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The Carnivorous Island

Cover of "Life of Pi"
Cover of Life of Pi (Photo Credit:

A few nights ago DH and I went to see the movie Life of Pi in 3D.  I’ve commented previously on how much I loved this book, and the movie certainly lived up to my expectation (I still recommend you read the book, however).  One part of the book never made sense to me, though:  The Carnivorous Island.  When I read the book, I felt that part of the book was just so out of place – almost a little too far gone.  I actually felt that the inclusion of the island cheapened the book a little.

After watching the movie, I realized that the Island might probably be the most important part of the book, especially if you consider that the purpose of the story was to “make you believe in God.”

It’s been a while since I read the novel, so I can’t remember if there was some dialogue regarding the island added to the movie that wasn’t in the book.  It is highly probable, considering there were a few places in the movie where I know for sure, something that was said was not in the original narrative.  In the movie, when Pi was telling his houseguest about his interpretation of the island, he said something to the effect:

The island save my life, it fed me and rejuvenated me and I was willing to spend the rest of my life relying on the island instead of being lost at sea.  However, I realized that what the island gave to me by day, it took away by night.  If I stayed there the island would completely consume me and I would die on that island.

After hearing this, I thought back to events immediately preceding the scene in the movie where Pi lands on the island: Pi had finally given up on his efforts to survive.  He had no food or energy left, and he had no hope.  He completely resigned himself to death in his lifeboat and he thanked God for the life that he had lived.  Then he landed on the island.

Suddenly it all made sense to me.  The Island represents God.  It represents everything God represents in the lives of people who believe in Him and rely on Him to help them through the challenges they face.  The metaphor is powerful but also precautionary.

The island is quite literally unbelievable, in much the same way that God is to the people who don’t believe in Him.  The island is all giving, saving, and revitalizing  and it comes into Pi’s life at the very moment that he gives up his will to live.  The island gives Pi everything he needs to build strength and to regain his desire to keep fighting to survive the challenges (the worse challenge ever) he faces.  And, then Pi stresses that if he relied on the island forever, it would consume him.  So he left the island.

This is where the island metaphor becomes precautionary.  The island provided refuge when it was needed, it supported him and nursed him back to good health and strength; However, Pi knew that living on the island for the rest of his life would actually harm him and consume his life in a way that he would never want.  It is easy to oversee the disadvantages of such a positive, strengthening, and all-providing resource, especially when it arrives at a time when it is most needed.  Unfortunately, we cannot rely on someone else to live out the rest of our lives, even if He is God.

God comes to provide support, guidance and salvation when it is most needed.  However, as human beings, we must take the responsibility to live our lives to the fullest extent possible, knowing that God will help us when if we ask for it.  Living on the all-giving island is not always as good as it seems: By not taking the initiative to change or persevere life’s challenges, we will only ever stay in one place.  There will never be progress, there will never be change, there will never be possibility of something more.  That idea, in itself, is all consuming and a threat to the utter essence of human life.

God will be there when you need Him.  He will save you when you can’t save yourself.  However, God is not the only one who can take you where you want to go.  We must make the choise ourself, even when they are the hardest decision to make.

If Pi can face the uncertainty and fear of re-entering the treacherous abyss of the Pacific Ocean, It is quite possible that we can find the courage to delve full force into our own frightening challenges in hopes of finding what we really desire at the end of our journey.

5 thoughts on “The Carnivorous Island

  1. We each had a different interpretation of who was God in Life of Pi. I wonder how many different interpretations there are out there in the blogosphere. Collecting them might be a good topic for a blog post.


  2. Wow! That was some analysis.I must say you have given it a lot of thought – I for one could not go beyond the bubbles that I felt coming up while watching the movie , the kind of uncomfortable feeling at the bottom of the swimming pool. 3D heightened this discomfort and I could hardly wait for THE END.


    1. It is a great story, in many many aspects. Maybe your discomfort stemmed from the deep ideas presented? I’m sorry you were eager for it to end!


  3. Maybe I’m reaching, here, but consider that perhaps the island was Pi, himself.
    If I had to imagine myself (I mean truly put myself into that mindset) stranded on a little boat in the middle of the ocean, dying of starvation and thirst, there are so many ways my mind could ‘fragment.’
    Perhaps he entertained thoughts of eating his own flesh, after having consumed the flesh of others, out of panick and starvation.
    An animal will bite and knaw on its own flesh when starved (I’ve never seen it, but have read about it). In the movie, the island consumed its own inhabitants.
    I’d like to believe the BOAT was God, not the island, in that it brought Pi back to rationality and common sense… Restored his sense of humanity and prevented him from doing something even more unthinkable than eating the flesh of others.
    It also saved him during the storm, as well as carried him through the endless, unforgiving ocean. One merely has to read Footprints to see the connection: “…It was then that I carried you.”
    Without God, we humans can do horrible, depraved things. Left to our own devises, we are no better than animals. And I believe that faith in God keeps us in check, keeps us balanced, gives us hope, where otherwise there would be none, and carries us through the trials we each must face.


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