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Survival in Life of Pi by Yann Martel

How Pi survives through his once in a lifetime journey

jyoti johal

on 15 July 2010

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Transcript of Survival in Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Drink plenty of water?
Try to build a fire?
Or, search for shelter?

What would you do to survive through a shipwreck with plenty of dangerous companions along with you...? The primacy of survival is the definitive theme in the novel Life of Pi, by Yann Martel. Pi endures a lot even in seemingly impossible, and dangerous situations. For Pi, the challenge of surviving can be looked at through many levels, but if one keeps the main points in mind, then, the levels would be - the necessity of physical survival, the need of emotional survival, and the biological survival.
Physical Survival?

Of course, just like everybodys first necessity, Pi also tries to keep his body alive. This requires Pi to have a great amount of supply of water and food, which in fact, he is short of. To top everything off, he must also defend himself from the Royal Bengal tiger - Richard Parker, and from all of the other 'cruisers' who are stuck in the shipwreck with him (wilderness animals). Pi faces many disasters on his crucial journey. Ocean storms, massive waves, dehydration, you name it! Evidently, all of these dangers results as a risk to his life. Pi’s inventiveness is what helps him to remain physically safe.
Yann Martel, in a very creative manner, uses Carl Jung's archetypes in his story as symbolism to add a sense of depth to the novel. In the book, Pi is raised amoungst animals for the majority of his life. The author uses specific animals as archetypes. While shipwrecked on the boat, Pi, in the beginning is compelled to share his space with four other animals, the first of which is the hyena. The hyena is an archetype for human cowardice, as it is characterized by its mischievous nature. This archetype can be matched to the Jungian trickster.
Another archetype shown in the novel is the zebra, which is an archetype for uniqueness, and it is shown by the zebra's black and white stripe pattern. Zebra's do not tend to live for long. The zebra (and the other animals) are eaten by one another, and specifically by Richard Parker, the Bengal Tiger. This is a symbol of the shipwreck, which takes everything away from Pi, including his family. The main animal archetypes is Richard Parker. He is extremely violent. “The hyena died neither whining nor wimpering, and Richard Parker killed without a sound” (Martel 166). This shows how Richard Parker is an archetype for animalistic tendencies in humanity. Also, Richard Parker remains with Pi on the lifeboat, which is symbolic of Pi’s need to return, in order to survive. Pi's fear of animals is shown by his vegetarianism, and through his hesitation to kill animals for food. He also has a fear that if he does not worship to "God", then he will not be allowed into heaven. He 'masks' these fears with his persona.
Emotional Survival?

Everybody is aware of it. In order to survive through thick or thin times, one needs emotional guidance. Pi feels many times that Richard Parker helped him endure the difficult journey. Richard Parker was in the form of a companion (even an imagined one, in the non-animal version of the story) which strengthens Pi physically, but mentally as well. After some time, Pi realizes that the requirements of caring for a tiger keep him busy, and help him think less about his destiny/future.
Due to Pi's isolation on the boat, in a way he is compelled to take advantage of the animals. One main animal he shares a strong bond with is the the orangutang. This is because even in his father's owned Zoo, he had a very close relationship with a similar orangutang, Pi says, “I have memories from when I was a child of her never-ending arms surrounding me, her fingers, each as long as my whole hand, picking at my hair” (Martel 143). Their connection helps Pi in the first couple of days of the shipwreck. Biological Survival?

Pi is the one and only member of his family to survive the sinking of the Tsimtsum, and he is able to do that because he has inherited (from Mamaji - Uncle) strong swimming skills. When readers learn that Pi is a father, the author tells us, “This story has a happy ending” (Martel 266). Evidently, Pi achieves survival in every type of aspect in life.
So...What am I talking about?

Well, human minds and spirits alike are ultimately shared by one another,which allows for anyone to affect another’s life. It is a never ending process, where any given individual’s actions are passed on to the countless other people they meet in a day. In Life of Pi, by Yann Martel, though Pi suffers a lot even in conditions where one may think or believe that are dangerous, for Pi, the challenge of surviving can be looked at through many levels, but if one keeps the main points in mind, then, the levels would be - the necessity of physical survival, the need of emotional survival, and the biological survival.
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