Essay: Survival in Color

Any suggestions or feedback it greatly appreciated, especially on opening and closing paragraphs

Survival in Color

“Very few castaways can claim to have survived so long at sea as Mr. Patel, and none in the company of an adult Bengal tiger.” (Martel, 319) Pi Patel is a teenage boy living in India. His father owns a zoo and Pi is raised there. Pi converts to three different religions, Hindu, Christian, and Muslim, at the same time. In the book Life of Pi, Yann Martel uses colors and the survival of the main character to show that religion plays an essential role in life

Pi Patel and his family are moving from India to Canada because they are worried about the Indian government. They are traveling on a boat headed to Canada with the last of the animals when, late at night, the boat sinks suddenly. Pi is left alone on a lifeboat with Richard Parker, an adult Bengal tiger.

The lifeboat that Pi is in is orange, a sacred color to Hundus. This lifeboat is what is keeping Pi from drowning and getting rashes from the salt water. This lifeboat provides Pi with a training ground for Richard Parker, necessary for training the tiger not to eat him. The boat is giving him a base to work on, something sturdy and solid, much more solid than the water. A church gives a foundation that one can stand on, and can keep one in a better place. Churches provide support and aid to those who need it. Like the lifeboat, the very foundation of Pi’s survival, a church gives a place to build on that can hold up one’s life.

Underneath the tarpaulin in the lifeboat there is a storage locker stocked with essentials in case of an emergency. In the locker there is food and water, fishing supplies and solar stills, rope, a knife, a flare-gun, and more! These supplies give Pi a head start to survival, he doesn’t have to find food right away, or water. He has easily accessible means of making these necessities and maximizing his chance of survival. A religion often provides resources, jobs, connections, knowledge, influential leaders, activities, that give a head start into life. The lifeboat gives Pi the resources to survive, just like religion gives one the resources to succeed.

Though the lifeboat is keeping Pi out of the water, there is still a tiger in it with him. Pi makes a raft out of life jackets, oars, and rope so that he can stay with the lifeboat and have some protection from Richard Parker. This raft is also orange, and is doing the same job as the lifeboat. This raft is protecting Pi from the full menace of the tiger, religion protects from the full menace of the world, providing a safe and peaceful place to get away from threats and dangers. During a rough storm, Pi loses the raft. But while Pi still has the raft, he tames Richard Parker using seasickness and a whistle and Pi safely lives on the lifeboat without Richard Parker harming him.

The orange raft keeps Pi alive and creates a safety barrier between him and the tiger, a key role in his survival, very much akin to religion providing a damper between everything there is in life.

Though Richard Parker is a danger, he is also one of the reasons Pi keeps living. When the ship sinks, a sailor throws Pi into the lifeboat, and there are other animals with him: a hyena, a zebra, and an orangutan. The hyena kills the other animals and is coming for Pi. Richard Parker jumps out from under a tarpaulin and kills the hyena, saving Pi. Most religions have a rescue from death or destruction, and Richard Parker is the rescuer. Richard Parker also provides a purpose for Pi’s existence on the lifeboat. While on the boat, Pi has to provide food and water for the tiger, as well as himself. When people don’t have something they are fighting for, they won’t fight. Pi is fighting for his life, but in order to do that, he must keep the tiger fed. Religion isn’t passive, it’s active, one is fighting for one’s soul, this gives a purpose to their life.

The Ocean, and sky, are also important to Pi’s survival. Their blue represents hope in Christianity. The ocean gives Pi food, for himself and Richard Parker. Pi catches turtles, crabs, flying fish, dorados, and other animals. After the provisions in the lifeboat are gone, the meat from the fish and turtles keeps Pi alive. Even after the head start that religion gives, there are still many benefits that it continues to give, nourishing and sustaining life.

While the solar stills provide some fresh water, Pi is always trying to get more water. “Liquid life, it was.” (142) On the ocean, there are frequent storms that provide fresh water that Pi collects with a rain catcher. Without water, Pi feels, “like a dried-out lizard.” (139) Water is essential to life, even more so than food. One can survive three weeks without food, but only three days without water. These storms gave Pi enough water for both himself and Richard Parker. The blue sky and storms give Pi the most important substance to live, Christianity, much like Hinduism, provides many things that are important and even essential for life. Community, friends, mentors, and so on. Both water and religion are essential parts of life without which one could not survive.

After being at sea for many days, Pi sees some trees in the distance, and they turn out to be part of a low lying island made of algae. This island is green which represents life and Islam. The island is made out of sweet green algae, “The algae had a light sweetness that outdid in delight even the sap of our maple trees here in Canada.” (259) Both Pi and Richard Parker are weak, and this island gives them much needed food. There are meerkats on the island that provide food for Richard Parker, and there is algae for Pi. The island and food gave Pi energy, “I could feel my strength increasing by the hour.” (262) It also renewed Richard Parker, “This magnificent animal bursting over the ridge at full gallop couldn’t possibly be the same listless, bedraggled tiger who was my companion in misfortune?” (263) Islam, like the other religions, also has the power to renew and give strength. It provides community and a relationship with God. Just like the island giving Pi nutrition, religion gives help when one needs it.

The algae on the island produces fresh water and creates large fresh-water ponds. Pi drinks this water and uses it to restock the lifeboat so that he can continue at sea. He bathes in the water, “The effect of bathing in pure, clean, salt-free water was more than I can put into words… I felt even my soul had been corroded by salt… I soaked, allowing the fresh water to dissolve every salt crystal that had contaminated me.” (268) The water is removing the salt that Pi has been covered in since the start of his time on the lifeboat, it has covered his skin and hair, and soaking in the freshwater has removed all of that. Worries and problems can get stuck to one over the course of normal life. Stress and struggles are just part of life, but they can form dirty, corroding layers on one’s body. The clean water of religion can remove these layers and bring happiness and give a fresh start. Removing these layers of corrosion make it possible to have a good life. Pi also drinks this cold, clean water. As said earlier, water is the most important substance to life, and is needed constantly. Religion gives a restock on this fresh water, allowing one to continue on life’s journey with a supply to stay hydrated until the next refill.

Pi eventually lands on the beach of Mexico, he has survived. The different colors, green, blue, and orange, represent Pi’s different religions. Each provides him with food and water in their own way, giving him sustenance and enabling Pi to survive his journey across the ocean. Just like on Pi’s journey, religion is necessary to carry one through life, providing necessary “food and water” to survive life.

Thanks so much!

1 Like

Don’t take my advice if you don’t want to.

My suggestions so far:

  • You could add some some transition sentences after the thesis to make it flow better.
  • You could expand more on him converting to three different religions, and the tensions that caused.