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Life of Pi can leave a reader amazed and inspired by Pi's tremendous courage in surviving such an ordeal or it can leave a reader cold from the savagery and apparent vicious cruelty that Pi is involved in. Only the reader can decide "which story do you prefer?"
Pi is a confident young man with his beliefs seemingly entrenched and his routine established. The journey to Canada will test his endurance and, particularly, his faith as he is forced to reassess his priorities. After the ship has sunk, Pi must eat and live with very little to sustain him. The first time he kills a fish, he cries. He is a vegetarian, yet he eats birds, meat (human?), heart, liver etc "with a gulp of water." He even suggests "my urine looks delicious."Others die but still he survives :
"It was natural that, bereft and desperate as I was, in the throes of unremitting suffering, I should turn to God."
Richard Parker, whether the reader believes he is an extension of Pi himself or a Bengal Tiger, is a threat to Pi's very survival, yet Pi does not take his opportunity to kill him as he realises that solitude, in the middle of the ocean, may indeed be worse than life under threat from a tiger. " “He kept me from thinking too much about my family and my tragic circumstance.”
Pi recognizes the compromise between survival, faith and sanity and creates his own reality to deal with his inner struggle
“I was alone and orphaned, in the middle of the Pacific, hanging on to an oar, an adult tiger in front of me, sharks beneath me, a storm raging about me. Had I considered my prospects in the light of reason, I surely would have given up..”
Pi's conflicting emotions and fears are manifested in Richard Parker as "the one who scared me witless to start with was the very same who brought me peace, purpose, I dare say wholeness..” Pi is convincing himself that the presence of Richard Parker changed him from a hapless victim, doomed to die alone into the strong character who did what he needed to do.
It is not in Pi's nature to give up - fortunately - and he decides early on during his ordeal to "fight... We fight no matter the cost of battle, the losses we take, the improbability of success. We fight to the very end." It is therefore apparent to the reader that, no amount of desperation, horror, savagery and the inner turmoil Pi suffers as a result, will defeat him. Even something as basic as time becomes a hindrance to survival so he purposefully forgets "even the very notion of time.”
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