“To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosingimmobility as a means of transportation” (Yann Martel 1.7.21).
In Yann Martel’snovel Life of Pi, Piscine Patel finds himself trapped after a terribleshipwreck on a lifeboat with a 450-pound tiger on board. Being born and raisedin India, Pi has a different mindset than the average North American whichgreatly assists him on his journey. For Pi, survival is a must, since he is thesole remaining individual of his family. Throughout the story, Pi puts all hisstrength and ingenuity in keeping himself alive, at times revealing hisunderlying character. This is expressed by losing his innocence, belief in G-Dand the struggle with Richard Parker, the tiger. On the surface Life of Pi is just another story of a shipwreck survivor, however, the wordsurvival cannot adequately describe Pi’s journey through the sea.
In Life ofPi, Yann Martel uses indirect characterization to represent how the toughestexperiences can bring out the truest identity of man. Pi learns that survivalrequires 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, mostpeople didn’t even know who he was. In Pi’s household, he did not have to dealwith the nourishment portion of his life. People were treated as if they were animals in a zoo.Everyone worked together and only during really rough times, was there a scarceamount of food.
Predictably in a novel about a shipwreck survivor, Pi now trulymust find his own food and water. Ironically being on a lifeboat, Pi issurrounded by water, being too salty to drink and fish, which are too swift to hook. Pi consistently struggles to catch a fish or turtle, at the same time he mustgather water from the solar stills. Now surviving on the open ocean, not being ableto see land for miles, Pi must suffer terrible factors and events in order tobe rewarded with satisfaction. Factors such as lack of much fluids, giganticwaves, ocean storms, sharks, drowning and sunstrokes all pose a threat to hislife. Being a smart man his ingenuity and imagination enable him to continuebeing physically safe. But the one aspect he has never encountered before isliving on a lifeboat with a frightening, hungry tiger, Richard Parker. Pi’scompanion during his journey on the lifeboat is a 450-pound Bengal tiger,Richard Parker.
Distinct from many other stories in which the authors portrayanimals 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 humancaptivity. He is accustomedto man training and feedinghim, so he isn’t as intimidated from Pi. Pi claims that Richard Parker refrainsfrom eating him because Parker identifies Pi as the alphamale. Growing up surrounded by animals in a zoo and educated by his father on the danger and power they pose, Pi is prepared with much information on animalbehaviour. Still, he is nocompliant house cat. Although being tamed, he still acts instinctively, swimming for the lifeboatand killing the hyena for food. There are a small number of times when RichardParker acts through impulses.
Near the conclusion of the book, he murders allthe pretty little Meerkats. Pi notices Richard Parker sizing him up, actively debating his next move which makes Pi more afraid. The tiger even fights alive 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 rearlegs began tearing at its stomach and back. .
… Richard Parker’s snarlingwas simply terrifying.” (2.79.6) Nevertheless, Richard Parker isfrightening, ironically keeping Pi company helps him remain alive.Overwhelmed by the conditions and scared of death, Pi becomes troubled and incapable to moveforward.
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 thefish and gives some to Richard Parkerto prevent being eaten after it is only them two remaining. This accomplishment gives him self-assurance, makinghis other problems viewedas easier.
But Pi Isn’t just afraid of Richard Parker, for him Parker is viewed as spring of beauty. All through the flyingfish scene, Pi watches fish hurdle ontothe lifeboat. While ineffectivelyattempting to gatherthem, he gazes upon Richard Parkereating effortlessly. When the two wash up on the shore of Mexico, Pi thanks thetiger for keeping him alive. Yet, Richard Parker doesn’t draw out his partingwith Pi, he simply runs off into the jungle, never to be seen again. Pi is aclever man who is able to push himself towards guaranteeing his continuouspresence. Caring and feeding Richard Parker passesthe time and keeps him full ofactivity.
Had Richard Parkernot been onboard to challenge anddivert 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 mostconfronted. 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 PiscinePatel grew up ina family of calm and collective people, he finds himself beginning to lose hisinnocence when he is forced to commit deeds of great gruesomeness. It beginswhen he is needed to kill the fish, “I heard a cracking sound and I no longerfelt any life fighting in my hands…The flying fish was dead.” (Martel 203).
Noteating meat until this period in his life displays Pi’s loss of innocence sincehe is constrained into no longer following his vegetarian views. When a personalters a main philosophy of his life, it affects a person on a level that isunclear for the human eye. Near the end of the book Pi decides to tell theJapanese transport officials two stories, one true and one made up. In thefirst one he had told of him fighting with a hyena that he eventually had tokill. The second story is far more interesting in that Martel depicts the hyenaas 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 backto, 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.