Expert Answers
tinicraw eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Pi survives mentally after seven months at sea on a lifeboat by keeping his mind busy with the following: completing daily tasks, such as reading, fishing and writing a diary; taming Richard Parker; and practicing religious rituals. All of these things help Pi to keep his mind active so he doesn't succumb to depression and hopelessness.

In chapter 58, Pi reads the survival handbook that he finds on the lifeboat, which helps him to determine what he needs to do in order to survive. Most importantly, he learns the following from reading the manual:

"I had to stop hoping so much that a ship would rescue me. . . Survival starts by paying attention to what is close at hand and immediate. To look out with idle hope is tantamount to dreaming one's life away" (169).

By chapter 63, he creates a set schedule that he follows each day in order to keep his sanity. Many of his chores include checking ropes, feeding and cleaning up after Richard Parker, fishing, and maintaining the solar stills. Much of Pi's attention is on the tiger, though, because he always needs to watch out for the one thing that could eat him.

"But there was more to my dealings with him than strict necessity. I also spent hours observing him because it was a distraction. A tiger is a fascinating animal at any time, and all the more so when it is your sole companion" (191).

There are many times that Pi gives Richard Parker credit for saving him mentally, too. Pi explains as follows:

"If I still had the will to live, it was thanks to Richard Parker. He kept me from thinking too much about my family and my tragic circumstances. He pushed me to go on living" (164).

Pi later feels the need to tame Richard Parker in order to gain some territory on the boat. He creatively comes up with the idea to tame him like a lion tamer for a circus. He blows the whistle loudly, yells, and does everything he can to show confidence and courage in front of the tiger. This also helps him to establish himself as a predator and not prey. Taming the tiger takes time as well as mental and physical effort. Again, this helps to distract Pi from dwelling on tragic events.

Finally, praying five times a day is also on Pi's daily schedule (190). Not only does this take up time, but just like meditation, prayer and practicing religious rituals allows Pi to focus his mind on something else rather than his seemingly hopeless situation. In fact, it helps to inspire hope inside him while also helping him to feel like he isn't alone. For example, in chapter 53, Pi explains how his religious beliefs helped him mentally by saying the following:

"I was giving up. I would have given up—if a voice hadn't made itself heard in my heart. . . I have survived so far, miraculously. Now I will turn miracle into routine. . . Yes, so long as God is with me, I will not die" (148).

The above passage shows Pi's mental commitment to include his religious practices so that he feels God is with him. As a result, his mind is focused on a higher power, which gives him power as well.