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Primacy of Survival In Life of Pi

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In the novel “Life of Pi.” Pi faces many challenges. The story begins when the ship skins due to a chaotic storm. After the incident, only Pi and a tiger named Richard Parker survive. At life the end of the story, Pi comes out of the ordeal alive and moves to Canada. Richard Parker then abandons Pi. Pi survives his time in the Pacific because of the absolute Primacy of Survival. The Primacy of Survival in Life of Pi, is Pi’s urgency and craving to survive at all costs. Survival is essential for every living being. There is no shortage of lengths that beings will go to survive, because of the absolute necessity for survival, Pi, during his time in the pacific, ends up facing external and internal conflict that he copes with by using personification.

Elements such as the sun and storms act as huge opponents to Pi, but perhaps a more obvious one would be Richard Parker, the tiger. Near the beginning of the story Pi is on a cargo ship headed for Canada that is transporting numerous wild animals, but when a storm hits Pi is forced into a stressful situation that is dire: “The weather wasn’t entertaining anymore. I was very afraid. Now it was plain and obvious: the ship was listing badly… I looked overboard… It was as unbelievable as the moon catching fire.” Pi’s sense of fear in this quote is quite clear. Pi equates the weather to be as shocking and “unbelievable as the moon catching fire”. Comparing the weather to something unnatural like “the moon catching fire” gives us an understanding of how terrible the situation must have been. The storm eventually sinks the cargo ship and Pi is left in the middle of the ocean, alone on a life raft with only a select few animals. The Primacy of Survival then takes hold of Pi as he starts planning his survival: “I began to wait. My thoughts swung wildly. I was either fixed on practical details of immediate survival or transfixed by pain, weeping silently, my mouth open and my hands at my head.” Pi doesn’t mourn when he’s working out the immediate details of survival, after this Pi begins to go into denial about the accident, thinking that people will come to save him and that his family is on a different life raft. This connects back to main conflict on the novel which is “Pi’s fight for survival”. When days pass, and as Pi becomes more detached from reality becomes anxious and nearly causes his death: “My legs drummed upon the tarpaulin. A more obvious rapping on Richard Parker’s door couldn’t be imagined. The trembling spread to my arms and it was all I could do to hold on.” Pi tries to be comedic and playful so far during his time at sea, this helps him to keep calm and have some sense of sanity. But an uncontrollable fear takes hold of Pi, as if he starts to realize the severity of his situation. He’s unable to calm his body and his trembling is so bad he almost incites Richard Parker to attack him.

Pi faces many mental challenges while at sea, with the death of his family playing on his mind and anxiety acting up, Pi questions his faith in a higher power, but ultimately ends up using his faith to help him keep his sanity at sea. Before Pi sets out on the cargo ship to Canada-which would later sink-Pi is shown to be a very religious person, but he also seems to have questions about his beliefs: “But once a dead God, always a dead God, even resurrected. The Son must have the taste of death forever in his mouth. The Trinity must be tainted by it; there must be a certain stench at the right hand of God the Father. The horror must be real. Why would God wish that upon Himself?” Pi struggles with the beliefs of the Christian faith. How could a God die? Don’t humans suffer and die while hoping to be accepted into heaven. Pi’s acceptance of Christianity and hoping to get into heaven, in some ways, prepares him for his own suffering and near-death experience in the Pacific. With the recent deaths of his family, Pi begins to question his faith, but as the sole human survivor of the shipwreck Pi has nobody else to console him in his loss. This causes him to seek out comfort in some other way, which ends up being talking to Richard Parker as if he was a counsellor: “They too have drowned. Every single thing I value in life has been destroyed. And I am allowed no explanation? I am to suffer hell without any account from heaven?” In this quote Pi is explaining how he feels after the wreck to Richard Parker, which is a tiger. Pi thoughts are muddled and he isn’t thinking straight. Pi craves human connection and since his family drowned, the closest thing his has to companion is a tiger. Anxiety plays on Pi’s mind a lot while he is at sea. This causes many issues for Pi, a notable example is the time he nearly got himself killed by Richard Parker for drumming his legs. Pi’s first night on the life raft has him worrying about numerous things “my anxiety grew. Everything about the end of the day scared me. At night a ship would have difficulty seeing me. At night the hyena might become active again” Pi becomes scared as night approaches. Night obscures vision, so Pi would not be able to see if a boat came or his rescue, or might not see the hyena attack. This also relates back to the central conflict in the book, which is “Pi’s fight for survival”.

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During his time at sea Pi uses personification to help him cope with the extreme situation he has been cast into which has left him the sole human survivor of a ship wreck.

“The poor dear looked so humanly sick! It is a particularly funny thing to read human traits in animals” Pi is describing “Orange Juice” who is an orangutan who floats up to the lifeboat on a raft of bananas after the wreck. After Pi’s loses his family he is desperate for human contact and as such projects human traits onto Orange Juice to help him be at ease.

Primacy of Survival is the central theme in “Life of Pi,” it is mainly represented through the journey of Pi as he becomes more and more desperate to survive. When Pi becomes more detached from reality he chooses to deal with his situation by using personification until he is eventually washed ashore in Mexico. The author, Yann Martel, created a gripped narrative that has an interesting message. The message that Yann Martel delivers is that the Primacy of Survival is so strong that individuals will go to extreme lengths in order to survive, this is displayed perfectly with Pi on his journey through life in the pacific with a tiger named Richard Parker

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Primacy of Survival In Life of Pi. (2022, March 18). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 4, 2022, from
“Primacy of Survival In Life of Pi.” Edubirdie, 18 Mar. 2022,
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Primacy of Survival In Life of Pi [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Mar 18 [cited 2022 Dec 4]. Available from:
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