Life of Pi
Short Essay Questions
By Marcus Mooney
In the book, The Life of Pi the five sections in the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Human Needs; Physiological; Safety; Love/ Belonging; Esteem; and Self-actualization are demonstrated. Once Pi is on the lifeboat, his main focus is food and water, as he needs both of these to survive. He is in the physiological stage. He has to ignore his morals because according to the hierarchy, a person cannot focus on a higher level before the one before it is achieved, and at this point, Pi will die if he does not eat and drink. He is forced to go against his religious belief and eat meat in order to survive. His belief becomes secondary at this point because he has to satisfy his physiological needs first. After his physiological needs are satisfied he could then focus on safety from Richard parker. He creates a physical barrier between himself and Richard Parker. He knows that this will not be enough to ensure his safety. The only way would be to tame Richard Parker into thinking that Pi is the dominant male. His attention to safety is exhibited by his construction of a shield and the use of a whistle instead of a whip. Pi even goes as far as training the tiger to jump through hoops. At this point Pi is now striving for love and affection in Maslow’s Hierarchy because he has fulfilled his physical and safety needs. Pi becomes attached to Richard because he spends such a large amount of time with him in an isolated environment. Without Richard, Pi would have slowly lost the will to live as the tiger keeps him alert. The attachment to Richard is evident when Pi weeps after Richard leaves him without a goodbye the second the boat touches land. Throughout the story there are many examples of Pi achieving success. Pi achieves this when he completes the raft; catches the turtles; and tames Richard Parker. When he finally makes it back to land safely he reaches the esteem stage in Maslow’s hierarchy, as it is the pinnacle of his success when he survives this ordeal. Before Pi was on the lifeboat, he was self-actualized, as he was who he wanted to be. This is demonstrated when Pi decides to practice three different religions at the same time, even though people disapproved of it. He was able to do this because all of his other human needs were fulfilled. He had his physiological, safety, love and affection, as well as his esteem stage satisfied. Pi exhibits examples of the stages in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs throughout the novel The Life of Pi. Pi exhibits examples of predictable human behavior when faced with an unpredictable situation.
The author, Yann Martel in the book, The Life of Pi, is trying to say that until people satisfy their basic human needs, they cannot reach the point of self-actualization. To reach this stage one must work hard and it is inevitable that there will be roadblocks along the way where ones faith will be tested. For Pi, it is so hard that to cover all of his bases he decides to practice three of the largest faiths-Hinduism, Islam and Christianity-at once. This satisfies his doubts and gives him peace. He states, "Since when I could remember, religion had been very close to my heart.” (29).
When Pi finds out that Mr. Kumar is an atheist he thinks to himself, “Doubt is useful for a while. We must all pass through the garden of Gethsemane. If Christ played with doubt, so must we. If Christ spent an anguished night in prayer, if He burst out from the Cross, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ then surely we are also permitted to doubt. But we must move on.” (31). Pi believes that doubt is a step that everyone must go through in order to truly believe. Pi continues to practice his religious faiths at sea. He cannot practice them according to the letter of the law. That he must adapt them in order to survive on the ocean. In this way, his faith is hard-won and hard-fought. He states, “But it was hard, oh, it was hard. Faith in God...
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