“The Carnivorous Island”

(Please see the link above)

Although the story told by Pi Patel can be discussed in its wealth of sublime imagery (or even grotesque in it being a false truth) I wanted to connect the scene where Pi inhabits a supposed carnivorous island and relate it back to this week’s lecture.

The carnivorous island from Life of Pi is an alternate plot given by Pi Patel to preserve his morality. Conversely, his authentic experience with cannibalism while cast away at sea is in the literal act of consuming his companion’s corpse on the desolate waters. Last class we were talking about modernism as synonymous with the grotesque and from which the emerging struggle between inner-self and the corruption of nature synthesizes in the modern sublime. I saw this scene as akin to this notion in that it is given the context and visual effects of sublimity whist pertinent to the grotesque in its imagery.

The island, correlating to life and optimism by day, is revealed as a ‘nature consuming nature’ by night. Past dusk Pi observes the death of fish in a pond that grows poisonous and discovers human teeth at the crux of the plants on the island’s trees. So, here we have an island that feeds off of itself paralleling to Pi’s reality of eating a human corpse for sustenance in a destitute state. The beauty in this scene, thus, emerges from a chaotic concept.

In the fictional telling of his story, Pi represses a truth that he is afraid of, and re-expresses it in a story that becomes a new kind of truth. This should sound familiar, if not identical to Sherwood Anderson’s definition of the grotesque in Winesburg Ohio. The creation of Pi’s false truth is praised at the end of the story because his audience sympathizes with him, believing as well, that this was the obvious choice for Pi. The immoral becomes the obvious.

Descent to cannibalism is associated with barbarism, savagery and immorality. However, succumbing to this in Pi’s narrative is correlated to basic necessity. Nature is seen here as a provider in every sense of the word thus associated with positive and negative connotations. Nature provides sustenance to and for itself, and from this our unity to the world seems drastically distinct from the formerly praised and more conventional notions of nature’s beauty.

This might be a stretch, but here is me attempting to grapple with the concept of grotesque/modernism.