Life of Pi: Use of a Unreliable Narrator Essay

“An unreliable narrator can draw you into his or her worldview and perhaps even make you take sides before a writer reveals a broader perspective, one that he/she has missed or omitted. Even if a story is written so you doubt the narrator from the beginning, an unreliable narrator is still the one taking you through the story, so you hang on to their words. Perhaps a certain dialogue or an event will uncover details the narrator does not realize and expose that as an unreliable narrator, their word can no longer be trusted”.

(Jada Bradley). In the book Life of Pi, Pi reveals himself as an unreliable narrator.

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Life of Pi: Use of a Unreliable Narrator Essay
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Although Pi defines himself as an unpredictable narrator through the final events in the story, Pi gives hints of false information throughout the book. As a reader, you hang on to his words because he is the one taking you through the account of his epic journey. Pi in the final scene of the story after his journey across the Pacific, tells the Japanese Oceanic Authorities contradicting stories.

“Pi: So, you didn`t like my story? Mr.Okamoto: No, we liked it very much. Didn’t we , Atsuro? We will remember it for a long, long time. Mr.Chiba: We will. [Silence]

Mr.Okamoto: But for the purposes of our investigation, we would like to know what really happened. Pi: What really happened? Mr. Okamoto: Yes. Pi: So you want another story? Mr. Okamoto: Uhh…no. We would like to know what really happened.” Pi leads you to believe that he is only making up the second account to satisfy the two men`s disbelief in his first story. However, if you reexamine the book you find that the second report could actually be a true account. Now you see that there are two valid stories, and the reader must choose which story is accurate based on their own conclusions about Pi.

Throughout Pi`s journey there are doubtful events that hint at his unreliability as an narrator. These incidents can influence your choice on which story you find factual, like sketchy witnesses in a crime investigation. For instance, during his voyage, Pi encounters another blind castaway who jumps on Pi`s boat to kill him but, is killed by Richard Parker. This event is extremely unrealistic, for the possibility of two blind castaways encountering each other in the world`s largest ocean is simply far-fetched. You may sense some disbelief in this occurrence yet, you still trust his word. For Pi hasn`t yet given the reader a reason to disbelieve him as the narrator.

Pi`s story from the boat sinking and the loss of his family, to his terrible journey across the Pacific Ocean is a horrible tragedy. You mourn for him and his horrible situation and through this sorrow you don`t realize that he could be making this all up. Usually when you read stories you want the main character to have a happy ending. However, in Life of Pi, when you discover you can no longer trust Pi`s account, you lose your remorse for him and his predicament. Crossen states this plainly in her Wall Street Journal article on unreliable narrators, “Unfortunately, to point out that a book has an unreliable narrator is to spoil the thrill of losing your innocence.” Cheering for the main character becomes vile when you have lost trust in their word.

Pi`s first account of a boy and a Bengal tiger surviving a journey across the Pacific Ocean is fantastic tale but somewhat believable. However, by the end of the novel our perception of Pi as the storyteller has been tainted. Our perspective of anyone`s account of their lives depends on our own experiences and knowledge. As David Fromkin states in The Way of the World, ”Life is a story that each of us tells to his or her self; and it therefore is a tale told by an unreliable narrator.”

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