Animal Symbolism in Life of Pi

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Everyone can pick an animal that they believe describes themselves or symbolizes themselves, but in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi he takes those characteristics to a new level. The symbolism of a zebra, a hyena, an orangutan, and a tiger all contribute to the characteristics of Pi and his journey through the sea, together, on a life boat. A zebra can symbolize many things; from yin and yang to individualism. With symbolism it becomes the reader’s choice to decide what a symbol becomes and symbolizes. In the Life of Pi the zebra symbolizes individualism and the dangers of passivity. Being an individual is something that all people hold themselves firmly to be. Zebras are individuals in their characteristics whether it’s their coloring or their demeanor. From the beginning of the book Martel describes Pi’s religious beliefs and how he shies from the norm. He practices the Christian belief, the Hindu belief, and Muslim belief all in some way. Whether it be reading the bible, or praying on a prayer mat. Pi tells of the horrors that the “the poor zebra […] went through” and “hav[ing] not forgotten” (151) about it, ever. The zebra lies in the boat passively, never “thrashing about” (133) to defend himself. Being a symbol to Pi that he can’t just sit and allow himself to perish away for Richard Parker to kill and eat. Motherly and hopeful, are two symbols that the orangutan, Orange Juice (O.J.), carries in the novel. Pi sees the orangutan as a savior as she “[comes] floating on an island of bananas” (139) toward the life boat. As a symbol of hope and faith she comes “in a halo of light,” much as an angel might. She reminds him of his mother, much as his own mother had two sons, himself and his brother, Orange Juice also was a “mother of two fine boys.” (140) She gives him hope that he can get through the tragedy that he has just gone through and instills faith in him that salvation may come, much as she came. The hyena though is quite the opposite; he is a symbol...
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