The Human and Animal Worlds in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi Thesis

August 17, 2021 by Essay Writer

The Archetypes of the Human World and the Hierarchy of the Animal World

Yann Martel explores the human archetypes and the way the society or rather human beings develop through the way animals on Pi’s boat behave. The analysis of these behaviours makes it clear that the author follows major Darwin’s assumptions that that there is a great “difference in mind between man” and animals but it is the “one of degree and not of kind” (Darwin 151). Thus, Martel stresses that all animals and, as seen from the book, humans have the strongest instinct of survival. The author puts it as follows, “Life will defend itself no matter how small it is” (Martel 41). Thus, the animals on the boat and their behaviour reveal the degree of similarity between the world of animals and humans.
Thus, the boat hosts a hyena, an injured zebra, an orang-utan, a tiger and Pi. These animals can be seen as symbols and archetypes of humans. Thus, the injured zebra is an embodiment of a peaceful person. The wound it has makes it weak and the weak are often killed by stronger species. This is the manifestation of the hierarchy in the animal and human world, where the strongest and the fittest survives.

Thus, the zebra has to die and it is killed by the hyena. The orang-utan is a symbol of the female and the ability or rather need to protect her offspring (as well as those in need). Interestingly, this animal also reveals that the degree of the difference between animals can be significant due to such concepts as morality, ethics, faith and so on. Of course, there are animals (as well as people) that focus on their basic needs. Hyena is such an animal that attacks to survive. Such people do not follow any principles and they do not think about others as they focus on their own survival.

Richard Parker as a Complex Analysis of Taming One’s It

Richard Parker and the way Pi and the tiger cohabited on the boat is a symbol of the human nature. The author explores the characteristic features of a person as well as the way humans develop through the depiction of the tiger and Pi’s attempts to tame him.

It is possible to draw lines between this process of taming and Freudian ideas on the nature of the human. Thus, humans still pertain to the animal world and their “instincts originate from the id” (Dickerson 47). Superego is, on the contrary, is a set of rules assigned by the society. The rules are based on beliefs, principles and morals that were developed throughout centuries in this or that society.

Likewise, Pi tries to tame the tiger or rather his own id. The boy tries to remain a human and keep his inner beast completely tamed. The boy tries to become “a strongly dominant male, a super-alpha male” to make the tiger “submit to his dominance” (Martel 47). It is clear that at the beginning of the book, the boy was unable to control his id as the tiger simply kills the hyena. The instinct of survival makes the boy forget about his religious beliefs, morality and ethical principles. He acts as a beast to survive.

However, later the boy chooses to remain a human and he tries to tame his inner beast even though it is very difficult. Notably, at the end of the story, the tiger leaves and vanishes in the woods. This can be a symbol of quite complete success of taming as the boy gets rid of his id. However, it is important to remember that the tiger is still out there and it can appear any time. Pi’s inner beast can reappear in the moments of danger.


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