Life of Pi Commentary

Yann Martel’s passage, Life of Pi, is about the narrator saving a bengal tiger, forgetting the fact that the beast will be a threat for his life. The passage develops and explores ideas about nature, faith, religion, trust and survival. Throughout the passage, figurative language is used to make the reader fall into the narrators mind and think as the narrator, sensory imagery allows the reader to imagine the scene, structure allows the reader to read the passage without any difficulties, and the narrator is used to describe the situation, in this case the narrator is trying to save a tiger. The overall effect of is to portray the effective ways in which Martel illustrates the feelings of the narrator and also what he is experiencing.

Throughout the prose passage, Yann Martel makes effective use of figurative language to convey to the reader on what the narrator is feeling and experiencing. For example, in line 1, “The ship sank. It made a sound like a monstrous burp.” The personification here shows that the ship was large and helps to describe to the reader the scene of the massive boat sinking. Another personification here is actually in the whole passage, Yann Martel uses personification with Richard Parker and the other animals in place of real humans. An observation by Pi that is applicable in real life was the way he dealt with Richard Parker.

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By trying to befriend him, but keeping his distance at the same time, he conquered his fear of the big cat and eventually they sailed in the small life raft together peacefully. This can be applied to real life via bullies in school, or generally people that one can not get along with. By ignoring them, or by befriending them, the fearsome creatures in our lives can be conquered. Symbols are also used in the passage, for example, if we interpret Richard Parker as a symbol for Pi’s survival instinct, it is interesting that Pi invites him to the lifeboat, it is an active choice, to survive, to become part beast. That he quickly regrets this decision, and realizes that it may imperil his spirit, is also significant. The overall effect of using figurative language is to allow the reader to imagine the situation of the narrator.

Throughout the passage, sensory imagery is used to create vivid images of the narrators ordeal at sea. As in the first paragraph, lines 1-3, “The ship sank. It made a sound like a monstrous metallic burp. Things bubbled at the surface and then vanished. Everything was screaming: the sea, the wind, my heart. From the lifeboat I saw something in the water”. With using depth descriptions like this Martel is able to create vivid images of Pi’s ordeal at sea. Whether it is his description of the boat sinking or Pi’s interaction with the wildlife in and out of the water. On the other hand in line 7 visual imagery is used, “Jesus, Mary, Muhammad and Vishnu, how good to see you, Richard Parker! Don’t give up, please.” This is used to show that the narrator is a religious person and is imagines seeing these gods while trying to look for Richard Parker, the tiger. In this line 64, visual imagery is used, “His head was the size and the color of the lifebuoy, with teeth.” It sounds like a Disney feature film, as it sounds like a colorful setup which also describes hope and survival. As the color of a lifebuoy is orange, this can be interpreted as a symbol as hope. To conclude, sensory imagery is used to help the reader read in a three dimensional way, as you’ll be able to see, hear, touch, taste and smell what the passage describes.

Narrative structure is used in the passage, to allow the reader to read without difficulties. The diverse sentence structure emphasizes that the narrator has little thoughts when it is a short sentence, and when long sentences the narrator has many thoughts which elaborated as jumbled up thoughts. Similarly, fragmented paragraphs are used, as there is an immediate effect on the narrator, making the narrator having an unstable mind, so it will confuse the reader.

Throughout the passage, a narrator is used, from line 2, we can see that this is written in the first person point of view, “From the lifeboat I saw something in the water.” This allows us to engage the reader into the narrators point of view and thoughts. This is written in past tense, which signifies that the events has already happened and it doesn’t have much effect on the reader. The tone doesn’t really shift, and Martel writes with a whimsical, tolerant tone consistent with Pi’s outlook on life. However, in line 20, there is a tone of panic and fear, “He would not make it. He would drown.” This suggest that the narrator really wants Richard Parker alive and wants to start a friendship with the tiger.

The prose passage, Life of Pi, describes the speakers encounter after a shipwreck trying to save a tiger. Through the use of figurative language, sensory imagery, narrative structure and the speaker’s developing perspective, the passage tells the reader with the idea of the shipwreck related to nature, as well as the religious symbols given in the passage, that there is a sign of hope and survival which inspires people who are in shipwrecks that there is God, and hope. As a result, the overall effect of is to portray the effective ways in which the author, Martel, exemplifies the feelings of the narrator and his experiences throughout the journey.

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