LITERATURE: Life of Pi – Character Changes

Chapter 78 has some fine writing and some nice insight into how our character of Pi has matured in face of the situation of survival.  While the previous chapter got into some fairly gross specifics of what he has come to find palatable for both himself and Richard Parker, it also gave us a good idea of his strategy in taming the tiger so that the two could successfully share this struggle. There is no doubt that Pi's experience as the son of a zookeeper comes in handy here; his knowledge of a wild animal's needs–and for that matter, one which was born into the much different aspects of living in a zoo environment–serve him well. You or I, on the other hand, would've long ago been eaten. But what was interesting is that rather than the animal adjusting to communicate, Pi's superior intellect allows him to accept that communication is more readily achieved on the animal's level.

But here's where there's some deeper digging into the experience:

Life on a lifeboat isn't much of a life. Is is like an end game in chess, a game with few pieces. The elements couldn't be more simple, nor the stakes higher. Physically it is extraordinarily arduous, and morally it is killing. You must make adjustments if you want to survive. Much becomes expendable. You get your happiness where you can. You reach a point where you're at the bottom of hell, yet you have your arms crossed and a smile on your face, and you feel you're the luckiest person on earth. Why? Because at your feet you have a tiny dead fish. (p. 274)

Pi has told us that he was out at sea for I think, 272 days. He is sixteen years old. Yet he has adapted to being driven not by wants, but by needs, and is grateful and appreciative for what he surely would have scorned in his safer, earlier life. One would think that if 7 months adrift wouldn't leave one hopeless, nothing could. Yet we see this same human hope in times of war, in concentration camps, in prisons, in other times of what looks certain to be either unending strife, or death.

It is, I suppose, the human spirit. One wonders, however, to what length Richard Parker's instincts would have taken him; the same urge to survive, of course, but he has learned that he is better off not eating the last meal on board, Pi himself, as Pi has proven to be of value in providing him his needs.

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2 Responses to LITERATURE: Life of Pi – Character Changes

  1. Diana says:

    Actually, it was 227 days. 🙂

  2. susan says:

    If so, thanks!

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