That’s what fiction is about, isn’t it, the selective transforming of reality? The twisting of it to bring out the essence?
The Author presents one of the story’s essential themes early on: the purpose of storytelling. According to these lines, fiction allows writers to take the essence of an experience and transform the truth in the best way to communicate the deeper message. The art of fiction lies in having something to say and capturing an audience. With these lines, the narrator asks readers a key question not answered until the end of the story: whether or not Pi truly shared the lifeboat. Yet whether the tiger really exists matters less than the fact that Pi survived the overall experience.
The world isn’t just the way it is. It is how we understand it, no? And in understanding something, we bring something to it, no? Doesn’t that make life a story?
When the Japanese officials visit Pi in the hospital, they expect to hear a factual account of why the ship sank. Given their expectation, they initially reject Pi’s tale of animals and Richard Parker. Here, however, Pi pushes back, asserting that the way in which people choose to see the world creates the world itself. According to Pi, people don’t exist merely in the fact-based world. The lens through which people view themselves and the words they use to express what they see and perceive actually form the reality around them. Pi’s words affirm the power of telling stories.
So tell me, since it makes no factual difference to you and you can’t prove the question either way, which story do you prefer?
After sharing two versions of his story—one with animals and one without—Pi asks the Japanese officials to pick between the two tales. His question underscores that a story consists of more than the “dry, yeastless factuality” that Pi references several times throughout the text. A story also relies on drawing the listener and the teller into a world of its own making. By sharing a story about a miraculous partnership between a boy and a tiger, Pi not only ensures that people will listen to the tale, but he also creates a narrative that he can live with.
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