Thesis Fest #14: Pi’s Diary

If there has ever been a fictional poster child for the benefits of constructivism and narrative therapy, Pi would have to be it. Pi not only uses his multi-layered story as a way of easily avoiding traumatic memories but also uses it to deal with traumatic events as they happen. As Pi survives on the raft, he simultaneously creates and lives in his animal-filled reality.

Pi connects his tale to objectivity for the reader through his diary. It is not till Chapter 73 that he mentions it, but because it is the only log of the story as it happened, it is perhaps the most informative artifact of the raft. Interestingly, Pi tells the reader what he wrote in his diary, saying, “I talked about what you might expect: about things that happened and how I felt, about what I caught and what I didn’t, about seas and weather, about problems and solutions, about Richard Parker. All very practical stuff” (208). Upon the first reading, this passage seems understated but not particularly noteworthy. With a tiger on a boat, it would be troubling if Pi did not write about it. Knowing the ending, though, raises some questions about this passage. If the story with Richard Parker is not the story that factually happened in reality, then what can be made of Pi describing his diary? The reader has three separate choices. First, the reader may begin to accuse Pi of trickery. This choice is not unwarranted. Pi, at times, is extremely mischievous to his audience. However, this choice seems unlikely when the diary passage is taken within the context of the larger story. It would be absurd for Pi to share his life-changing story just to trick his audience.

Second, the reader may believe that Pi has simply subconsciously misremembered what he wrote in his diary in an attempt to repress trauma. This choice is more consistent with the bulk of the novel. It could be that Pi is an unreliable narrator because of psychosis. However, Pi gives his audience actual entries from his diary. One reads: “Prostrate body and soul. Will die soon. R. P. breathing but not moving. Will die too. Will not kill me” (239). How can one explain Pi’s mention of Richard Parker in his diary if Richard Parker is a creation of his subconscious with the purpose of aiding Pi in the retelling of the story?

The third option is that Pi creates Richard Parker while on the raft. If understood in this way, Pi’s relationship with the animals becomes multidimensional. As the only rational thinking being on the raft, he becomes the master of his story. It is also no wonder Pi feels he must keep Richard Parker alive. Richard Parker is not just a stand-in for Pi; he is also Pi’s link to sanity and (in a very Jungian sense) his animus. Thus, Pi renarrates his story to himself as it is happening, empowering him to make difficult decisions and, ultimately, to survive.

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One thought on “Thesis Fest #14: Pi’s Diary

  1. An excellent addition to Thesis Fest that advances Chapter 4 substantially. As always, you’re writing is excellent (favorite line: “As Pi survives on the raft, he simultaneously creates and lives in his animal-filled reality”) and evocative. What you’ve done in this TF is create a very densely-packed summary of the layered narratives of the novel. You’ve also laid the foundation of Pi-as-Author in a way that you haven’t before (in written form, at least). I agree with the direction you’re taking this and like your energy and investment that shines through in your writing.

    Continue as you see fit. If you’re not sure how to proceed from here, I recommend taking each TF14 paragraph and creating a separate entry for it that unpacks the ideas and elaborates upon them. If you have a different direction in mind, by all means follow it. It’s clearly not broken, so don’t fix it it!

    Feel free to call or text me if you want to discuss the chapter over the break.

    All the best,
    Dr. Bianco

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