Top 10 Quotation on the Theme Survival in the novel Life of Pi by Yann Martel

Life of Pi documents the journey of a young boy, shipwrecked and surviving with a Royal Bengal tiger. This is the central theme of the second part of the novel while Pi is in the Pacific Ocean. He has to kill his innocence and become like a carnivorous animal in order to survive. He goes against his religious norms by killing the creations of god. However, he rationalizes them connecting everything as a small part of god’s big plan for him. Need of survival made him to do impossible just like taming and taking care of a hungry Bengal tiger and live with it in the same boat. He leaves the algae island into the uncharted sea for the desire of life. He believed his life is a test by the god to check his survival ability and so he obliged. At symbolical level, his rage represented as Richard Parker is a portrayal of his necessity to survive. He realizes that he should kill the cook, hyena in order to survive.


1. Orange Juice:

Orange Juice, the female orang-utan changes her nature on the face of danger in order to survive. She realized that it would be her next, after the death of zebra. So she starts attacking the hyena in order to survive. 

She remained gentle and unaggressive her whole life.

This display of ferocity of savage courage, made me realize that I was wrong, all my life I had known only a part of her. (172)


2. Inner voice:

His faith kept his need of survival alive. He believed that he is not alone, the god is with him and this might be his test. He believed god has bigger plans for him and would not let him die, if he obliged the test and pass.

I was giving up.  I would have given up- if a voice hadn’t made itself heard in my heart. The voice said, “I will not die. I refuse it. I will make it through this nightmare… Yes, so long as god is with me, I will not die. Amen.” (197)


3. Fight for survival:

It is the natural instinct to fight till the end. One would become hungrier of life if realized his life is close to the end.

We fight to the very end. It’s not a question of courage. It’s something constitutional, an inability to let go. It may be nothing more than life-hungry stupidity. (172)


4. Taming Richard Parker:

Taming the Bengali Tiger was imperative for the survival of Pi. Had he not done so, he would have died either by the sea or by the tiger.

I had to tame him. It was at that moment that I realized this necessity. It was not a question of him or me, but of him and me. (218)


5. Self-realization:

He realized that his life is a gate way to see the vast universe. So he understands he is given the chance to see the vast world through a difficult experience. He believes that this is god’s plan for him to give a small pain in order to gain something bigger:

For the first time I noticed- as I would notice repeatedly during my ordeal, between one throe of agony and the next-that my suffering was taking place in a grand setting. I saw my suffering for what it was, finite and insignificant. (237)


6. First kill:

It was against his religious belief to kill a creation of god. However, he has to kill in order to survive. He realizes that one can get conditioned to anything after doing it for the first time, same for killing:

I was sixteen years old, a harmless boy, bookish and religious, and now I had blood on my hands. It’s terrible burden to carry.  (245)

It is simple and brutal: a person can get used to anything, even to killing. (248)

With time and experience, I became a better hunter. (262)


7. Change into a savage:

He changes from a vegetarian to a blood thirsty savage to keep himself alive. The need to survive can transform one even to a savage.

Lord, to think that I’m a strict vegetarian. To think that when I was a child I always shuddered when I snapped open a banana because it sounded to me like the breaking of an animal’s neck. I descended to a level of savagery I never imagined possible. (264)


8. Taming Richard Parker:

He had to tame the tiger. It was a choice between to be alive or die. His dire necessity to be alive, made him to do whatever impossible.

I wonder if those who hear this story will understand that my behaviour was not an act of insanity or a covert suicide attempt, but a simple necessity. Either I tamed him, made him see who was number one and who was Number Two-or I died the day I wanted to climb abroad the lifeboat during rough weather and he objected. (277)


9. Rational – Killing:

After he goes blind due to starvation, he is hallucinating or he may be actually speaking with another person similar to his state: blind and hungry. Their rationales’ reveal that necessity and circumstance can make killing reasonable. Though amoral or animalistic, need or a choice between life or death, one may kill even a fellow human being:


“…So why did you kill them?”


“The need of a monster. Any regrets?”

“It was them or me.”

“That is need expressed in all its amoral simplicity. But any regrets now?”

“It was the doing of a moment. It was circumstance.”

“Instinct, it’s called instinct. Still answer the question, any regrets now?”

“I don’t think about it.”

“The very definition of an animal. That’s all you are.” (332)


10. Leaving the Eden:

He decides to leave the algae island which gave him hope and life. When he understood that the very island is a carnivorous one, which one day might devour him, he decides to leave it into the uncharted sea: 

I preferred to set off and perish in search of my own kind than to live a lonely half-life of physical comfort and spiritual death on this murderous island. (380)


You may read the themes in Life of Pi here.

This theme, need of survival is inter-connected with the theme of religion. As Pi Patel is an avid hunter and believer of many religions, he attributes his every situation in life to the religion. In that way he keeps his faith alive which made him possible to survive in the Pacific Ocean in a life boat with a Bengali Tiger.

You may find more quotations relevant to this theme. Please do share them with us as a comment. Share the post if you find it useful.





Post a Comment