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In the end of Life of Pi there are two possible stories that happened. But in the last scene where the writer views the Chinese insurance report, he reads this sentence:

Very few castaways can claim to have survived so long at sea, and none in the company of an adult Bengal tiger.

But didn't the Chinese use the different story where no tiger is involved?

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  • Lacking more context (I haven't seen the film), that quoted sentence looks to me like it is saying that their view of things was that there was no tiger.
    – user209
    Mar 7, 2013 at 22:51
  • It's been a while since I've read the book (and I haven't seen the movie), but did the Chinese take the other story? Mar 7, 2013 at 22:59
  • After Pi told the first story (the tiger story) the Chinese said they can't use it. They need to truth, something less phantastic. Then pi told the other story and they were satisfied and left.
    – juergen d
    Mar 7, 2013 at 23:52
  • But the way it was presented, it was as if it was already in the report, and not just as Pi's testimonial.
    – Solemnity
    Mar 8, 2013 at 2:26

4 Answers 4

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I haven't read the book.

Firstly, the agents were Japanese. From WP's page for the film:

In the present day, the novelist notes the parallels between the two stories: the orangutan was Pi's mother, the zebra was the sailor, the hyena was the cook, and Richard Parker, the tiger, was Pi himself. Pi asks him which story the writer prefers, and the writer chooses the one with the tiger because it "is the better story", to which Pi responds, "And so it goes with God". Glancing at a copy of the insurance report, the writer sees the agents wrote that Pi somehow survived 227 days at sea with a tiger: the insurance agents had also chosen the more fantastic story.

WP's page for the novel:

After giving all the relevant information, Pi asks which of the two stories they prefer. Since the officials cannot prove which story is true and neither is relevant to the reasons behind the shipwreck, they choose the story with the animals. Pi thanks them and says, "and so it goes with God."

So the Japanese agents did not use the true story (and similarly, the writer didn't prefer it either) which is essentially the whole point of the tale. The line "and so it goes with God." suggests that, just as the agents (and the writer) prefer the sweet story of the boy and the Royal Bengal Tiger to that of the once-innocent boy and the murderous cook, so too does humanity which prefers the comfortable cloak of religion to the harsh realities of life (or the lonely desolation of atheism, if you like). Of course, this is not what Pi (and presumably, Martel) is trying to convey as he tells the writer right at the beginning that the story will make him believe in God.

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    Agreed, except for last sentence above. I think by "make you believe in God" Pi was really saying "make you understand why others believe in God"
    – Shiz Z.
    Mar 8, 2013 at 15:33
  • @ShaneFinneran It's possible that I'm misremembering the line. I'll try to confirm the exact dialogue and get back to you. Mar 8, 2013 at 15:45
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    no, I think you got the line right... just saying my interpretation of the meaning was different. I'd say the guy Pi was telling the story to didn't all of a sudden start believing in God... he just had a new understanding for why believing in God might be appealing.
    – Shiz Z.
    Mar 9, 2013 at 1:14
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The answer lies in the ageless riddle "if a tree falls in the forest and no one is around, does it make a sound?" You see, for many who are familiar with this philosophy it is understood that it is a question of faith. If you believe the tree does indeed make a sound, then you are a believer in God. Knowingly or not (I mean believer in God, not necessarily religion, that is a whole other discussion). Why you ask? Well if you believe the tree makes a sound without physical proof, then you are willing to believe in something that you may not know to be true, like God! To not believe in the sound with out physical proof then you find yourself with out faith. And with it goes God, to believe in the story of the Tiger, without proof, is to have faith in the existence of God. Although this story may feel as one of lost innocence, it is actually a test of the reader's faith, in God, in something greater than the physical. Whichever version you choose, says a lot about you...knowingly or not.

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    Doesn't provide too strong a connection to the actual question (compared to all the other more general elabortions in the answer) and doesn't provide much more insight than the already existing answer. And this interpretation of the falling tree riddle I've never heard before, but nevermind.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Jan 2, 2014 at 19:37
  • I would dispute this analysis of the falling-tree thought experiment. There may be communities who assert that this is the proper analysis, but I'd argue that's merely more dogma.
    – Tom
    Jan 21, 2023 at 0:05
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I don't think the tree riddle is applicable here. There is sound evidence proving there'd be a sound if a tree falls- because we've all most likely seen a tree or branch or what have you, fall and make a sound- no one has lived through a ship wreck story of that sort so there's no way to make a comparison.

I think in the ending, the Japanese reporters went with the story about the animals- for one, I believe they wanted to help the child not have to deal with being accused of murder for killing the cook, whatever the reason. 2. Neither story explains the ship sinking, so why not? The kid has been through enough.

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Interestingly enough many people have misquoted that the writer says he likes the first story with the tiger. But that’s not what he says to be accurate. Pi asks him “so which story do you prefer?” And What the writer says is “the one with the Tiger, that’s the better story”…but both stories technically have a Tiger : in the first story that the bulk of the book centers around Richard Parker is the actual tiger. But in the story that Pi tells the Japanese insurance investigators he tells the writer that HE (Pi himself) represented a Tiger. So you could argue that both stories have a Tiger.

All of that being said the purpose of the book and the movie is not to determine which story is true-there is no evidence to give us an answer to that question. The point of the book is to make one investigate the question of one’s own reality and one’s own relationship with secular and non secular belief. In essence BOTH stories can be true. One can be an allegory. Or maybe their literal and Richard Parker really was on the boat with Pi, a zebra, an organtang, a hyena and a rat and Pi made up the second story to appease the insurance men. But in either case there is no RIGHT answer, it’s a work of fiction. The anutgor purposely left out an answer. And the reader will never answer the question. What the book (and movie) set out to do is to encourage the reader to think about the relationship they have with the world, the spiritual and with your perceived reality in life (per the author himself)….

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