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Life of Pi

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Life of Pi

The main goal of every living thing on earth is to survive.  Creatures will do amazing, extraordinary, and heroic things to live.  However, they might also do terrible and horrific things in dire situations.  It is interesting to think about how far one may go to keep their life.  Shameful things might be done and morals might be broken.  Times like these are what really show the true colors of people and hold anyone watching, reading or hearing in fascination.  Almost every story follows this classic monomyth archetype structure in which a character starts at home but is soon thrown into a situation where they must overcome many hard and life threatening trials.  Yann Martel’s novel, Life of Pi, is a great example of the will to survive.

Yann Martell uses the monomyth archetype and the journey of a boy named Pi to show the extraordinary things people will do to survive, even if it puts their morals and their religion at risk.  In the first part of the novel, life at home, Pi was still living in a reality where every day needs were held for granted, believing in God and following his beliefs were relatively easy. Pi was a very content boy who strongly valued his religion and his morals.  He simultaneously believed in the Hindu, Christian, and Islamic faith which he followed avidly.  He did not eat meat, read his bible, and he attended the mosque every Friday.  It is obvious that he held his morals in high regards and followed his beliefs but soon he was faced with a “call to adventure” when his family decided to sell their zoo and move to Canada.  It was not until Pi was stranded in the middle of the ocean with a Bengal tiger that each day became a struggle for survival and his morals were really tested.

After Pi descended into the next part of the monomyth archetype, “belly of the beast”, and faced the bitter choice of survival, his morals were tested for the first time.  In dire situations creatures have a choice, to give up and die or struggle to survive.  As Pi was stuck on a lifeboat with a hyena, a zebra, an orangutan, and a soon to be discovered tiger, he witnessed each creature slowly and painfully die.  Now it was Pi’s turn to choose: will he throw himself upon the hyena in a final suicidal struggle, or will he choose to survive despite the odds and put his trust in God?  Pi was on the edge of giving up until a voice in his head said “I will not die. I refuse it. I will make it through this nightmare” (Martel, 2002, p. 80).  Pi also discovered that he had “a fierce will to live” (Martel, 2002, p. 80).  He chose to live “so long as God is with [him]” (Martel, 2002, p. 80).  

Pi was now “on the road of trials” and his next tests would put his life and his morals of keeping a vegetarian lifestyle at risk; he would have to choose to ignore his religious values in order to survive.  He was stuck on a lifeboat with a hungry tiger and limited food.  He knew that he would have to slaughter an “innocent fish” for Richard Parker and his sake, or wait until Richard’s hunger led to his death.  “A lifetime of peaceful vegetarianism stood between [him] and the willful beheading of a fish” (Martel, 2002, p. 98).  But Pi chose his life over the fish and abandoned his old life as a vegetarian for the sake of his survival.  “It was the first sentient being [he] had ever killed. [He] was now a killer. [He] was now as guilty as Cain” (Martel, 2002, p. 98).  In this test the will to survive overcame the will of morality and soon “killing became no problem” (Martel, 2002, p. 99).  

Pi’s eating habits began to get more and more barbaric as time wore on and survival became harder and harder.  He killed and ate any sea animal he could catch, drank turtle blood, and ate raw fish and even intestines.  Finally, when he was on the edge of death, Pi encountered another lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  The man on the lifeboat attempted to kill Pi but little did he know that Pi was not alone on his lifeboat.  After Richard Parker slaughtered the stranger, Pi then used his flesh as bait and, “driven by the extremity of [his] need and the madness to which it pushed [him], [he] ate some of his flesh” (Martel, 2002, p. 140).  As survival began to get harder, religion also began to get harder and his morals would wither away at times.  Pi’s faith in God also became more difficult as his trials and survival became more difficult.  

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