‘A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings’ by Gabriel García Márquez and ‘Life of Pi’, directed by Ang Lee, delve into the human response to weakness and the supernatural as well as the primacy of survival. Religion is a focal point in both works, they look at how the belief in the divine can be either evil or act as a means of survival. Through religion, the two works highlight the ugly truth that is the desperation and cruelty of people when confronted by challenging situations. The use of magical realism in these two works links the supernatural to the human experience.
In ‘Life of Pi’, the main character – Pi, is raised by an atheist father who strictly believes in science and a mother who is a devoted Hindu. He grows up in internal conflict, he doesn’t seem to know what he should follow, so he decides to extend his faith and becomes a Hindu, Christian and a Muslim while also believing in science. When stranded in the ocean with no one but a Bengal tiger, religion is one of the few things that gives him hope. However, as time goes by, he begins to question God, wondering why he is going through all this hardship. And as his faith in God weakens, so does his will to live. Religion starts off as a lifeline for Pi until the storm scene. At first it seems as if he’s gone mad, yelling ‘Praise be to God, Lord of all worlds, the compassionate, the merciful’ in joy despite being in a life-threatening situation. It isn’t until he sees Richard Parker, a mighty animal of the jungle cowering in fear, that he is brought back to his senses. His trust in God turns into hatred as he begins to ‘Why are you scaring him! I have lost my family, I’ve lost everything! What more do you want?’. Through Pi’s perspective, this scene focuses on how religion, something so holy, can turn sour in a matter of seconds when people are confronted by challenging situations.
Religion in A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings plays a completely different role. It is used to show that religion is not necessarily good and can often be corrupt. When the old man is found, instead of rejoicing to have been blessed with a divine being, the villagers lock him up for personal gain. Rather than helping the angel they make a profit out of this situation, charging anyone who wishes to see him. Márquez explores the corruption and hypocrisy within the Church
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