Acting and speaking before THINKING, this goes back to a humans’ primitive stage. We are all animals, in the sense that we are mammals. Manifested through our psyche or personality, each animal has a different representation. From personality traits, behavior or even symbolism, animals have the ability to portray these features in humans. In Yann Martel’s Life of Pi, four distinct animals are manifested in the main character’s (Pi Patel)spirit. These four animals a zebra, which symbolizes the struggle to survive and docility, the orangutan – a nurturing mother personality, the hyena for desperation and evil, then lastly the tiger, Richard Parker which represents perseverance and companionship.
When one visits the zoo, the most submissive creature there to see is the zebra. Marked with bold black and white stripes to show endurance, the zebra is still indecisive and unassertive. Relating back to Pi Patel, even from the beginning of the novel he cannot make up his mind about which religion to follow.
This shows when his indetermination leads him from being a Muslim, to Hinduism, to Christianity. Also, as the hyena attacks the zebra for food, the animal strives to defend himself by thrashing about the boat. Severely wounded and painfully struggling to fight the battle, zebras determination to stay alive and survive the attack from the hyena. This is also a small wake up call to Pi who is also growing weak day in and day out while a hungry Bengal tiger sleeps only a few feet away.
However the need to survive and the life of force is a character trait that the zebra and Pi Patel have in common, not to mention uncertainty.