Belief in God is clearly a major theme in Life of P’, and has been the most controversial in reviews of the book. Throughout the novel, Pi makes his belief In and love of God clear”lt Is a love profound enough that he can transcend the classical divisions of rellglon, and worship as a Hindu, Muslim, and Christian. Pl, although amazed by the posslblllty of lacking this belief, still respects the atheist, because he sees him as a kind of believer. Pi’s vision of an atheist on his death bed makes It clear that he assumes the atheist’s form of belief is one in God, without his realizing it until he end.
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It is the agnostic that truly bothers Pi; the decision to doubt, to lack belief in anything, is to him inexcusable. This is underscored in that essential passage in the novel when Pi asks the Japanese officials which of his two stories they preferred”he sees no reason why they should not believe the better story. Pi’s devotion to God is a prominent part of the novel; it becomes, however, much less prominent during his time aboard the lifeboat, when his physical needs come to dominate his spiritual ones.
Pi never seems to doubt his belief in God while enduring his hardships, but he certainly focuses on It less. This in turn underscores the theme of the primacy of survival. Throughout the novel, characters achieve comfort through the practice of rituals. Animals are creatures of habit, as Pl establishes early on when he notes that zookeepers can tell If something is wrong with their animals Just by noticing changes in their daily routines. People, too, become wedded to their routines, even to the point of predictability, and grow troubled during times of change.
While religious traditions are a prime example of ritual in this novel, there are numerous others. For instance, Pi’s mother wants to buy cigarettes before traveling to Canada, for fear that she won’t be able to find her particular brand in Winnipeg. And Pi is able to survive his oceanic ordeal largely because he creates a series of daily rituals to sustain him. Without rituals, routines, and habits, the novel implies, people feel uneasy and unarmored. Rituals give structure to abstract Ideas and emotions”in other words, ritual Is an alternate form of storytelling.See More on Religion