it happens in the film: the last time the cook is seen is on the lifeboat while it's still attached.
      • But that's the movie. In the book, there's a scene in which the ship's cook appears while Pi is blinded (due to health complications brought about by the wonderful place that is a boat in the middle of the tropical Pacific) and attempts to eat him, only to be eaten by Richard Parker. If Pi was trying to keep the story ambiguous, surely he'd just remove that part.
    • That wasn't the ship's cook in the book. It was just another Frenchman lost out at sea.
  • If the pools of water in the carnivorous island are connected to the ocean, how can they possibly be freshwater? (Even a river flowing into the ocean has its own flow functioning to keep the salt out, and the estuaries are usually a mixture.) And if they aren't connected, how does a fresh assortment of fish get in there every night to be dissolved and absorbed?
    • Whatever makes the water acidic at night seems to make it fresh by the morning. As for the fish, they swim through and from the "roots"of the island freely, until the acid kills them at night and their bodies float to the top.
      • Yes, but poison aside, the lack of salt in the water should be killing or injuring the fish, even during the day. Every day seems to bring a fresh lot of newly-arrived open-ocean fish, which are species suited to live in saltwater. Pi is happily drinking the pool water, so clearly it's freshwater. Setting aside the question of how the saltwater in the ocean isn't mixing with the freshwater in the still pools, the saltwater fish shouldn't stay healthy when they swim from one to the other, even during the day when the water is acid-free.
      • Perhaps some of the pools are brackish?
  • How on earth did a human tooth end up in the middle of a fruit? Does the carnivorous island function like a clam, forming "pearls" around objects it can't dissolve? Why?
    • First, it wasn't a fruit, it was actually a clump of leaves. Second, Pi brainstorms this and decides a man arrived on the island before him and lived there until he died. He died in a tree, and it slowly began absorbing his body until only its hardest parts were left, ending with his teeth.
  • The animals of the first story symbolize people in the second story. What does the carnivorous island symbolize, if anything?
    • That's up for debate. Some interpret it as his mother's body, which he was able to live of off. In the film, the island is shaped like a person lying down, and some people say it resembles a common portrayal of Vishnu, so it could be some religion thing.
  • At the end of the movie, the author says that he prefers the story with the tiger. Pi replies "So it is with God." So...what's he saying there? It seems to be "God is a story we tell ourselves because it sounds better than the truth." Or is there another way of looking at it?
    • The book is one that encourages readers to interpret the story as they wish. Many do interpret it as saying that religion is another way of telling the truth, except it's usually more fantastic.
      • And some would say that religion is a convenient lie rather than "another way of telling the truth." Either he was in the boat with a tiger, or he wasn't. One of those two stories had to be false, and the one with the tiger was less plausible (though it was more pleasant).
      • While others see it as the book saying that atheism/cynicism is a bleak, depressing outlook on life that people turn to because they won't accept a seemingly less plausible (yet, in context, equally possible and much more encouraging) explanation.
      • It should be noted that atheism and cynicism are not even remotely the same thing.
    • Context need also be remembered here. Book and movie take you to the same argument but the way they present this causes conflict
      • Book Pi spends time arguing with the officials as to what they see as problems with his story. He takes a few moments and begins the second story, all this seems hostile. Afterwards he asks them "which of the two were the better story". They say the Tiger and he says so it goes with God
      • Movie Pi answers quickly to the second story while crying and instead asks the question to the writer
      • The difference here is in the audience. To the investigators they had spent time establishing they weren't believing the first story at face value, so after making them admit they liked the tiger better even though the contest added "even though we don't believe it", would have you thinking he means God is the better story even if it's not what he believes is true. The writer has none of those convictions, it's just pure taste, which would make the line sound more like "God's the better story go with it."
    • Don't forget Pi ends story 2 with saying he turned to God and survived. It could be interpreted as Pi poking fun at the investigators. When they say the Tiger story is better even if they don't believe it and he says to him the God story is better even if he knows that's not what happened.
  • In both version of the story, Pi survives 277 days at sea. (Or maybe it was about 250 days, if he spent a while on that island.) Is that plausible? It seems to me that you'd run out of fresh water long before you reached the halfway point, even if the lifeboat was well-stocked.
    • He did run out. He still had his salt water filter, though that wasn't perfect because his nutrition was dropping.
    • I think he collected rainwater as well to drink.
  • Is the rat one of the major hints the second is faked metaphor? While all the other animals match up to a people, in the second story it's the cook/Hyena that does the rat in, not Pi/Richard Parker as in the first story. The rat is a small forgettable animal, but it could also mean it's in the small details the truth lies, as story 1 is also the one with the small details
    • The rat is mentioned earlier as being the transport of Ganesha, the "remover of obstacles." Rule of Symbolism?
Les MisÚrablesHeadscratchers/LiteratureLittle Dorrit

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