Life of “Story”

Truth is subjective, affecting the individual in the present moment. In efforts of survival, Yann Martel’s protagonist Pi Patel shares two stories of the same incident in Life of Pi. Human thought and imagination use critical thinking skills as creative ways of envisioning outcomes for situations. Jonathan Gottschall calls imagined scenarios elements of “story” and sees “storytelling” as an evolutionary adaption. In The Storytelling Animal:  How Stories Make Us Human, Gottschall illustrates the authoritative human voice found in “story.” Forms of fiction such as literature, film, and video games, provide imaginative experience that propels the participant through the critical world of “what-if.” Reality can be harsh. This essay shows that creating elaborate delusions soothes one’s spirit and presents room for possibility.

The facts of Pi’s tragedy are:  the Patel family, with their zoo animals, were aboard the Tsimtsum; the ship sunk in the oceans’ depths, leaving Pi as sole survivor. Japanese officials investigate the occurrence and interview Pi who issues his circumstance through two “storytelling” methods:  subjective-spirituality and objective-rationality. In the first “story,” Pi’s narrative voice constructs the events by offering a rich, detailed observance of the animal world and religious connection with three belief systems. However, the second rendition of the same event at sea presents an anticlimactic dose of reason that issues the ugly truth. Neither “story” explains why the Tsimtsum sunk, and the reader is left deciding which tale holds preference:  the facts or the fabrication.

The second “story” rudely shows face at the end, shocking the reader who longed for Richard Parker’s noble inclusion. This action turns the tables on truth, showing the reality of Pi’s situation as distasteful. The reader comes to love Pi and finds disgust at acts of cannibalism and primal brutality. The reader wishes the truth was not real, that the first “story” was instead possible and accurate. More than likely, the “storyteller” also sides with the tale involving the tiger because the means for creating this “story” lives in survival. In order of simply making it through, Pi relied on the authority of his imagination. Pi created another individual – Richard Parker – from his memory and veterinary knowledge. In avoidance of absolute solitude, Pi utilized the power of “story” in creation of a reality he could deal with or accept.

“Story” is not limited to fiction, and Gottschall notes religious institutions as harnessing societal needs with “story.” The catch, however, is that different religions may tell contrasting versions of “stories.” He said, “Religion draws coreligionists together, and it drives those of different faiths apart” (Gottschall 123). Pi connects with three opposing religions. Forming a bond with each deity, Pi picks and chooses which religious message he prefers. In this way, Pi internally avoids religious disagreement. By subjectively addressing belief, Pi sculpts his own understanding. This essay notes the value lay in accepting multiple “stories” for individual comprehension.

The evolutionary benefit lay with the first “story.” Evolution supports the betterment of species. Gottschall calls the characters from “story” – including fictional, historical, and religious figures – “ink people,” recognizing the “ink people’s” way of wielding authority inside reality (144). He said, “[Ink people] shape our behaviors and our customs, and in so doing, they transform societies and histories” (Gottschall 144). Giving slave-narratives as reference, Gottschall shows that through Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe brought atrocities of Southern slavery into the consciousness of Northern citizens. Readers connected with Eliza’s character and empathized with her plight. Pi presented a case for relation and interaction with the animal world as means for survival.

Humans are social creatures. In absence of society, Pi’s “story” provides a sense of community with Richard Parker, Orange Juice, the hyena, and the zebra. Pi creates an animal society in avoidance of insanity, he said, “Things didn’t turn out the way they were supposed to, but what can you do? You must take life the way it comes at you and make the best of it” (Martel 91). Pi could not accept that the Chinese sailor was murdered and eaten by the French Cook, or that his dear mother stood up against inhumane cannibalism, also falling at the cook’s hand. Instead, Pi let the cook be a hyena, his mother Orange Juice, and himself Richard Parker. After all, a tiger is not afraid of a man. Better to be a tiger than a victim.

Truth alters along with the individual, and what is true for one now may not be true after experiencing a challenge or traumatic event. Truth – like humans – is victim to subjective encounter and interpretation. Pi’s truth is that he survived by any means necessary. Pi’s struggle was holding onto his humanness. “Storytelling” is a unique trait of humanity. Through art and literature, humans envision wonderful and terrible outcomes in efforts of lessening life’s struggle. Pi’s “story” encourages that the reader becomes their own tiger. Accept what one has but work towards creating the best scenario.

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Works Cited

Gottschall, Jonathan. The Storytelling Animal:  How Stories Make Us Human. New York:

Mariner Books, 2013.

Martel, Yann. Life of Pi. New York:  Mariner Books, 2003.

 

Reading assignment written for Bev Zizzy, on Martel’s “Life of Pi”

Victorian Fat Shaming: Harsh Words on Weight from the 19th Century

Victorian standards to note. Thanks Mimi!

Mimi Matthews

“All defects are in the nature of ugliness, but certain ones are more degrading than others; and of these obesity, which is a deformity, is signally ignoble.”
The Woman Beautiful, 1899.

Unknown Painting by Ivan Makarov, 1870. Unknown Painting by Ivan Makarov, 1870.

During the early and mid-Victorian era, a great many health and beauty books echoed the popular 19th century sentiment that plumpness equaled good health.  It was leanness, not heaviness, to which beauty experts directed the majority of their criticism.  For example, in his 1870 book Personal Beauty: How to Cultivate and Preserve it in Accordance with the Laws of Health, author Daniel Brinton states that a “scrawny bony figure” is “intolerable to gods and men.”  According to Brinton, the only occasion on which excessive leanness had ever been beneficial to a lady was in an encounter with a cannibal.  As he explains:

“The only lady who we ever heard derived advantage…

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Japonisme: The Japanese Influence on Victorian Fashion

MiMi Matthews wrote this piece to discuss Japanese aesthetics and adaptive culture.

Mimi Matthews

The Japanese Parisian by Alfred Stevens, 1872.

During the mid-19th century, Japan opened trade with the West for the first time in more than 200 years.  The influx of Japanese imports that followed inspired an intense fascination with Japanese art and culture.  This fascination manifested itself in the paintings of Victorian era artists like Alfred Stevens, Vincent van Gogh, James McNeill Whistler, and Claude Monet.  It also had a profound influence on Victorian fashion.  As the 2015 book of Clothing and Fashion states:

“The obsession with Japonism in fashion hastened permanent departure from the cumbersome Victorian layers and maximalist aesthetic, anticipating the minimalism of 20th-century modernism.”

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Meet and Greet Link: 3/11/16

Thanks to DreamBig for a Saturday Meet n Greet. CuriouserContemplations.wordpress.com for unique essays, stories, and bits of poetry investigating the human condition. @MmePhilosopher

Dream Big, Dream Often

dream-big

I hope your Saturday is off to a great start!

The Meet and Greet continues today so be sure to stop by and visit other bloggers.  I want to remind everyone as to what I consider to be the most powerful aspect of the MnG concept and that is to visit other sites and introduce yourself.  Leaving your link and leaving is one method, but it is the least effective method.  Leave your link and then spend some time reaching out to others!

And don’t forget, you can leave your link multiple times!!

Meet and Greet Link 3/11/16

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Meet and Greet Weekend @ Dream Big: 3/11/16

Discover interesting new blogs to follow…I know I added a few!
@MmePhilosopher

Dream Big, Dream Often

always dream big orlando espinosa credit: orlandoespinosa.com

It’s the Meet and Greet weekend at Dream Big!!

Ok so here are the rules:

  1. Leave a link to your page or post in the comments of this post.
  2. Reblog this post.  It helps you, it helps me, it helps everyone!  So hit the reblog button.
  3. Edit your reblog post and add tags.
  4. Feel free to leave your link multiple times!  It is okay to update your link for more exposure every day if you want.  It is up to you!

  5. Share this post on social media.  Many of my non-blogger friends love that I put the Meet n Greet on Facebook and Twitter because they find new blogs to follow.

Now that all the rules have been clearly explained get out there and Meet n Greet your butts off!

See ya on Monday!!

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