Life of Pi
by Yann Martel
Life of Pi Theme of Fear
If we have nothing to fear but fear itself, what about the fear of fear itself? Does that count as two fears or is it still one fear? It's this type of mind game our protagonist has to avoid on the lifeboat. Pi has to fight against being crippled by fear, as he goes about the everyday business of survival. He definitely has a lot of things to be afraid of – bone-crunching waves, man-eating sharks, and conniving tigers, to name a few. Of course, fear also takes on an existential component in the novel, meaning that Pi also has to deal with the terror of isolation, meaninglessness, and boredom. When faced with the latter types of emptiness, maybe fighting off sharks and tigers doesn't sound so bad.
Questions About Fear
- Would Pi have survived without fear? Could fear be seen as a good thing? Should you invite it over for a tea party?
- Think long and hard about Richard Parker's fear. How would you characterize it? Can you even imagine it? Is Pi able to imagine it?
- How does Part 1 of the novel prepare Pi to deal with the fear he will experience in Part 2? Or does it prepare him? Could anyone adequately prepare for Pi's ordeal?
- Towards the end of the novel, Pi tells an alternate version of the story. In the second version, it's possible to identify Pi with Richard Parker the tiger. That means the very thing Pi feared was himself. How does this affect the way you view Pi's fear of the "tiger"?