In the book Life of Pi, written by Yann Martel, the idea of the boundaries between savagery and humanity are tossed around quite a bit. In Pi’s life or death situation, the idea of savagery becomes a little obscured by the desperation to survive. There are several acts within the story that people who are not in Pi’s situation would possibly see as being savage. As I read the text, I see most of Pi’s actions as a need to survive. Pi creates the character of Richard Parker, who is portrayed as a Bengal tiger, to justify his incidents of savagery. It is through the different events in Life of Pi that the idea of savagery can be misconstrued and confused with the necessity to live.
Savagery by definition is the act of being uncivilized. The acts I consider to be savage are those committed by the cook on the first few days being on the lifeboat. “Yet there he was, swinging his arms and catching flies and eating them greedily. Right away he was in a holy terror for hunger” (Martel 304). After not being on the boat a full day, the cook is already showing signs of uncivilized manner by eating insects although there were food rations on the lifeboat. Eating flies when there is proper food to be eaten is not something that would be considered civilized. His actions are not done out of the necessity to live because there is food on board the lifeboat. If there had been no food available, the actions of the cook could be understood more as an action to survive the life or death situation. Not only was the cook eating flies like a savage, but he was also cutting up the other humans to use as bait for fishing. There is no need to already start filleting the sailor because there are still food rations available to the cook at this point in the story. Also, the cook committed the savage action of killing Pi’s mother. Not only did he just murder her, but he decapitated her and slung her head at Pi. The actions of the cook are not out of desperation to live, but out of pure savagery.
Although Pi feels that his actions are those of a savage, they are out of desperation to survive. Anyone with a will to survive like Pi would most likely commit the same actions in order to avoid death. Pi says “His heart was a struggle – all those tubes that connected it. I managed to get it out. It tasted delicious, far better than turtle. I ate his liver. I cut off great pieces of his flesh” (Martel 311). Pi openly admits to eating another human being, yet I do not see this as a savage action. The text implies to me that Pi had no other choice but to kill this man. If he did not kill him and use his body for food and for bait then it was most probable that Pi would not survive. It is not savagery that caused Pi to do this; it is his will to live.
There is even a part in Life of Pi that Pi tries to eat Richard Parker’s feces. To some people, eating feces is an action of someone who is uncivilized. To Pi, this action is showing his will to survive...