The Challenges In Yann Martel's Life Of Pi

1219 words - 5 pages

Bengali polymath, Rabindranath Tagore, once said “you can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.” In the novel Life of Pi by Yann Martel, the protagonist, Pi, faces many challenges at sea while being accompanied by a tiger by the name of Richard Parker. This tiger, though a nuisance, proves to be essential in the role of Pi’s survival. Throughout the story, Richard Parker symbolizes survival, a reflection of Pi, and a being of God.
Although it is not obvious at first, the large threat of a tiger on board blends into a symbol of survival for Pi. Though Richard Parker is a large issue for Pi, he is not the only issue being faced. Issues such as lack of food, scarce drinking water, and no sense of direction also cloud Pi’s travels. Pi creates a system with Richard Parker in order to train him and thus establishes a somewhat tolerable relationship with the tiger. This relationship that Pi forms with Richard Parker instills a confidence in him. By dealing with the large threat of a 450 pound beast, Pi realizes how simple all of his other obstacles are and how he can easily take care of them as well. Also, Richard Parker poses a challenge to Pi because he has to take care of himself as well as the tiger. As an immediate threat, Pi’s main concern is making sure Richard Parker is alive and content. By keeping him busy and somewhat distracted, Richard Parker keeps Pi alive and too busy to even consider giving up hope. In a sense, Richard Parker, “the one who scared [Pi] witless…was the very same who brought [him] peace, purpose…even wholeness” because of the unstated relationship between this human and animal (Martel 162). Pi’s purpose gives him a reason to hold on a stay alive but also “preoccupi[es] [him] entirely by…desperate quest for survival” for both himself and the tiger (Mishra). In addition, Richard Parker is an obvious symbol of survival to Pi due to his color. The color orange “is the colour of survival” in the Hindu religion (Martel 138). Pi’s education of religions assists him in perceiving this connection that allows him to accept Richard Parker as more than just a threat. Therefore, many aspects of the tiger like his relationship with Pi and his physical attributions give Pi incentive to stay alive during his long journey.
Though Richard Parker proves vital for survival, he also reflects Pi’s character and helps further develop it throughout the novel. When first introduced, Pi was a teenaged boy curious in many different belief systems and also vegetarian. However, his experience with this tiger aboard a lifeboat after a shipwreck leads to necessary changes in Pi’s lifestyle and these dramatic changes in way of life are characterized through the tiger itself. For example, Richard Parker instinctively tears at animals and eats them in a barbaric manner in means of survival. Though Pi is disgusted by his animal-like behavior, he later resorts to the same methods of eating, “noisy, frantic, unchewing...

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