What is the moral of Life of Pi?

Quick answer:

The moral of Life of Pi is that people will do just about anything in order to survive, both physically and mentally, and these acts of survival may be good and courageous or bad and horrendous.

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Life of Pi by Yann Martel is a story of survival, both physical survival and mental and emotional survival. It is also a tale that emphasizes the lengths to which human beings will go in order to survive—some amazingly courageous and some amazingly horrific.

Pi tells a fantastic story about his survival of a shipwreck in the companionship of several wild animals. He watches as the hyena eats the zebra and the orangutan before the tiger, Richard Parker, reveals himself and kills the hyena. Pi and the tiger manage to exist together for quite some time, and the tiger protects Pi, even from another castaway who is determined to kill and eat Pi.

Finally, Pi and the tiger arrive in Mexico, and the villagers rescue Pi while the tiger runs away. Pi tells his story when officials question him, but the officials don't believe him. When Pi tells his story again, he replaces the animals with human beings. The hyena is a cook, the zebra an injured sailor, and the orangutan Pi's own mother. The tiger may have been real, or he may have been an aspect of Pi himself.

Let's see how the moral of survival at all costs plays out. On a physical level, Pi does everything he can to survive. If he is actually the tiger, then he even kills the cook/hyena and the cannibal castaway in order to protect himself. He learns how to get the food and other resources he needs to keep living.

But mental and emotional survival is also part of this tale. Pi likely makes up the story about the animals as his companions to shield himself from the horror and trauma he has experienced. It is much easier to say that a hyena killed and ate a zebra and an orangutan than to say that a man killed and ate two other human beings, including Pi's mother. Pi cannot emotionally handle the repulsiveness of the act that he has witnessed, so he tells himself a story that helps him cope. The same may be true of the tiger if it is actually an aspect of Pi himself. Pi may have invented the tiger to shield himself from the things he has had to do to survive physically. The story helps him survive mentally and emotionally.

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