Life of Pi


Richard Parker

The identity of Richard Parker depends upon which of Pi’s narratives the reader chooses to believe. In the first version, Richard Parker is a 450-pound male Royal Bengal Tiger with whom Pi shares a lifeboat for over seven months. The tiger is physically impressive, fascinating, and beautiful, but also extremely dangerous. As a wild predator, Richard Parker is essentially self-interested and threatening, capable of incredible violence. Pi manages to train Richard Parker, however, so that his own life is not threatened. Their relationship remains somewhat watchful, nonetheless, and Pi only physically touches the tiger once. Pi tells us, though, that he comes to love Richard Parker fiercely, and that without Richard Parker he would not have survived. Not only does the tiger provide companionship, but the constant challenge of maintaining dominance over the tiger gives Pi the energy to sustain his own life.

In the second version of Pi’s story, there is no mention of Richard Parker. His absence indicates that Richard Parker is Pi himself—the aspect of Pi which had to do animalistic and violent things in order to survive. Whichever version of the story we choose to believe, it is equally true in either case that Richard Parker is the reason for Pi’s survival.

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