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Survival is basically the root of both of these books. When Paul is kidnapped by Annie and awakens to find himself in a mysterious home the reader already senses something is wrong and wonders about the fate of the character. Pi is rushed onto a lifeboat, which is ironic because the boat is ensured to keep a stranded person safe until help arrives. When Pi's love of animals interferes with his will to survive, he ends up gambling his life with a tiger on his lifeboat. Readers believe that this lifeboat changes and is now nothing but a gamble. A gamble is essentially the primary word one thinks of when a person's life is hung by a thread. Paul Sheldon's only chance for survival comes from Annie, which is another irony found in the books considering that Annie smashes Paul's broken leg with a sledgehammer. Annie provides Paul with food, painkillers, and a typewriter. Paul is a writer and Annie provides him with a tool that is very important to his survival -- a typewriter. If a bird does not have his wings it cannot fly and is vulnerable to attack on the ground, similar to Paul's condition. Without his passion for writing, he cannot express his ideas; therefore, stripping him of his life perhaps not literally but figuratively. What would Paul have to live for if he is stripped of his passion? After Paul escapes from Annie, on the brink of dying, he still thinks about his murderous fan. Paul says: "I don't know if anyone could ever totally get over something like that... It's weird. Even though I know she's dead, I still think about her once and a while" (King, pg 323). Although this quote can be used to show the fear Paul has of Annie, it also demonstrates that Paul still thinks of Annie because without him he would not be alive. While this statement is broad, it is true because Paul was in a writing slump and when Annie burned the newest copy of a book he has just written, Paul had nothing left. Annie provides him with more than food and painkillers; she provides him with a typewriter and continuously threatens and tortures him, which causes Paul to resurrect his writing career. Therefore, he only has Annie to thank for that, despite the fact that she tortured him relentlessly. Pi's survival is based on his will to survive, if he has what it takes, and, of course, Richard Parker. Pi would have sat idle for 227 days on a boat if it were not for Richard Parker. This tiger instilled both fear and life into Pi, which ultimately helped him survive and come out of the ordeal victorious. Pi remarks that, "it was Richard Parker who calmed me down. It is the irony of this story that the one who scared me witless to start with was the very same who brought me peace, purpose, I dare say even wholeness" (Martel, Pg. 162). Without Richard Parker, Pi would have nothing to think about and nothing to fear. In both books, both Paul and Pi only have one person to thank individually, whom are Annie Wilkes and Richard Parker, respectively.
Fear: it has the power to both consume you and manipulate you. The fear of oneself, the fear of others or the fear of the unknown and unexpected are all visible in Misery and Life of Pi. Pi fears his partner on his dangerous journey. Richard Parker, whom is known to rip his prey to pieces, is not an animal of mercy and of pity, yet he almost does pity Pi as if his understands Pi's miserable situation. Richard Parker and Pi have an understandable relationship in their current situation. As long as Pi feeds Richard Parker he is happy and as long as Richard Parker stays a safe distance away from Pi, Pi will be happy. In the beginning Pi fears Richard Parker but it is not the only thing Pi fears. Pi also fears the future and what is in store for Richard Parker and him but Pi does not let this fear to take control of him. He makes this apparent when he says that, "I must say a word about fear. It is life's only true opponent. Only fear can defeat life" (Martel, Pg. 161). Pi believes that one should lead a life with the least amount of fear because then life is truly enjoyed for what it is. If one lives in fear and hides from new things then one does not experience a real life. One is constricted to the same routine everyday and does not welcome new ideas, which leads to life becoming dull. This is something Pi is not used to until he becomes stranded at sea because now Pi will have the same routine everyday which consists of him waking up, hunting for food and making sure that Richard Parker stays in the same place that he was the last day. In Misery, Paul fears Annie, and it is highly apparent that she has a massive grip over him. When Paul finally defeats and kills Annie he celebrates and he states, "Eat it till ya choke, you sick, twisted f-k!" (King, Pg. 314). Some may say this is twisted yet when a person is held captive and tortured for so long they find themselves celebrating after overcoming their fear. Just like in Life of Pi, Pi says, "A person can get used to anything, even to killing"(Martel, Pg. 234) and this is exactly what Paul does. He has to get used to the idea of taking another's life in order to save his own.
Violence is another critical theme seen multiple times in both novels. Pi witnesses violence when he sees the hyena tear through the zebra and orang-utan but also watches the hyena's run come to an end when Richard Parker tears the hyena into pieces. Pi remarks:
"The hyena fell silent. My heart stopped and then beat triple speed. I turned. Jesus, Mary, Muhammad, and Vishnu! I saw a sight that will stay with for days. Richard Parker had risen and emerged. He was not fifteen feet from me. Oh, the size of him! The hyena's end had come and so had mine" (Martel, Pg. 150)
Pi witnesses all this violence and his pacifist attitude causes him to fear his own fate; thus, forcing him to believe that his end is also near, but, when in fact, he survives. Pi's pacifism comes to an end during that journey as the reader realizes that animals are mere representations of people. The hyena was the cook who killed Pi's mother, who is represented as the Orang-utan, and the Zebra turns out to be the sailor. Richard Parker was in fact Pi who killed the cook in order to avenge his mother's death, "I stabbed him in the throat, next to the Adam's apple. He dropped like a stone. And died." (Martel, pg. 391). In Misery, Paul's passion is the reason for the pain and violence inflicted upon him. When Annie disagrees with him when he kills her favourite literary character, she goes insane:
YOU! YOU DIRTY BIRD, HOW COULD YOU!
What? She can't be dead, MISERY CHASTAIN CANNOT BE DEAD! Annie, in 1871, women often died during childbirth. But her SPIRIT is the important thing, and Misery's spirit is still alive. I DON'T WANT HER SPIRIT! I WANT HER, AND YOU MURDERED HER! No I didn't. WHO DID? No one did! She just died! She... she... slipped away! SLIPPED AWAY! SLIPPED AWAY? SHE DIDN'T JUST SLIP AWAY! YOU DID IT! YOU DID IT! YOU DID IT! YOU MURDERED MY MISERY! (King, Pg. 80).
This causes Annie to leave Paul by himself with no painkillers and only soap water to drink. When she returns, she realizes Paul is at the brink of death and tends to him and restores him back to health. This does not last long because when Annie runs out for an errand she notices Paul has left his room, which leads her to discover his botched escape plan. She then sledgehammers Paul's legs so that his legs are broken once again. These occurrences occur frequently; however, when the violence reaches beyond Paul's tolerance level, he kills Annie by striking her with his typewriter; therefore, implying his passion really did keep him alive.
In conclusion, both Life of Pi and Misery display survival, fear, and violence throughout the story. Paul Sheldon's fear of Annie and his passion of writing help him emerge victorious as he survives a brutal captivity at the hands of his psychotic admirer. On the other hand, Pi's fear of Richard Parker keeps him sane as he is constantly thinking about means to survive. Both characters' lives are very odd because of their extraordinary journeys. Yet, when they emerge from these journeys, they are different people -- perhaps for better or worse -- but this only demonstrates that fear, along with a degree of fate and optimism, really are the final threads of survival.