Homework Help

What is the author trying to say about basic human needs in Life of Pi, and what (four)...

user profile pic

emmafarlinger | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 29, 2013 at 3:08 PM via web

dislike 2 like

What is the author trying to say about basic human needs in Life of Pi, and what (four) quotes would support these needs?

1 Answer | Add Yours

user profile pic

durbanville | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 7, 2013 at 7:33 AM (Answer #1)

dislike 0 like

In the novel, Life of Pi, Pi is an enterprising, open-minded individual who learns to adapt to his environment in order to survive. Pi's experiences teach him the meaning of life such as he understands it, as a young man of both spiritual and scientific knowledge. Rather than allowing his knowledge to cause inner conflict, Pi is able to rationalize his decisions and act in the interests of the most suitable outcome. 

Pi's interpretation of his experience on the boat is too unbelievable for the authorities who question his version of truth. This lends itself to the understanding that people have expectations of humanity and, once questioned, they cannot accept anything out of the ordinary. Pi does point out to them that "it makes no factual difference to you" and, the point here is that, in assessing and managing his own basic human needs, Pi did what he needed to do so why do the authorities have a problem? Supporting the premise of basic human needs which, for the authorities includes their need to hear a story that fits with their concept of humanity, Pi gives them a choice - "which story do you prefer? Which is the better story, the story with animals or the story without animals?"

The author is pointing to man's need to survive, despite enormous odds and despite conflict with lessons learnt, such as not being cannibalistic. Basic human needs, in some instances, outweigh any moral or civilized versions of the truth. To be confined by what you understand can be debilitating and restrictive and whilst “A house is a compressed territory where our basic needs can be fulfilled close by and safely,” to live by that mantra prevents an individual from seeing life as a whole and, would certainly hamper survival in the most basic of circumstances.  

Those things that are important to the "civilized" person become immaterial when survival is paramount, revealing different human needs, depending on the person and the circumstances.What is "basic" to one, is the very thing that will break another: 

“I did not count the days or the weeks or the months. Time is an illusion that only makes us pant. I survived because I forgot even the very notion of time.”

It is Pi's very ability to adapt that makes his chances of survival so much more possible but, at the same time, so much more unbelievable, verging on impossible. “How true is that necessity is the mother of invention, how very true.” 

A quote that puts everything in a nutshell is:   

“To choose doubt as a philosophy of life is ken to choosing immobility as a means of transportation.” 

In other words, basic human needs are relative to the circumstances. Most believe them to be the same for all mankind but those people have never really been out of their own "compressed territory."

Sources:

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes