When faced with a life or death situation some decisions may have to be made that are shameful and barbaric. This is the case of Pi Patel, the main character in the novel Life of Pi. Left stranded in a lifeboat and forced to survive on his own after the cargo ship he was on sinks, Pi finds himself doing some things for survival that are horrible. He tells two versions of his survival story later, an untrue version with animals and the real story. He tells the untrue story so that he doesn't have to deal with the true cruelty that humans are capable of. On board was a zebra that portrayed the young sailor who broke his leg jumping to the lifeboat. To cope with his mother's death he changes her in the story to an orangutan. A hyena, in place of the savage cook, is also in the lifeboat with Pi. Richard Parker, a 450-pound Bengal tiger accompanies Pi throughout his expedition in the story and is an aspect of Pi's personality. Pi did some horrible yet necessary things in order to survive and his untrue story with substitutions helps him to deal with that.
To begin with, the young Taiwanese sailor was switched to a zebra in the story. The zebra, like the sailor, broke its leg jumping from the sinking ship to the lifeboat. In both versions of the story the broken leg is cut off. The sailor spoke hardly any English so communication was nearly impossible. Pi describes the zebra in Chapter 41 saying the queer, clean, artistic boldness of its design and the fineness of its head struck me. Pi later describes the sailor in Chapter 99 saying His features-the broad face, the flattened nose, the narrow, pleated eyes- looked so elegant. These descriptions seem very similar. The cook eventually kills the sailor. Pi has sympathy for the sailor and changes him to a zebra in order to protect him.
There are many similarities in between the two stories and the orangutan/mother connection is one of them. The maternal orangutan floats to the lifeboat on a raft of bananas as does the mother in the true story. Pi's mother was brutally murdered by the cook and the orangutan was killed by a hyena. A hyena killing an orangutan is a lot less tragic than a man killing a woman. Also, the death of a mother is very sad and thinking of his mother as an orangutan may make it more bearable for Pi.
In addition to the other substitution in Pi's untrue story, there is also a hyena in the boat with him. Hyenas are ruthless and savage and so was the cook who was actually in the boat with Pi. The cook murdered Pi's mother and the sailor. The cook, saying it was necessary for survival, resorts to cannibalism. This was not necessary, though, because the lifeboat was stocked with food and survival gear. The cook was greedy and vulgar and could have cost Pi his life. In Pi's animal story Richard Parker kills the hyena. In reality, Pi killed the cook for his own survival. Pi, in denial, creates Richard Parker, the tiger who is an aspect of Pi's ego.
Richard Parker, a three year old Bengal tiger, accompanies Pi in his story until the end of Pi's journey. Once Pi reaches the shores of Mexico, Richard Parker disappears into the jungle, never to be seen again. Pi created Richard Parker for company and to deal with some of the things he had to do such as killing the cook. Pi and Richard Parker build a relationship on the boat and this is shown when Pi hears Richard Parker prusten in Chapter 57. Prusten is the quietest of tiger calls, a puff through the nose to express friendliness and harmless intention (206). Pi building a relationship with Richard Parker symbolizes Pi finding himself. Richard parker also provides company for Pi and Pi later says in Chapter 57 Without Richard Parker, I wouldn't be alive to tell you my story. Pi believes that this tragedy showed him evil inside himself such as ruthlessness, anger, and selfishness. Pi has a lot to swallow as a victim of this tragedy at sea and Richard Parker, for Pi, makes it just a little bit easier.
Pi's two stories connect in a lot of ways and it is certainly found in the characters. Every individual does something to help with grief and hardships. Pi tells his untrue story in the same way some people might use euphemisms. Euphemisms are saying that lighten up a situation such as instead of saying someone is dead you can say they are swimming with the fishes. Pi's untrue story lightens up what truly happened on the lifeboat and helps him to deal with what he had to do for survival