Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Life of Pi - Final Set of Prompts

I'm going to give you a lot of options for Thursday. Please pick whichever one interests you the most, but also come prepared to discuss all of them.

1. In class today I asked you to be thinking about Pi's "heroic" journey and the journey we undertake as we read. What does Martel want us to get from this journey? What new knowledge or treasure do we bring back with us?

2. What does the carnivorous island represent? Is it a symbol? A metaphor? A clue to interpreting the rest of the story? Why is it in the book?

3. In the Author's Note that begins the novel, Mr. Adirubasamy tell Yann Martel (and the rest of us as we read), "I have a story that will make you believe in God." Does Life of Pi live up to this promise? Why or why not?

4. From the very beginning, Life of Pi is set up as a story. Martel never says otherwise. But at the end of the novel, Pi gives another version of his story, one in which the animals on the lifeboat are replaced by humans. In this version, the zebra represents the Chinese sailor, the hyena represents the cook, Orange Juice represents Pi’s own mother, and Richard Parker is actually Pi himself. If this version is true--and Pi never definitively tells us which version is true--then Pi has invented the version of the story with animals in order to cope with devastating tragedy. So now that you have both versions, I want to ask you the same thing he asks the men from the Japanese Ministry of Transport: "which story do you prefer? Which is the better story, the story with animals or the story without animals?" Why?

5. Apart from the alternate version of events, what else do we learn from Pi's conversation with the men from the Japanese Ministry of Transport that helps us understand the novel better?

6. There is an paragraph in Chapter 57 that reads as follows: "But there's more to it. I will come clean. I will tell you a secret: a part of me was glad about Richard Parker. A part of me did not want Richard Parker to die at all, because if he did I would be left alone with despair, a foe even more formidable than a tiger. If I still had the will to live, it was thanks to Richard Parker. He kept me from thinking too much about my family and my tragic circumstances. He pushed me to go on living. I hated him for it, yet at the same time I was grateful. I am grateful. It's the plain truth: without Richard Parker, I wouldn't be alive today to tell you my story." If the story without animals is the true story (in terms of "happening truth"), and if Richard Parker is really Pi, then what does this paragraph mean?

7. When the Japanese men respond by saying that the story with animals is, in their opinion, the better story, Pi responds by saying, "Thank you. And so it goes with God." Interpret this.

8. Like Pi, we tell stories. Some of them are true. Some of them are lies. Some of them are exaggerations. But we all tell them. We tell them so that other people can have a way into our lives, so that they can understand us. We tell them to make sense of our own experience, to understand ourselves. What has Life of Pi taught you about why we tell stories?

9. Quote an excerpt from The Things They Carried and then use that excerpt as a lens through which you analyze an aspect of Life of Pi. (Note: this is the kind of question you might expect to find on a midterm exam.)

Thank you. See you on Thursday.

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