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Pi, By Yann Martel Essay

2048 words - 8 pages

“Maslow noted only one in a hundred people become fully self-actualized because our society rewards motivation primarily based on esteem, love and other social needs”(McLeod). Pi, the novel’s protagonist, moves through the very same motivational levels that Abraham Maslow identifies in his landmark psychological studies. Understanding the different stages helps show why certain behaviors are occurring and eventually after all stages are fulfilled is when a person becomes self-actualized.
Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist who introduced the concept of the motivational needs in his paper “A Theory of Human Motivation” written in 1943. He explains that humans have certain needs that need to be fulfilled and when they are not met is what gives he or she the motivation toward achieving that goal. His work was popularized by a representation of the motives using a pyramid. The pyramid displays the needs in chronological order until one becomes self-actualized. Maslow states that a person will finally reach self-actualization when, “A basically satisfied person no longer has the needs for esteem, love, safety, etc” (1433-1434). The lower levels of the pyramid are more easily accomplished as compared to the higher levels that are more challenging. In order to graduate from one level to another, the lower levels must be satisfied first or else one cannot progress further according to Maslow.
The story Life of Pi is about a young boy trying to discover himself in through the means of religion. He is already in the beginning phase of self-actualization until major tragedy of a shipwreck while on his way to Canada causes him to be stranded in the middle of the ocean with a tiger on a lifeboat. He is now left with only the clothes on his back and limited supply of food to savor until he is saved. This key event of the shipwreck is a symbol of Pi having to start the pyramid of needs all over again from the basics. In order to stay sane in a vast ocean with a tiger he must fulfill each level of motivation until he is finally saved.
After the ship sinks and Pi is on the lifeboat, food and water become scarce and he has fallen to the lowest level of the hierarchy. This represents the physiological stage of motivation, which is the first level of Maslow’s pyramid. These needs are also called D-motives – needs mainly fixated on survival and shortcomings (Dewey). He had to lower his standards of what he though was normal in order to survive. Pi would die if he did not attempt to eat or drink. It is significant to note that Pi has to eat fish even though his religion forbids him from eating meat because at this point, his religious beliefs become secondary. They are not as important because his priorities have now changed. Pi acknowledges what must be done by saying, “I gave up a number of times. Yet I knew it had to be done, and the longer I waited, the longer the fish’s suffering would go on” (Martel 183). The experience of Pi’s...

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