In Life of Pi, how does Richard Parker ensure Pi's survival at sea?

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Richard Parker, the adult Bengal tiger who ended up in the lifeboat with Pi, helped keep Pi Patel alive in many ways in Yann Martel's novel Life Of Pi.

One way Richard Parker contributed to Pi's survival is by ridding the boat of another predator. The tiger is responsible for killing the hyena. The hyena is a predator who surely would have killed Pi had the tiger not gotten to him first. In point of fact, the only reason Pi is not in danger from Richard Parker at the beginning is that of the tiger's seasickness. In chapter 53, Pi describes the demise of the hyena at the hands of Richard Parker:

"Richard Parker had risen and emerged. He was not fifteen feet from me. Oh the size of him! The hyena's end had come, and mine . . . the flame-coloured carnivore emerged from beneath the tarpualin and made for the hyena. The hyena was leaning against the stern bench, behind the zebra's carcass, transfixed. It did not put up a fight. Instead, it shrank to the floor, lifting a forepaw in a futile gesture of defence. The look on its face was of terror. A massive paw landed on its shoulders. Richard Parker's jaws closed on the side of the hyena's neck."

Another way he keeps Pi alive is due to the threat of his presence. Pi understands he must master Richard Parker or he will become prey for him. This keeps him on alert and keeps his mind busy. He can't afford to make careless mistakes or to become lazy with the threat of the mighty predator on board. From chapter 57:

"It is Richard Parker who calmed me down. It is the irony of this story that the one who scared me witless to start with was the very same who brought be peace, purpose, and I daresay, even wholeness."

A third way he keeps Pi alive is by his actions on the meerkat island. Pi thought he'd arrived at a type of place that could sustain his needs inevitably. He noticed that Richard Parker returned to the lifeboat every night, which made him curious to find out why. It's Richard Parker's actions that help him put the pieces of the puzzle together and discover that the island is carnivorous.

"At night, by some chemical process unknown to me but obviously inhibited by sunlight, the predatory algae turned highly acidic and the ponds became vats of acid that digested the fish. This was why Richard Parker returned to the boat every night."

And lastly, Richard Parker helps keep Pi alive through companionship. The next step up from physiological and safety needs in Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is the need for belonging and love. Although Richard Parker never developed love or relationship with Pi, Pi does see Richard Parker as a companion after he gets over his fear of him. This is evidenced in his lament that the tiger didn't even turn to look at him when they land in Mexico. Pi felt that they had developed an understanding and camaraderie toward each other. Even if it was one-sided, this feeling of having a type of relationship would have helped Pi combat extreme loneliness and help to give him a will to survive. From chapter 94:

"At the edge of the jungle, he stopped. I was certain he would turn my way. He would look at me. He would flatten his ears. He would growl. In some such way, he would conclude our relationship. He did nothing of the sort."

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Richard Parker keeps Pi vigilant. Pi must always be on his toes, always working to fish, collect water, and maintain his life raft for his own survival and to keep Richard Parker happy. Pi keeps Richard Parker happy because if he doesn’t, he believes Richard will eat him, which means sustaining the supply of food and water.  Remember the passages where Pi talks about different species learning to live together in the zoo. They do what they need to survive. I think he referred to this as zoomorphism; when one animal sees an animal of another species (even a human) as a member of its own species. Pi also appeases Richard Parker out of loneliness. A relationship is a relationship even if it is based on fear and uncertainty.

Earlier in the novel, Pi notes the danger of seeing an animal as human-like. In an ironic twist, Pi does the opposite with the cook. But he did so in order to maintain a zoomorphic relationship with him/Richard Parker. Treating his relationship with Richard Parker as two different species living together as if they were the same species allowed him to maintain a skeptical symbiotic relationship. This is what allowed Pi to survive.

Pi’s love of all religions is applicable here too. He saw the different religious narratives as equally valid and applicable in different circumstances. Likewise, Pi created his own narrative in order to survive. Real or not, Richard Parker was his religious allegory, which gave him the right perspective on his situation in order to survive. Richard Parker kept him company, kept him aware and forced him to structure his day meticulously, which ensured his survival and really kept him from losing his mind. As long as he was busy, he would not have time to dwell on the hopelessness of his situation.

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In Life of Pi, how is Richard Parker a factor in Pi's survival at sea?

Richard Parker as a tiger gives Pi the motivation to continue living and becomes his companion on the small lifeboat. Stranded in the middle of the ocean, both Richard Parker the tiger and Pi are forced to rely on one another for survival. Pi discovers a sense of duty to Richard Parker, which forces him to get up each morning and attempt to feed the famished tiger. Despite the obvious dangers of being trapped on a small boat with a tiger, Pi develops a mutual respect and close relationship with Richard Parker. Pi describes how Richard Parker motivates him to survive by saying,

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. I hated him for it, yet at the same time I was grateful. I am grateful. It's the plain truth: without Richard Parker, I wouldn't be alive today to tell you my story (Martel, 81).

Pi fears being on the lifeboat by himself, which makes Richard Parker's presence invaluable.

There are also various interpretations of what Richard Parker allegorically represents throughout the novel, and each representation influences Pi's survival differently. Richard Parker as an allegorical representation of God offers Pi motivation to survive through the fear of dying and hope of discovering the truth through religion. Pi wrestles with spiritual matters, which symbolically represents his complex relationship with Richard Parker. Richard Parker as an allegorical extension of Pi represents his primal instincts to survive despite the dire situation. As a human, Pi's inherent impulses drive him to survive.

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In Life of Pi, how is Richard Parker a factor in Pi's survival at sea?

As a figment of his imagination, Richard Parker represents Pi. At the beginning of the story, we learn of Pi’s unorthodox religious beliefs. Pi subscribes to Hindu, Christian, and Islamic teachings, to the chagrin of the local religious leaders. According to Pi, each of the three religions answered some of his questions, and he could not denounce any of them. 

When he was stranded at sea, Pi prayed and hoped for a miraculous intervention to deliver him from the calamity. However, he questions God’s role in his predicament. Richard Parker/Pi questions God and his own beliefs, and his resolve to know the truth forces him to fight for survival.

As a real tiger, Richard Parker helps Pi stay alive by forcing him to rise about the situation and apply the lessons he learned from his father. Pi is forced to feed Richard Parker, and the ensuing bond grows into a sense of responsibility for the tiger. Thus, in fending off the tiger, Pi lives for himself.

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In Life of Pi, how is Richard Parker a factor in Pi's survival at sea?

In part the answer to this question depends on whether you see Richard Parker as a real tiger or as a figment of Pi's imagination, but let's start with Richard Parker the tiger. Richard Parker helped Pi to survive by, essentially, giving him both a reason to and the will to live. Neither one of them could survive at sea without the other. Not only did Richard Parker help Pi stay alive (for example, by killing the Frenchman), but taking care of Richard Parker (by helping him eat) meant that Pi had a reason to wake up in the morning that meant more than going through the motions of surviving by himself.

On the other hand, Richard Parker remained a carnivorous animal through and through. In other words, Pi was always in danger from him. Every time he had to fight off Richard Parker or escape to avoid being eaten, it reminded him that he wanted to live. That gave him the strength and willpower to live through his ordeal.

Taking Richard Parker as an allegory (in Pi's "real story," where Richard Parker is a metaphor for himself and the other animals are the other passengers on the raft), he can be seen to represent the war of faith that Pi goes through. He prays to the Christian, Islamic, and Hindu gods to help keep him alive, relying on them for support, but he also has serious doubts about religion and sometimes clashes against it like he's fighting the tiger. In this version of the narrative, Richard Parker also becomes an allegory for the power of story itself; by making up a companion, even an adverserial one, Pi keeps himself going. Either way, Richard Parker becomes the main thing that keeps his heart and mind going.

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In Martel's Life of Pi, in what ways does Richard Parker represent Pi's will to survive?

In Life of Pi, the tiger, Richard Parker, is a powerful, carnivorous creature. Being a wild animal, he rightly acts as a mold of the idea of survival instincts, and clearly represents Pi’s own fierce survivalism.
The tiger is wild and will do anything it takes to survive, even killing another (such as the man who invaded their lifeboat). This represents how Pi was desperate and willing to take any action necessary to ensure that he survives. A wild animal like a tiger is an aggressive, naturalistic force that will fight for survival, regardless of consequences, and this parallels the desire Pi had to stay alive.
Another way Richard Parker mirrors Pi’s survival instinct is that it was only around when necessary. As soon as Pi lands on the mainland, the tiger flees, symbolizing how Pi no longer needed to rely on his survival instinct because he was finally safe.

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In Martel's Life of Pi, in what ways does Richard Parker represent Pi's will to survive?

Richard Parker represents Pi's will to survive because it is only through the tiger that anything necessary to brutal survival comes to pass. Wild animals learn to survive each day by doing that which is necessary. If what is necessary means killing and eating another species, then so be it. For Pi, a very religious and spiritual boy, killing other animals for his own survival begins traumatically. However, if Pi can associate his will to survive with that of a wild animal, who has the excuse to act brutally for his survival, then it is easier for the boy to accept it himself. 

One way to associate and understand Richard Parker's connection to Pi's will to survive is to substitute "will to survive" with "Richard Parker," as in the following example:

"It was Richard Parker who calmed me down" (162).

The substitution would read, "It was my will to survive [that] calmed me down." With this technique, one can see how Pi would be able to accept himself as a human if he also applied his animalistic tendencies for survival to a tiger. 

Another example could be used when Pi throws the rat at Richard Parker and the tiger eats it in one gulp, as follows:

"I suppose I was partly responsible for the rat's death, but I'd only thrown it; it was Richard Parker who killed it. A lifetime of peaceful vegetarianism stood between me and the willful beheading of a fish" (183).

The substitution would read, " . . . it was my will to survive [that] killed it." In this case, Pi must survive by killing animals, a practice that he never would have done because of his peaceful belief that all life matters. It's as if Pi creates Richard Parker in order to excuse or justify his will or need to survive at sea.

Finally, Pi promises the tiger that he will save him by making sure that they both make it to land safely. Pi gives Richard Parker a pep talk in the following passage:

"I love you, Richard Parker. If I didn't have you now, I don't know what I would do. I don't think I would make it. No, I wouldn't. I would die of hopelessness. Don't give up, Richard Parker, don't give up. I'll get you to land, I promise, I promise!" (236).

In this case, no substitution is necessary. If one simply realizes that the tiger is Pi's alter ego, then it is easy to see that Pi is making a promise to himself that he will survive. Not only is he making a promise to himself, but he is also using the illusion of the tiger to encourage himself and to take responsibility for his own (as well as the tiger's) survival. 

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