Culminating Essay

Life of Pi: Survival


            In the novel Life of Pi, by Yann Martel the theme of survival is essential to the novel, in this novel the author expresses the extents an individual would go to in order to survive. The story starts off with the author feeling restless making him travel to India. When in a café in the village of Pondicherry, India he encounters a man that believes he can tell a story so amazing it would give him faith in God. The story was of Piscine Patel otherwise known as Pi; he sure was an amazing young man having to go through many hardships at a young age. At the age of sixteen he ends up losing his family due to a sinking ship however he survives and is stranded at sea with a tiger known as Richard Parker. Throughout the novel, the author really expresses the extents an individual would go through to live, ranging from; physical survival, mental/spiritual survival, to biological survival.

            Physical survival is key when one is trying to survive out at sea, and to add to the challenge Pi is with a Bengal tiger. Pi turns out to be a very intelligent young man, because he builds himself a raft to keep distance from the tiger. At the zoo Richard Parker is used to being fed constantly, however at sea the only real food Pi can feed the tiger is the fish he catches or it’ll be him. While Pi feeds the tiger fish he himself eats the limited amount of canned food that was aboard the emergency boat, but one day Pi accidently loses all of his food to the sea. Now the will to survive kicks in and Pi is left with no option but leave his vegetarian ways to catch fish for himself and Richard Parker. It is surprising how one will go against his own religion in order to survive; this really demonstrates how essential physical survival is.

            The next most important method of survival next to physical would be mental/ spiritual. Why is this so essential one is may ask? The reason for this being is, Pi is alone at sea with a man-eating tiger he needs some sort of distraction to keep his mind of everything. It is also very important for Pi to do so because he has recently lost his family in a ship wreck, and currently is not in the right state of mind to be able to deal with such an emotional trauma. However, Pi is a genius he is able to occupy himself by writing a journal, catching fishes and by spending sometime every day trying to tame the beast. These are the basic two needs of survival one will ever need in any scenario where it may be necessary.

            The last of the survival issues Pi has to face is possibly the most important one for him which is biological survival. Pi has to pass his genes on in order to continue on the Patel name. This is more important for Pi than it might be for anyone ever, because he is the last one left of his family. Therefore if he wishes to continue on the name of his family in Canada, he must settle down with the woman of his dreams and reproduce. But, at the end of the novel we find out Pi is married and has two beautiful children, meaning Pi has accomplished this task.

            Using his father’s taught a basic survival skill Pi was able to survive. He overcame the physical aspect of survival by giving up his vegetarian ways for fish. He also took the news pretty well that he was now considered an orphan, not to mention also being able to get rid of his fear of the tiger and tame it. Lastly at the end of the novel the reader discovers that Pi has been able to overcome any obstacle that has been placed in his way, and has a family of his own. Therefore this novel does have a happy ending.  


10 Favourite Quotes from Life of Pi

Quote #1

I am not one given to projecting human traits and emotions onto animals, but many a time during that month in Brazil, looking up at sloths in repose, I felt I was in the presence of upside-down yogis deep in meditation or hermits deep in prayer, wise beings whose intense imaginative lives were beyond the reach of my scientific probing. (1.1.7)

Quote #2

A germ of religious exaltation, no bigger than a mustard seed, was sown in me and left to germinate. It has never stopped growing since that day. (1.16.1)

Quote #3

This son, on the other hand, who goes hungry, who suffers from thirst, who gets tired, who is sad, who is anxious, who is heckled and harassed, who has to put up with followers who don’t get it and opponents who don’t respect Him – what kind of god is that? It’s a god on too human a scale, that’s what. (1.17.27)

Quote #4

Just beyond the ticket booth Father had painted on a wall in bright red letters the question: DO YOU KNOW WHICH IS THE MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL IN THE ZOO? An arrow pointed to a small curtain. There were so many eager, curious hands that pulled at the curtain that we had to replace it regularly. Behind it was a mirror. (1.8.4)

Quote #5

Getting animals used to the presence of humans is at the heart of the art and science of zookeeping. (1.9.1)

Quote #6

The animal in front of you must know where it stands, whether above you or below you. Social rank is central to how it leads its life. Rank determines whom it can associate with and how; where and when it can eat; where it can rest; where it can drink; and so on. Until it knows its rank for certain, the animal lives a life of unbearable anarchy. It remains nervous, jumpy, dangerous. Luckily for the circus trainer, decisions about social rank among higher animals are not always based on brute force. (1.13.3)

Quote #7

It was 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 me peace, purpose, I dare say even wholeness. (2.57.1)

Quote #8

“Praise be to Allah, Lord of All Worlds, the Compassionate, the Merciful, Ruler of Judgment Day!” I muttered. To Richard Parker I shouted, “Stop your trembling! This is miracle. This is an outbreak of divinity. This is…this is…” I could not find what it was, this thing so vast and fantastic. (2.85.6)

Quote #9

Salt-water boils – red, angry, disfiguring – were a leprosy of the high seas, transmitted by the water that soaked me. Where they burst, my skin was especially sensitive; accidentally rubbing an open sore was so painful I would gasp and cry out. Naturally, these boils developed on the parts of my body that got the most wet and the most wear on the raft; that is, my backside. There were days when I could hardly find a position in which I could rest. Time and sunshine healed a sore, but the process was slow, and new boils appeared if I didn’t stay dry. (2.64.2)

Quote #10

High calls low and low calls high. I tell you, if you were in such dire straits as I was, you too would elevate your thoughts. The lower you are, the higher your mind will want to soar. It was natural that, bereft as I was, in the throes of unremitting suffering, I should turn to God. (2.93.2)

Description of Main Character

Main character

Pi (Piscine Patel)

Background –

  • South Indian from a village called Pondicherry, India
  • Isn’t very strong, gets bullied by everyone for his name
  • Loses his family in a tragic accident
  • Currently lives in Toronto, Canada
  • Extremely passionate about animals and religion
  • Father owned a zoo back in India

Hopes  and Dreams

  • He hopes Richard Parker ( Bengal tiger) will come back one day
  • Hopes to be working with animals in the future
  • Hopes to learn more about more cultures and religions

Character traits

  • Goes from being weak to becoming very strong his whole family passed away, had very little chance of survival being alone at sea with a tiger
  • Very intelligent lets the tiger have his space while he makes his own raft to stay on, catches fish for the tiger using very little material, not to mention slowly but thoroughly training the tiger
  • Extremely religious above all practises three different religions; Hinduism, Christianity and Islam.  He survives alone at sea with the hope that God would save him from all disaster and restore everything back to normal in his life.


  • Had a mother, father, and older brother named Ravi whom all have passed on during the sinking of the ship.
  • Had a special bond with the animals of the zoo, grew up watching a lot of them but when the Indian government started to crash his father sells most of the animals and plans to sell the rest when they get to Canada for some start-up money to start a new life, Pi is shattered by this
  • Pi has a special bond with Richard Parker not only do they have a feisty relationship, but they are each other’s companions throughout the long terrifying journey.
  • The last relationship that is introduced within this novel is the relationship that Pi has with his new family now Pi is a father, with more difficult responsibilities. 

Socratic Question 4

Question 4

In the novel Life of Pi, the main character Pi is born as a Hindu boy, but later discovers Christianity at the age of four-teen. He develops a passion for this new culture he has just been introduced to, so he decides to practise it. A year after he once again introduced to another culture this time it’s Islam, Pi also finds this culture fascinating and decides to practise this culture as well. Imagine having someone asking you what culture you practise and naming all three not only is it uncommon but some people would not agree Pi’s choice of practising all three. Do you think it is right or even possible to be able to practise three religions at a time without having each culture contradict each other?

Socratic Question 3

Question 3

Once Pi has met the tragic event, which leaves him stranded at sea he relies heavily on his three practised religions to get him back to land. If you were Pi would you rely heavily on your faith on god or would you drop all believe you have in god and rely on just your survival abilities? 

Socratic Question 2

Question 2

Pi loses his family at sea when the boat sinks he is the only one to survive along with a few animals. Eventually the animals start acting one another, at the end the Bengal tiger (Richard Parker) comes out on top and is the last animal standing excluding Pi (if you consider humans animals or not that’s up to you).After all the hardships the two face together at sea they finally arrive upon the Mexican sea shore. Once they arrive, Richard Parker is swift to leave Pi alone and doesn’t bother to look back at Pi for a finally goodbye. Many believe Richard Parker represented Pi’s strength and courage, but the tiger’s disappearance leaves you to wonder if he was ever there. Have you ever had to fight yourself and go against your own will to overcome your own hardships to achieve the impossible?

Socratic Question 1

Question 1

     In the novel Life of Pi the main character’s name is Piscine Patel, however he prefers to go by the name Pi. The reason for this being, he was named after a swimming pool by his mamaji (uncle), all the kids bullied him and pronounced his name, “pissing.” What actually causes an individual to perform the act of bullying is it because there are insecure about themselves? What could be the reason in your perspective for an individual to stoop so low? 



The novel Life of Pi is a story within a story within a story, it starts off with an author’s note. The note basically explains how the author came upon Pi’s story while giving some information about the author ( Yann Martel). The novel is broken into three basic part, each part representing a different stage in his life, which also helps the reader to really see the character (Pi) mature and develop.

During part one of the novel Pi begins narrates the story, and starts off with him living in his village Pondicherry, India. His father owns a zoo and it is here where Pi finds his love of animals. He is very passionate about zoology however that is only one of his passions his other passion is practising religion. He was born a Hindu but later at the age of 14 discovers Christianity and the year after discovers Islam. The Indian government is starting to fall apart and Pi’s father decides that it is best for him and his family to move to Canada to start a new better life. They are able to sell most of the animals and are going to sell the rest once they get to Canada in order to have enough money to be able to start a new life there. They pack their bags and board the Japanese cargo ship with the animals to end part one of the novel.

Part two is where the family is aboard on the ship, and a tragic incident occurs. The tragic incident being the ship sinking with while Pi’s family was still on board, Pi narrowly escapes with the use of the emergency boat. The storm finally passes by and Pi is stuck on the boat with a zebra, orang-utan, hyena, and a Bengal tiger. Eventually the expected happens and the hyena acts the zebra not too far after the orang-utan and eventually the tiger attacks the hyena. Pi is a smart young man he decides to let the tiger have his space while he slowly takes his time to train the tiger. Pi makes a raft for himself that he lives on so he doesn’t have to sleep with the tiger; Pi tries to catch as much fish as he can to feed the tiger while Pi eats the food on the boat. After a series of events Pi finally ends up on the shores of Mexico to end part two.

Part three is not very long however it is still the final stretch of the book. In this section of the book two individuals representing the Japanese Maritime Department in the Ministry of Transport, come to interview Pi to actually figure out why the ship sank and how he managed to survive. Pi tells them two versions of the story the one version including all the animals and the other version being the, “better story” which was the same story basically but with the animals being substituted for human beings. At the end, Pi asks the agents which story they rather prefer, which gets the reader thinking which story they prefer as well. Like most fairy tales this novel also has a happy ending, it ends with Pi having a family of his own.