May 17, 2014
Yann Martel, in his novel Life of Pi (2001) argues that fear is the only enemy of life because it paralyzes the body from taking action and inhibits one’s ability to defend oneself. The action of Martel’s novel is set in 1977 in the middle of the ocean, where Pi Patel is stranded on a lifeboat with a Bengal tiger for 227 days before being rescued. The purpose in writing Life of Pi was to put a man’s unbelievable journey on paper in order to imply that hope, trust and faith will grant someone the will to live. Fear versus life throughout the novel is analyzed through the archetypal, psychological, Marxist and deconstruction critical lenses.
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But as for agnostics, if one doesn’t know what to believe there’s always fear that if God does exist, they will go to hell for not believing. So his parent’s fear of the water, inability to swim and unsettled beliefs foreshadow their death by the sinking of the Tsimtsum, while Pi’s competence and religious faith keep him alive.
Pi’s parents own a zoo in the town of Pondicherry in India. There are accounts of people of stealing, stoning and even trying to kill the zoo animals. There was even a lady who purposefully sticks her garment in between the bars of the lion’s cage, “And we had a lady whose sari was caught by a lion. She spun like a yo-yo, choosing mortal embarrassment over mortal end.” (p. 30) The woman had a choice to go naked or to be eaten. Through a psychological point of view, this is and id versus superego conflict. The id is the part of a person’s psyche that wants pleasure. The superego is the part of a person’s psyche that represents the conscience and what is right. The woman’s id tells her to unravel her sari so that she stays alive, while her superego tells her to keep it raveled up because it’ not acceptable for a woman to reveal herself in public in India. If she stayed in fear of the public and in fear of humiliation, she certainly would have been killed or seriously injured by the lion.
When Pi is stranded on the lifeboat with Richard Parker, the Bengal tiger, he is deeply afraid for his life. He tries to conjure plans to get rid of Richard Parker and kill him off before he could kill him. This is why fear is the enemy of life. If someone is has a grave fear of spiders or mice, they want to kill them just so they can’t get to them first, as small as the creatures might be. But it is at this moment when Pi has a change of heart and reverses his plan to keep him alive. “It was Richard Parker who calmed me down. It is the irony of this story that the one who scared me witless to start with was the very same who brought me peace, purpose, and dare I say wholeness.” (p. 162) Pi doesn’t want to kill Richard Parker because he doesn’t want to be alone. It’s his faith in Richard Parker that keeps Pi alive. His fears subside. And if he isn’t going to kill him, Pi realizes that he has to figure out a way for both of them to live peacefully and safely together. He has to tame him, and this can be analyzed through the Marxist lens. Just like a lion tamer at a circus, Pi has to show Richard Parker that he is the alpha male and that he has the power. If Pi never took control of the situation, and stayed in fear of Richard Parker, the Bengal tiger would have assumed dominance and killed Pi.
Throughout the novel, Pi goes through a reverse hero’s journey, which can be analyzed through the deconstruction lens. He starts off as a young, innocent, pure...