Thesis Fest #13: Pi’s Communion with Audience

Before I forget I want to say a couple of words about Pi’s relationship with his audience. Dr. Bianco brought this up when I met with him last, and I wanted to make sure I got some ideas down about it. The thoughts haven’t fermented yet, so I want to just post some sporadic thoughts.

First, Pi, unlike the other narrators I’m going to be considering, seems to acknowledge the presence of his audience. Partly, this is because the frame for the book is Pi telling his story to a writer. But I think it’s more than that. Pi sets up his story in a very specific way to tell a very specific tale. This is why we get mini chapters about agnosticism. This is why we get admissions from Pi that he doesn’t “quite mean it literally” that he saw the Virgin Mary (63). He’s recognizing the skeptical reader. This is important because it sets up a trust with the reader that sets up the surprise ending. Without Pi drawing us into his narrative and his perception, the ending is not nearly as effective.

Second, Pi has a habit of communing with his audience. He continually makes dinner for the fictionalized Martel. Also, when he tells his story to the Japanese men, a very complicated thing happens with cookies. Throughout the interview, he asks them for cookies. But he doesn’t eat them. In fact, one of the men notes that “they’re right there beneath his bedsheet” (292). Pi saves them so that he can offer them to the Japanese men before they leave. This behavior is extremely curious, but it does two things. First, it offers Pi a way to commune with the men. Second, it leaves them thankful for things they already had in a way they weren’t before. I’m not sure what to make of this last one just yet.

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