Life of Pi

The book Life of Pi is dedicated to the large complex of philosophical and religious issues. However, one of the most essential topics of this novel is survival. This paper analyzes physical, psychological, and emotional aspects of survival described in the given novel.


The novel Life of Pi consists of Authors Note, which describes the authors attitude to the story of the main character, and three parts. Part 1 describes the childhood of Pi. Pis father is the owner of a zoo, and Pi spends a lot of time with the animals and learns about their traits, peculiarities, and behavior. However, Pi is interested not only in zoology. He also likes religion. Being Hindu in origin, he also examines Christianity and Islam borrowing some principles of these two religions and applying them in his daily life. Pi is a very curious and joyful child. In the middle 1970s, when Indira Gandhi becomes a Prime Minister, Pi and his family leave India. They also sale their zoo and animals, but take some of them on the board with the aim to sell them to North American zoo as they are going to Canada. In the Part 2, the ship, on which Pi and his family are traveling, sinks on a halfway to their point of destination. Pi is the only one who manages to survive, but there are also several animals, which stay alive, namely zebra, hyena, orangutan, and Bengal tiger. These creatures, including Pi, are packed into a lifeboat. Because of the necessity to survive, hyena kills zebra and orangutan, but then tiger kills hyena. However, Pi and tiger friendlily coexist in this complicated situation. Pi trains the tiger, and they seem to live in a good cooperation. Pi catches the fish and develops his survival skills by means of some useful tools he manages to save. Pi realizes that he has lost his family and is absolutely alone with the man-eating tiger. Thus, such things as prayer, cleverness, and willpower help him not to give up. Pi meets another castaway who tries to eat Pi. Instead, Pi kills and eats the castaway, and then lands on an island made of algae. Pi and the tiger do not the possibility to nourish appropriately; this is the reason of Pis going mad. At the end of Part 2, Pi and the tiger land in Mexico, and tiger runs away to the jungle. Finally, Part 3 describes how Pi is interviewed by civil servants concerning sinking of the cargo ship. Although they do not get any answers about sudden shipwreck, Pi tells them his story, but then he represents another version where he replaces animals by human beings. As the result, readers can see a horrible story where humans kill and eat each other, but the investigators prefer a better story with the animals. It is not known exactly whether a better story or the story where there are humans instead of animals is true. This should be defined by a reader.

Survival is the prime theme of the novel Life of Pi. In order to survive, Pi has to struggle on several levels: psychological, physical, and emotional. The most significant level is psychological. Trying to survive, Pi has to struggle with himself: he has to defeat his internal principles such as high morality and deep religious commitment. Although it is prohibited by the religious norm he is committed to, Pi has to take the life of a human being and eat meat. Pis craving for survival makes him cold-minded: he forgets about his morality. He realizes that he should kill in order to protect himself from being killed. That is why he kills another castaway when he tries to attack Pi. Pi enforces himself to eat the castaways meat although it is utmost disgusting for him. Pi also survives due to his huge psychological strength. Although he loses his entire family and understands that he has minimal chances to survive being surrounded by various risks and dangers such as numerous storms or the risk to be eaten by the tiger, he does not become desperate and does not let the circumstances break his willpower. Pi does not loose the hope being sure that his prayers and strength can help him stay alive. He even does not loose the ability to admire the beauty of the ocean, rainbows, and the sky. However, although Pi realizes that he can be killed by the tiger and is the key for tigers survival, Pi does not want to kill his only companion being sure that his training skills would be enough to deter the tigers aggression. It also demonstrates that despite all the difficulties and risks, Pi manages to keep his generosity. It also underlines how strong Pis psychological steadiness is.

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The survival on the physical level is no less important aspect than psychological one. Pi has to defeat a lot of difficulties in order to protect himself from various serious dangers such as heating sun, storms, and lack of food and drinkable water. He uses different accessible techniques to create more or less acceptable conditions for his living. Pi collects rain water and uses different tools for catching, cleaning, and preparing fish, birds and turtles not only for him, but also for the tiger in order to prevent him from hunger and the necessity to attack Pi in order to remove his hunger. Pi is an absolute vegetarian, but he has to change his way of nutrition for his survival. Pi has to be very careful with the tiger understanding that the slightest wrong move may cost him life.

Finally, the emotional aspect of Pis survival is also quite significant and is depicted by the author in details. Martel describes how Pis emotional condition changes throughout the novel very colorfully. Pi feels frequent bouts of despair and indifference to his further destiny. However, he does not let these feelings overpower him. Pi tries to cope with the above mentioned bouts realizing that only staying cold-minded and keeping his spirit up, he can manage to survive. At the same time, he feels a great tension and is under the hard emotional pressure because of the presence of the tiger that could attack Pi any time. It requires the utmost concentration and rationality to behave so that the tiger could not feel the weakness of the human and would not have even a thought to attack him. However, Pi is able to overcome this emotional pressure, and the tiger does not make any attempts to kill Pi. Moreover, Pi even tries to be optimistic and not to forget that he is still able to feel positive emotions: he finds the strength to admire the beauty of the surrounding nature. Pi does not want to be defeated by permanent fear, exhaustion, boredom, and despair. In the key points, his mind is excellently structural; his thoughts are clear, logical, and rational. Pi also maintains the hope that this terrible situation will end some day by means of his sincere religious belief. He is sure that this trial is not something accidental, and his strong belief and deep religious commitment would help him cope with all his difficulties.

To conclude, I would like to state that Martels novel Life of Pi is quite comprehensive demonstration of how strong desire to survive a human may have. Pi is ready to transgress his inner borders and break his principles in order to save his life. He changes his usual attitudes and persuasions in some way and is able to act not in accordance with his internal commitment. Pi faces a lot of difficulties, risks, and dangers, but struggles firmly without letting negative feelings and emotions overpower him. Pis story is a serious ordeal, which tests the human steadiness, belief, and will to survive. Such difficult physical, psychological, and emotional trial is not for people with weak spirit and willpower. As we can see, Pi passes it successfully. He does not give up, and this story has a happy end for Pi. The novel Life of Pi demonstrates us that only the strongest one can survive; however, he or she should be ready to do everything, even the things which seem to be impossible, disgusting and inacceptable for this purpose. In addition, this novel also makes everyone think what he or she would do if they were in Pis place. By the way, the present novel is a quite good manual for those who may found themselves in similar situations. Therefore, this novel may be recommended for everyone who would like to see a real demonstration of the spiritual power, fortitude, and firmness.

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