“To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to
choosing immobility as a means of transportation” (Yann Martel 1.7.21). In Yann
Martel’s novel Life of Pi, Piscine Patel finds himself trapped after a terrible
shipwreck on a lifeboat with a 450-pound tiger on board. Being born and raised
in India, Pi has a different mindset than the average North American which
greatly assists him on his journey. For Pi, survival is a must, since he is the
sole remaining individual of his family. Throughout the story, Pi puts all his
strength and ingenuity in keeping himself alive, at times revealing his
underlying character. This is expressed by losing his innocence, belief in G-D
and the struggle with Richard Parker, the tiger. On the surface Life of Pi is
just another story of a shipwreck survivor, however, the word survival cannot
adequately describe Pi’s journey through the sea. In Life of Pi, Yann Martel
uses indirect characterization to represent how the toughest experiences can
bring out the truest identity of man. Pi learns that survival requires
sacrifice which includes physical, mental and spiritual well-being.


Pi must endure through tough times while floating
on the vast ocean. Even with India’s enormous population, no one was out to
kill him for food, most people didn’t even know who he was. In Pi’s household,
he did not have to deal with the nourishment portion of his life. People were
fed like animals in a zoo. Everyone worked together and only during really
rough times, was there a scarce amount of food. Predictably in a novel about a
shipwreck survivor, Pi now truly must find his own food and water. Ironically
being on a lifeboat, Pi is surrounded by water, being too salty to drink and
fish, which are too swift to catch. Pi constantly struggles to land a fish or
turtle, just as he must collect water from the solar stills. Now surviving on
the open ocean, not being able to see land for miles, Pi must suffer terrible
factors and events in order to be rewarded with satisfaction. Factors such as
lack of much fluids, gigantic waves, ocean storms, sharks, drowning and
sunstrokes all pose a threat to his life. Being a smart man his ingenuity and
imagination enable him to continue being physically safe. But the one aspect he
has never encountered before is living on a lifeboat with a frightening, hungry
tiger, Richard Parker.

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companion during his journey on the lifeboat is a 450-pound Bengal tiger,
Richard Parker. Distinct from many other stories in which the authors portray
animals as humans, Yann Martel depicts Richard Parker as an actual ferocious
tiger. Captured as a baby, Parker was raised in a zoo and knows nothing else
than life in human captivity. He is accustomed to man training and feeding him,
so he isn’t as intimidated from Pi. Pi claims that Richard Parker refrains from
eating him because Parker identifies Pi as the alpha male. Growing up
surrounded by zoo creatures and educated by his father on the danger and power
they pose, Pi is prepared with much information on animal behaviour. Still, he
is no compliant house cat. Although being tamed, he still acts instinctively,
swimming for the lifeboat and killing the hyena for food. There are a small
number of times when Richard Parker acts through impulses. Near the conclusion
of the book, he murders all the pretty little Meerkats. Pi notices Richard
Parker sizing him up, actively debating his next move which makes Pi more
afraid. Richard Parker even fights a live shark and these scenes are read just
as a little boy watching an aggressive tiger.
“Richard Parker turned and started clawing the shark’s head with his free front
paw and biting it with his jaws, while his rear legs began tearing at its
stomach and back. […]. Richard Parker’s snarling was simply
terrifying.” (2.79.6) Nevertheless, Richard Parker is frightening,
ironically keeping Pi company helps him remain alive. Overwhelmed by the conditions and scared of dying, Pi becomes
troubled and incapable to move forward. Yet he soon understands that his
greatest threat is Richard Parker. Forgetting his other obstacles, Pi survives
through numerous tests he has done with Parker. He
fishes in the sea and feeds fish to Richard Parker to prevent being eaten after
it is only them two remaining. This accomplishment gives him self-assurance,
making his other problems viewed as easier. But Pi isn’t just afraid of
Richard Parker, he also views him as spring of beauty. All through the flying
fish scene, Pi watches fish hurdle onto the lifeboat. While ineffectively
attempting to gather them, he gazes upon Richard Parker eating effortlessly. When the two wash up on the shore of
Mexico, Pi thanks the tiger for keeping him alive. Yet, Richard Parker doesn’t
draw out his parting with Pi, he simply runs off into the jungle, never to be
seen again. Pi is a clever man who is able to push himself towards
guaranteeing his continuous presence. Caring and feeding Richard Parker keeps
him full of activity and passes the time. Had Richard Parker not been onboard
to challenge and divert his attention, Pi might have surrendered his life to
the ocean.

While journeying out on the sea tested Pi’s physical well-being, his
mental and spiritual state of mind were the most confronted. Pi experiences the
toughest challenges a human mind can endure, ultimately losing his weak and
frail personalities. His pen and journal kept his genuine mind sane and
healthy, while a belief in something greater lead the ambition for his
survival. Originally Piscine Patel grew up in a family of calm and collective
people, he finds himself beginning to lose his innocence when he is forced to commit
deeds of great gruesomeness. It begins when he is needed to kill the fish, “I
heard a cracking sound and I no longer felt any life fighting in my hands…The
flying fish was dead.” (Martel 203). Not eating meat until this period in his
life displays Pi’s loss of innocence since he is constrained into no longer
following his vegetarian views. When a person alters a main philosophy of his
life, it affects a person on a level that is unclear for the human eye. Near the
end of the book Pi decides to tell the Japanese transport officials two stories,
one true and one made up. In the first one he had told of him fighting with a
hyena that he eventually had to kill. The second story is far more interesting
in that Martel depicts the hyena as the French cook who he was forced to kill since
he had killed Pi’s mother. In this made up tale Pi is faced with a decision that
he cannot turn his back to, the cook killed his mother, he threw away all his
beliefs and murdered the man. Even though he killed out of self-defence innocence
is entirely gone.


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