This extended essay will assess the impact of water as amotif on the development of protagonists in a coming-of-the-age orBildungsroman novel.
In order to explore this, this essay will compare andcontrast aspects of Life of Pi and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, twoBildungsroman novels from two different eras in literature. While TheAdventures of Huckleberry Finn portrays eighteenth century Americanromanticism, The Life of Pi is a fantasy-adventure novel. Although there isevident time gap between the two works, the role of water is incorporated intothe stories similarly.Water, for instance, is used paradoxically in both works.During Pi’s and Huck’s journey to adulthood, water exemplifies life and death.Due to them being crucial parts of the investigation, the geography, the watertype and its interaction with the protagonists are areas that are examined.Where pi’s character development occurs in the vast expanse of the PacificOcean, Huck’s journey takes him down the Mississippi River. Twain and Martel,while personifying the differing role of water, also ensure that water embodiesmultiple conscious entities.
In addition, water also functions as a plot device due tobeing a continuous presence throughout both the novels. Both the protagonists,witness a tremendous change in their attitudes after being introduced to thenatural world. This essay, though extensive, the evaluation done here is quietsubjective. Water, is a great literary symbol and hence leaves room for ambiguity.The majority of the meaning found in water is through personal perspective.This statement should, however not limit the scope of the research question. Inconclusion, water plays a major role in the development of Bildungsromanprotagonists. IntroductionAll through history, nature has always fascinated mankind,especially those with artistic attributes.
Aspects of nature such as theseasons, the moon, the wildlife and their various ecosystems have in turn,provided writers with an infinite source of inspiration. It is due to thisinfinite nature of wilderness, that there is no greater resource for literarysymbols. Bildungsroman serves as effective material for studying theuse of nature symbolism. Nature is the prominent indicator of changing times inthe novels dedicated to the transition between youth and adulthood. Theseasons, for instance, represent the journey from the good times in anindividual’s life, to the hardships. The novels, The Adventures of HuckleberryFinn and The Life of Pi, being with their protagonists (Huckleberry Finn andPiscine Patel respectively) being adolescent boys with limited exposure to theoutside world. It is only after they are immersed into the natural world thatthey experience a significant transformation.
Though these books represent two different literary eras,both share a common theme of respect of nature. As a part of AmericanRomanticism, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, inherently praises the aspectsof the natural world. Huck’s detailed observations of the natural world as hefloats down the Mississippi River depicts this admiration. Life of Pi, exhibitsa similar trend. Pi, while stranded in the Pacific Ocean both fears and marvelsat its beauty. Even in his dangerous situation, he describes being placed inthe center of “a thrilling show… a spectacle of wind and water, an earthquakeof the senses that even Hollywood couldn’t orchestrate” (Life of Pi 128). Thefact that water is almost omnipresent in both works allows an extensiveresearch into its figurative connotations.
Although, the impact of water on thedevelopment of characters in a Bildungsroman novel will be specificallyexamined.Water is a necessity for both humanity and the wilderness,for without it, neither would exist. As How to Read Literature Like A Professorstates “water in great volume speaks to us at a very basic level of our being”(Foster 75). Water is comparatively quiet unique since it suggests manydifferent (often paradoxical) interpretations.The effect of water on protagonist’s development is deeplyexplored. From the innocent childhood up until maturity attained afterhardships, water has been a constant contributor to the plot. The relationshipbetween water and the protagonists’ run as deep as for the water to beinterpreted as both the novels’ most prominent supporting character.
Transition from childhood to maturityThough the term “Bildungsroman” is derived from German, thisgenre of novel has been used all around cultures, as the transformation of anindividual is a universal phenomenon. The goal of this genre is to depict the”psychological and moral development” of the protagonist (Merriam-Webster). Inboth, Life of Pi and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the protagonistsundergo a significant transformation initiated by a common entity: water. Theway both the protagonists’ undergo this transformation in their youth is “botha necessary and sufficient definition of these heroes” (Moretti 4) in thecontext of Bildungsroman novel. Pi and Huck are forced to adapt to new circumstancesdue to the interference of water in their childhood.
Before Pi’s family decided to move to Canada, he encountereda sheltered childhood. Though his family had domestic issues, they were alsowell endowed. Due to this, he enjoyed privileges such as attending aprestigious boarding school. The swimming lessons he receives from his unclelink his childhood to water. Pi’s first experience with water results in”splashing” and “laughing” as he indulges in the “blue-green waves and thebubbly surf” (Martel 9). Ironically, water is introduced to Pi in the verysetting which transitions him to adulthood. The phrase “bubbly surf” (9)parallels the purity of a child.
However, with age, Pi becomes more refined andstructured. This transition is reflected in his experience at the pool, whichexhibits “a proper rectangularity and formal flatness” (9). These words implythat there is a sense of docility to the water. Furthermore words like “proper”and “formal” indicate towards the acceptance of society, much like Pi’s lessonsare traditional. The circumscription of water in this case depicts theisolation of Pi’s childhood, in which he is dependent on his family. Theentirety of his opportunities are handed to him or rather forced upon him byhis family and society.
Pi’s interest in zoology is a consequence of being raised tolove such an environment. Pi began to explore his spirituality, however, beforepursuing his opportunities. Pi is immersed into Hinduism, Christianity andIslam, contrary to his parents’ request that he sticks to one faith. Hisunprecedented devotion towards different religions signal the beginning of histransition into adulthood. However, his true development is only ignited by thewrath of water with the sinking of the Tsimtsum.
This incident also withresulting in Pi losing his family, also commences his battle against the oceanfor survival. His hindmost battle against this entity for survival representshis internal struggle to understand himself throughout his transitional period.Huck, on the contrary, experiences a tough childhood. Themajority of his life, he lacks a fatherly figure. Whenever his drunkard fatherdid show up, “he used to whale when he was sober” and often physically andverbally abused Huck (Twain 13). Unlike Pi, Huck wasn’t born into a stablefamily and neither did he receive proper education. Instead, he was raised intoa society that lacked morals and practiced prejudice.
If the river hadn’t takenHuck’s father away with it, he probably would have grown up in a corruptedenvironment.