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Updated September 10, 2022

Survival and Morality in Life of Pi

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Survival and Morality in Life of Pi essay
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If you were stuck on a boat with animals, would you be able to hold yourself together? In Life of Pi, Martel suggests that in order for survival and growth, people need to reevaluate their morals. Pi studies and practices three different religions, in this book it is definitely important for Pi to keep his faith over everything. In the book, Pi’s thoughts show an internal struggle between his survival instincts and his mental struggle to do what is morally right. Pi has suffered a lot and for growth to happen he needs to understand how to motivate his suffering to survival. Pi will live with all the decisions he has made, even if he never forgives himself for what he has done.

Pi kept his hope alive through religion, even though he only can believe, it is important to keep his faith intact because it gives him hope. He talks about having dignity over everything else and the pride he takes in believing in the religions he does. He also tells the stories in part 1 about how he was introduced to each religion. Often I compared his religious views to his views on zoos. What other people thought was a cage or limits, he believes that it is something to motivate and live on with. His religion keeps him positive.

“ I practiced religious rituals that I adapted to the circumstances – solitary Masses without priests or consecrated Communion Hosts, darshans without murtis, and pujas with turtle meat for prasad, acts of devotion to Allah not knowing where Mecca was and getting my Arabic wrong. They brought me comfort, that is certain. But it was hard, oh, it was hard. Faith in God is an opening up, a letting goes, a deep trust, a free act of love – but sometimes it was so hard to love. Sometimes my heart was sinking so fast with anger, desolation, and weariness, I was afraid it would sink to the very bottom of the Pacific and I would not be able to lift it back up. “ (2.74.1) Martel

Pi continues to practice his religion at sea. It may seem like Pi’s faith at least in the first part of the book is strong and untroubled. But being stuck on a boat with animals is a huge test of faith for Pi. During his suffering, Pi often comes close to losing hope. In this way, his faith in God is hard fought. It comes to have both an element of lightness and the weight of struggle. Furthermore, Pi talks about zoos and how people dislike them, here’s the example.

“But I don’t insist. I don’t mean to defend zoos. Close them all down if you want (and let us hope that what wildlife remains can survive in what is left of the natural world). I know zoos are no longer in people’s good graces. Religion faces the same problem. Certain illusions about freedom plague them both.” (1.4.8) Martel

This is how it connects, Pi believes that zoos do not trap animals and make them miserable. Pi believes that an animal in the wild is more circumscribed than a pawn on a chess board. Predator-prey relationships restrict the animal’s movement in Pi’s opinion. Pi believes a zoo enclosure is like a haven for the animals. This is what people think of when they think of religion, they think it is a cage. Actually, Pi says its a home and a hearth for the believer.

“ I’ll be honest about it. It is not atheists who get stuck in my craw, but agnostics. Doubt is useful for a while. We must all pass through the garden of Gethsemane. If Christ played with doubt, so must we. If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ then surely we are also permitted to doubt. But we must move on. To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation. “ (1.7.4) Martel

Pi focuses his life on science and religion, he loves both, but he has no proof that God does exist which bothers him. Pi thinks that belief is a beautiful action of human life. Otherwise, without belief in Pi’s eyes, people would life statically. Pi chooses to believe so he is not stuck in a mindset that will take him nowhere with no hope. In conclusion, religion is what drives Pi’s hope in this book, Martel portrays religion as something that gives you something to believe in. He follows his morals of religion but understands that there is no proof. Everything about the religions he studies is something to believe in. This is what allows Pi to survive, through his beliefs of the Gods.

Throughout the novel, Pi’s thoughts reveal an the internal struggle between his desire to live and his own beliefs to what is morally right. He fights to keep his wits about him on that boat. He watches another animal on that boat catch flies and eat them, this makes him very hungry, but how can a vegetarian eat when there is only animals, fish and insects, this makes him think as hungry starts to take over. This is the scene I am talking about.

“Yet there he was, swinging his arms and catching flies and eating them greedily. Right away he was in a holy terror for hunger” (2.92.16) Martel

This starts his struggle for survival because he sees how other animals behave when faced with life or death. This starts his moral questions, like would God forgive him for the sins he would commit.

“ You may be astonished that in such a short period of time I could go from weeping over the muffled killing of a flying fish to gleefully bludgeoning to death a dorado. I could explain it by arguing that profiting from a pitiful flying fish’s navigational mistake made me shy and sorrowful, while the excitement of actively capturing a great dorado made me sanguinary and self-assured. But in point of fact, the explanation lies elsewhere. It is simple and brutal: a person can get used to anything, even killing. “ (2.61.9) Martel

Pi is desperate for basic necessities to survive, such as food and water. His hardships make him do horrible things that will haunt him and make him feel guilty, like killing. He weighs his options and he chooses to live even though it is against his ethical morals.

“ Lord, to think that I’m a strict vegetarian. To think that when I was a child I always shuddered when I snapped open a banana because it sounded to me like the breaking of an animal’s neck. I descended to a level of savagery I never imagined possible. “ (2.66.3) Martel

Pi must have been a sensitive child. Or a morbid one. The way he talks about animals and taking their life. On one side, he cares for Richard Parker like he is family. On the other side, he bludgeons dish and snaps necks of birds. These two sides contradict each other heavily, he morally cares for animals and yet he violently kills the animals he cares about so much. Pi does what he has to survive. He cries over taking life the first time, but by he simply decides that he needs to survive and bludgeons a fish to death. Once his survival instincts kick in, Pi abandons his morals. These quotes are proof.

Suffering from the survivor, Pi will suffer the rest of his life because of the events of the sea. In the book, Pi suffers a lot, loss of morals so he can survive. As well as he just lost his whole family and all he has ever known, floating to death on the ocean has never seemed so grim. He saved himself, but at this point, he has nothing to look forward to. The first thing he does is cry until he knows what to do, this is seen on page 122.

“ 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. “ (2.41.4) Martel

Pi stops crying when he’s working out the details of survival. He has plenty of reason to cry. Most often, Pi worries about Richard Parker. He’s just lost his entire family. Pi doesn’t talk about the loss of his family as much as he talks about Richard Parker and the methods of his survival, but that loss is still there. He could not save his family and that will stay with him even though it isn’t mentioned often. When Pi comes to terms with his family’s death, he remembers what he will miss most about them.

“ They were dead; I could no longer deny it. What a thing to acknowledge in your heart! To lose a brother is to lose someone with whom you can share the experience of growing old, who is supposed to bring you a sister-in-law and nieces and nephews, creatures to people the tree of your life and give it new branches. To lose your father is to lose the one whose guidance and help you seek, who supports you like a tree trunk supports its branches. To lose your mother, well, that is like losing the sun above you. […]. I lay down on the tarpaulin and spent the whole night weeping and grieving, my face buried in my arms. The hyena spent a good part of the night eating. “ (2.46.5) Martel

This quote talks about Pi’s suffering. He goes through what his family means to him and how much this accident will affect his future, but yet the hyena carries on. Now we know that the hyena, while Pi grieves, is tearing into the zebra. Pi’s grief next to vicious devouring provides a metaphor for bereavement. Next is when Pi decides even though all this bad stuff has happened to him, there is no place for his suffering.

“ For the first time I noticed – as I would notice repeatedly during my ordeal, between one throe of agony and the next – that my suffering was taking place in a grand setting. I saw my suffering for what it was, finite and insignificant, and I was still. My suffering did not fit anywhere, I realized. And I could accept this. It was all right. “ (2.60.2) Martel

Pi takes his situation; his family being dead, breaking his morals, being faced with slim odds of surviving, he puts that all aside to take in the ‘grand setting’ that he has been in. In this quote I believe he is learning to deal with his suffering in a positive manner. Even though Pi survives, he has left a part of him on that boat, part of his dignity is still on that boat. Pi needs to reevaluate what it takes to survive and understand he did what he had to even though he suffered major losses.

In Life of Pi, Martel suggests that in order for survival and growth, people need to reevaluate their morals. Pi struggles with his religion on that boat knowing that there’s no proof of God, it only can give him faith that God wants him to survive. What is morally right in Pi’s eyes is hard for him to know, it was not only him on that boat and he made promises to follow rules, but he has to abandon them for the sake of survival. The suffering of what he has done on that boat, taking animal lives, making choices and changing morals that will affect him forever. In conclusion, what morals do you leave with if you were Pi if his religion wasn’t there to keep him hopeful would Pi have survived at all and what do you think Martel is trying to say?

Survival and Morality in Life of Pi essay

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FAQ

How do PI's morals change?
In the story, Life of Pi by Yann Martel, the main character, Pi, is changed as a person after he must kill a flying fish in order to survive . Through this, Pi's religious morals changed as well as his personality overall.
How does Pi's survival diminish his humanity?
However, the manner in which Pi fights to survive diminishes his humanity. His moral beliefs are discarded . He transforms from being a staunch vegetarian and having a deep reverence for life to killing and resorting to cannibalism. He learns to fish and to catch turtles, often violently butchering his catch.
How is survival shown in Life of Pi?
Pi shakes off his doubts and tries not to lose hope in himself. He motivates himself and is determined that he can overcome any challenge he faces, which helps him survive in the end . His new decision to live is the beginning of his loss of innocence.
What is the morality of Life of Pi?
Pi's life-threatening experiences while stranded on the Pacific Ocean threaten the integrity of his morals and beliefs. His pluralistic faith demonstrates that morality is less about one specific religion, and more about the preservation of one's dignity, humanity and self-respect .
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