A Slice of Life, A Slice of Pi
Life of Pi was a pretty recent film. It’s about the life of a boy, Pi. You may have heard about it; it won the most (four) Academy Awards in 2012. You may have watched it. Don’t worry, there’s no spoilers in this post. Or perhaps there is, if you’re planning to see the film; but if you haven’t yet, there’s a good chance you won’t. The spoilers don’t really spoil anything, since this essay isn’t about Life of Pi, and Life of Pi isn’t about its plot
It’s about its meaning.
I always thought that Life of Pi’s ending was a religious statement—just like believers, the novelist had to have faith in Pi, that his story was true. Although reason and psychology may steer one to believe otherwise, faith transcends both. People who value ‘order’ will automatically believe in the metaphoric story with ‘real’ humans—this denies a whole range of fantastic (in a bad way) possibilities, showing logic’s corrupting influence over the flexibility of faith. Furthermore, faith is unique to each person, as are meanings (interpretations!).
Yet, few seemed to agree. Most posts online simply followed the novelist’s connect-the-dots from ‘actual humans’ to their ‘animal representations’. So too did I think, but something was off, it was too obvious. I mean, in the film itself, the novelist explicitly STATES all of these connections! What kind of serious literary work TELLS you its meaning?
That exposes a preconception in our minds: that serious literary works’ meanings are to be found and not given. This is the notion that leads to ‘overanalysis’, when we ‘think too hard’ about something which has an ‘obvious meaning’.
But how do we find this meaning when nobody agrees? Does one meaning to any literary work actually exist? Do any meanings exist at all?
It’s late, but it’s still Tuesday. Any thoughts?