In this award-winning novel written by Yann Martel and published in the year of 2001 the author tells a story of a boy with the name of Piscine Molitor Patel, or Pi struggling with religious and psychological issues as well as surviving on a lifeboat with the tiger for 227 days after their ship sinks in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
The earliest struggle for survival he had to face in his life was psychological survival. Being named Pissing Patel in his school by a student, the name was quickly picked up by everybody else including a teacher, which was accidental but nevertheless did not help him at all, and made everything worse. Sometimes students would not laugh or even smile when the teacher called him Pissing, but as he said The sound would disappear, but the hurt would linger, like the smell of piss long after it has evaporated. (Page 22, 2nd paragraph) This small, and from one point of view unimportant but powerful way of bullying was the main reason he has decided to change his name to Pi when he had to go to another school in order to avoid the same thing repeating all over again.
The religious survival also plays a big role in this novel. Pi, wanting to love God decides to practice three religions, those religions being Islam, Hinduism and Christianity at the same time. While it seems perfectly fine to practice all three to him, others did not think the same. He was keeping him practicing three religions a secret until he was confronted by three people, a priest, a pundit and the imam who have started arguing on whether Pi is a Christian, Hindu or Islamic and on which religion is the right one. Pi has managed to come up with the brilliant answer, saying:Bapu Gandhi said, all religions are true, I just want to love God (page 76, 2nd last paragraph) which forces the priest, pundit and the imam to retreat. Shortly after the incident, his father offers him and his family ice cream, escaping the awkward moment. His struggle did not end there, now that everyone knew he was practicing three religions, his parents, religions workers and everyone he knew tried to make him chose one by either shooing him away, not allowing him in or talking to him directly because of their narrow mindedness which did nothing but make him struggle more. Pi believed that the religion is about our dignity, not our depravity (Page 79, 1st paragraph) and continued practicing all three religions. The narrow-mindedness of everyone has prevented him from practicing the religions the way he did before but nevertheless he has managed to attend the temple at the times when it was too crowded for Brahmins to notice his presence.
Pis struggles did not end there either. Since theyve decided to move to Canada and their ship has sunk, Pi was put on the same lifeboat with the tiger and lived there for 227 days. Hiding from the tiger at first, Pi has managed to take control of the tiger and became the Alpha Male. Hunger was one of the main issues that have occupied Pi apart from the tiger. Practicing Hinduism he had to sacrifice eating meat and when he got shipwrecked he did not have access to any vegetation so he had to chose dying from hunger and breaking the regulation of Hinduism. As the side note, the reason why people who practice Hinduism do not eat meat or any other creatures is because they believe that the soul moves from body to body between the species until it reaches the human form. In other words they believe all spirits, of animal or a human are equal and therefore it is not right to kill it. Back on the lifeboat Pi was fluctuating from almost dying from starvation to eating as much as he could although the days where he was starving occurred much, much more often than those where he could eat as much as he wanted. He was so desperate for food he has almost resorted to eating the feces of the tiger, but then changed his mind in the last moment remembering that feces have no nutritional value. When Pi lost his vision from hunger, he has heard a human voice. Not sure whether he is hallucinating or not he starts talking to the Frenchman. After discussing food the Frenchman decides to eat Pi but fails to do so before the tiger kills and eats the man. For Pi it was fortunate in two ways, the tiger has saved his life and with the little bits of flesh he ate he has recovered his vision, struggling to maintain his humanity in the process. The strange part of this is that the tiger only kills the Frenchman and does not touch Pi, which is nothing short of a miracle but from another point of view expected because Pi had a role of an alpha-male and the tiger was just helping him survive as well as Pi was the source of food for the tiger. He kept on praying the entire time he was on the lifeboat, the religion has helped him survive by boosting his belief in himself and that he is going to be rescued and not eaten by a tiger.
In conclusion, it is clear that Pi undergoes and survives horrible, spine-chilling suffering from losing his family, starvation and all those things he had to do in order to survive. Luckily for Pi, the combination of his knowledge, faith and extreme luck has helped him survive all of those gruesome 227 days.
Martel, Yann. Life of Pi.
Toronto: VINTAGE, CANADA, 2001