The Theme of Survival in Life of Pi
Death is inevitable. No matter how much you think you are the exception, or that you are special, death finds you. Some are handled well, others cause immeasurable amounts of pain. In the novel Life of Pi, our main character, Pi Patel, is caught in a shipwreck and manages to survive, unlike everyone else. He finds himself stranded on a tarpaulin with a tiger, an injured zebra, a hyena, and an orangutan. As the days pass and the ocean gets seemingly more massive, the hyena begins to eliminate his crewmates one by one. Any death is difficult to deal with; however, the death that hit Pi the hardest was Orange Juice, the orangutan. Orange juice’s death brought Pi both great sadness and strength. If it were not for her passing, he may not have made it back to land alive.
The standard side character is not extremely relevant to the protagonist's story, and Orange Juice is not just a standard orangutan to Pi. Orange juice lived at Pondicherry zoo, which is owned by the Patel family. She was rescued and brought to the zoo after being owned as an exotic pet. “Orange Juice could have been one of these forlorn pets. Instead, she ended up at Pondicherry zoo.’ (pg 177) Pi says. She was also particularly nurturing and loving to Pi when he was a child. He talks about how he has memories of her wrapping her long arms around him as a child and was so close to her that he believed he could “predict her every move.” (pg 177) Given Pi’s past with Orange Juice, It is no surprise that she reminds him of his family and life before the wreck. She was in his life before it went haywire, before he was a castaway. In dreadful scenarios, it is comforting having something familiar to hold on to, but when it is ripped away from you, it is devastating.
As time passed on the tarpaulin, the hyena made its way to Orange Juice. It leaped towards her ready to attack, but she was ready to defend herself. “She thumped the beast on the head. And what a thump it was. The beast’s head hit the bench it had just reached, making such a sharp noise, besides from splaying its legs out, that I thought surely either the bench or its jaw or both must break.” (pg 178) The hyena grabbed Orange Juice by the wrist briefly, then bit down on her neck. As Pi witnessed this happen, he said “She reminded me of us: her eyes expressed fear in such a humanlike way, as did her strained wimpers.”