Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Empathy vs. Sympathy

I sit here, reading this novel, captivated, with a distinct sense of interest. In other words, the more I read, the more I want to know about the story, of course, but prominently Pi himself. The title obviously says, "Life of Pi", yet, there is more to it. It is not just his life, or his predicaments, or any of that. I feel that he is more than just a character in a book, as if you could almost visit him casually. That is what I felt the first part of the book was setting up; an individual that has individuality. In most books, the author creates a character that has a personality, objectives, likes, dislikes, etc. However, it feels as if there is this barrier between character and reader. The author being the only interconnection between the two. Yet, in the first part of this book, it is as if you are being gradually accepted and pulled into his life, his mind, his individuality. Therefore, meaning, there is this mutual agreement to break the barrier. In another sense, the barrier was non-existent. Whether it was from me cherishing his Mamaji, or my empathy for his conflict between Hinduism and Christianity, I was still completely on his level. By his level, I mean I was there, I felt what he felt, yearned what he yearned. I felt total empathy for Pi, which is the ultimate goal the first part achieved. If the book began with the shipwreck, there would only be sympathy for him. I believe that is just common morality and human nature. Furthermore, he would be a silhouette of the Pi we know now. Throughout the book the reader would have to piece Pi together, sculpt the innocent putty that he would be. This is how most books are, at least in my opinion. Since Martel places us into this empathetic disposition towards Pi, we as readers reluctantly just experience his ever evolving life. It is truly not a book about ideas or truth, but rather a dynamic unknown. Granted, there is truth and ideologies, but overall there is this sense of ignorance. An ignorance that gradually fades, as you progress with Pi.

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