Richard Parker is a 450 pound Bengal tiger. Pi is shipwrecked in a life boat with this ferocious animal. However, wrapped up in the idea of this carnivorous, bloody thirsty beast, there is a secret: Richard Parker symbolizes Piscine Molitor Patel.
First and foremost, Richard Parker symbolizes the savagery within Pi. When Pi first enters the life boat, he is a civilized human being. During this time, Richard is under the tarpaulin, invisible to Pi. Yet, as the time Pi spends in the life boat augments, Richard begins to peak out. By the time Pi meets the blind man, Richard is all the way out, and in effect to this Pi eats the blind man.
Similarly, Richard represents Pi’s animal-like instincts. Pi has grown up as a devout Hindu, therefore he is a vegetarian. As time progresses Pi realizes he is going to have to eat meat. He begins with fish; and as time passes he becomes more brutal. He then starts ripping the fish apart and devouring them. After the blind man is mauled by Richard, Pi then begins eating him. This act of cannibalism has shown the complete savage Pi has become.
Finally, the life boat landing in Mexico is the end of Pi’s savagery. As soon as the life boat touches the beach, “Richard Parker, companion of my torment, awful fierce thing that kept me alive, moved forward and disappeared forever from my life”. (Martel 359) Thus, symbolizing the “savage Pi” is gone forever.
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