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”

Friday Fictioneers “Backfired Awareness”

Friday Fictioneers * Rochelle Wisoff-Fields * Photo Prompt by Janet M. Webb * “Backfired Awareness” * 100 words * A. Shaffer * 29 July 2016

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“Backfired Awareness”

Brenda internally shook. Only a prank, she thought, things weren’t supposed to roll this way. The hoity-toity new mall in Southern West Virginia was an insult because none of the locals could afford the goods. Installing an Olympic-size swimming pool next to the food court — beyond absurd. Local activists hatched the plan, drained the pool, flooded the area. A statement, it was all just a statement. The Media, however, ran with it. The state of West Virginia was shut down, noted as a loss. That’s when they brought in the refugees, populating “Wild and Wonderful” with the world’s castoffs.

 

Hello Dear Readers and Fellow Authors…

This week, Rochelle Wisoff-Fields called on Janet M. Webb for Friday Fictioneer’s photo prompt. In 100 words, Friday Fictioneer Authors craft “story” from a picture. For me, the excess water automatically makes me think of those in the Southern part of the state who are currently still devastated by recent flooding. This weeks output of rain has probably not helped them recover. Husband and I are closer to Pennsylvania, and while we have had much rain we are not in dire straights as our Southern brothers/sisters.

I wish that there was something I could really do to help them, but my allergy to the sun prevents me from being able to get in the car and race down there. Silly, I know, but I am lucky if I can tolerate a five minute period outside. Even something simple like taking my dogs out may result in an attack. I linger in bits of shade, trying to hold on to consciousness.

Needless to say, I offer much thanks to the Friday Fictioneer family and friends for the online connection. I cannot enjoy summer like everyone else, but I can safely stay inside, working on “story.” Keep on spinning, Saffron. I can create a reality where the Sun does not set out to destroy me, or imagine what it would feel like to be “normal,” spending a day on the river or — hard to imagine — purposefully laying out in the sun for a lovely, golden complexion. “Story” has a way of providing for the mind when reality lacks. “Story” lives in the art we express. We can find “story” in many places:  literature, theatre, film, COSplay, paintings, sculpture, photography, music, lyrics, and video games. Yes! I said, “video games” lol my all-time dislike {secret there is that I am terrible at ‘playing’}.

Click the BlueFrog below and read the other esteemed Friday Fictioneer stories. The concept is so interesting because one picture inspires endless possibilities<>. As always, if inspired by the photo prompt, please create a “story” all your own. Simply follow the links and copy the codes, and KaBam!…I, along with the other Authors, will read your “story” and offer feedback. Because, telling “story” holds rewards but so does knowing that someone reads your work.

Keep on creating!

Angie