Humans have the power to influence their own fate. Viktor Frankl, an AustrianÂ psychiatrist once said, "everything can be taken from a man but one thing, the last of the human freedoms - to choose one attitudes in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way" (Joan). Survival depends on how an individual deals with a problem. In the novel Life of Pi by Yann Martel, several factors are crucial to the protagonist, Pi's survival. The willingness to change according to circumstances, adopting a positive mindset and applying knowledge from daily experiences and books are the recipe of survival. Pi's instinctive reactions to environmental changes help him to survive his ordeal.
The adaptation to harsh environment by changing habits can lead to survival. Both animals and humans must be capable of changing according to their predicament in order to survive. In the novel Life of Pi, the female orang utan, Orange Juice, who is normally tame, unleashes aggressive behavior when she is in threatening situations. In the zoo, Orange Juice is gentle and unaggressive. However, its motherly nature changes when she is dealing with a life-or-death situation. On the boat, when Orange Juice is threatened, she shows her extraordinary brute strength and bravery in fighting with a physically stronger animal, the hyena. If she has not adapted to the situation and environment, she would have been more easily defeated. Although the hope to win is frail, Orange Juice is willing to act against her tame and maternal nature to survive. The remarkable act of Orange Juice is highlighted when Pi says that "the display of ferocity, of savage courage made me realize that I was wrong" (Martel 163). Pi's inability to anticipate Orange Juice's instinctive reaction demonstrates her change in nature, shown by her behaviors. Similarly, in Andrea Cornwall's, Readings in gender in Africa, the "female vendors in Africa behave as if they were men, they are very aggressive and cannot be easily threatened like women in the old days" (Andrea). These women are willing to adopt any aggressive strategies in order to get permission to conduct their businesses without harassment. The instinct to survive demonstrates that they act against their motherly nature to make ends meet as they have been abandoned by their husbands. This shows that females will abandon their maternal nature when facing a harsh condition in order to survive. Pi acts in the same way when facing a life-or-death situation. Survival triumphs morality. Pi puts aside his moral values, abandoning vegetarianism to overcome the overwhelming hunger he experiences. He becomes carnivorous and kills aquatic life. He "took hold of a hatchet and brought it down on the turtle's neck" in order to eat the turtle meat (Martel 254). Turtle meats become his favourite dish. Besides, the fluid in fish eyes is one of his foods. This reflects that humans "are ill-constituted beings and that violence is not far below the surface in individuals and civilizations" (Frederic 63). The savage instinct of humans will be triggered when life is threatened. They are willing to act against their conscience and give up their morality. Hence, the changing of habits is vital for an individual to survive when the condition is harsh.
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Secondly, adopting positive mindset is an essential key in ensuring survival. In the novel Life of Pi, Pi and the Bengal tiger live together in a limited space. Pi's life is in danger as the tiger will treat him as his food when he is overwhelmed by hunger. However, Pi transforms the threat into a spiritual survival. Instead of constantly reminding himself that he will be killed the tiger the tiger, Pi transforms the deadly situation into a hope. He perceives the condition differently by feeling glad that he is not the only survivor of the tragedy. Hence, companionship now serves as Pi's spiritual support. He holds the belief that "to choose doubt as a philosophy of life is akin to choosing immobility as a means of transportation" (Martel 36). There are always two sides to any situation, whether an individual opts for the bright side or the dark side. In Life of Pi, Pi understands that "it is a life of struggle and deadly risk lifetime after lifetime on this planet until you transform the ego that creates these survival situations." Focusing on the danger posed by the tiger will only help Pi to defeat himself. In contrast, perceiving the tiger as his companion gives him comfort that he will not go through the deadly situation all alone. It is hope that helps him survive the tragedy. Besides that, religion is a source of hope. It is the hope that enables Pi to be persevered without giving up when he encounters difficulties. As "faith in God is an opening up, a letting go, a deep trust, a free act of love," Pi believes that god will take care of him and will assist him in getting through the ordeal (Martel 263). Although the hope of being rescued is frail, Pi instinctive response of adopting a positive mindset is one of the prime factors of his survival. Pi believes that when god closes one door, another window will be open. For instance, when food is scarce, Pi is able to get through the harsh situation by eating fish and turtle meat. Similarly, when time seems to progress slower when Pi constantly looks at the horizon to look for a boat to rescue him, he carries out his daily routines to distract himself so that he can get through each day easily. Pi's instinctive response of believing "hope is no other than an expectation of those things which faith has believed to be truly promised by god" eventually enables him to survive the ordeal (Jean).
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Knowledge gained from both daily experiences and books are also crucial in ensuring survival. In the tragedy of sinking of Titanic in 1912, "countless lives could have been saved had the survivors and the rescuers known more of how to cope with cold water: almost all of the people in the lifeboats were alive" (Pocket). This shows that survival knowledge can help one to live through hardship. By following the information in the survival manual, Pi drinks fresh water instead of salt water. He knows very well that salt water will dehydrate a person and can inflict death. Sea water diluted with fresh water is also not safe for drinking. He wet his clothes and skin with salt water to prevent the loss of fluid through sweating. Without this knowledge, he would have probably died of dehydration. Besides that, food that is rich in protein is also crucial in survival. The turtle's blood is the "good, nutritious, salt-free drink" promised by the survival manual (Martel 253). All these important knowledge eventually save Pi from death. From his experiences observing animals in zoo, he learns that every animal is instinctively territorialised. Once any intruder breaks into the animal's territories, it will fight against the intruder to protect its dominance over the territory. Through many surveys that have been conducted, "scientists think that the territorial behaviour actually reduces the amount of fighting between members of species" (Exploring 740). This knowledge drives him to set a territory for the tiger, Richard Parker to allow the tiger to feel safe and unthreatened. Pi distances himself from the tiger by building a raft using life jackets and lifebuoys. Similarly, Pi has his own territory as well, he "always made sure [he] was there before him, copiously marking [his] territory with urine so that he didn't forget who was who and what was whose" (Martel 343). By having their own territories, Pi and Richard Parker feel safe in their designated place, without fearing attack. This important knowledge saves Pi from becoming the prey of Richard Parker.
All in all, the willingness of a victim to change the habits according to circumstances, adopting a positive mindset, and applying knowledge gained from both experiences and books are crucial in survival. These are the key factors that lead to the perfect ending for Life of Pi in which Pi is saved and be able to relate his story to other people. It is the instinctive responses to his surroundings that ensure Pi's survival. Without the instinctive responses, he would have died and this story would not be read by the public.
Word Count: 1398 words