Life of Pi
by Yann Martel
Madness Quotes in Life of Pi
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Part.Chapter.Paragraph)
Richard Parker has stayed with me. I've never forgotten him. Dare I say I miss him? I do. I miss him. I still see him in my dreams. They are nightmares mostly, but nightmares tinged with love. Such is the strangeness of the human heart. (1.1.14)
Stockholm Syndrome anyone? While it's probably reductive to say Pi has fallen head over heels in love with his captor, Pi's admission does lay bare the "strangeness of the human heart." Is it some type of madness to love the creature who, at any point during your harrowing 227 days together on a lifeboat, might have mauled you to death? Pi could respond: and so it goes with God. We duly note here that Richard Parker did not maul Pi. Nonetheless, "nightmares tinged with love" border on madness.
We commonly say in the trade that the most dangerous animal in a zoo is Man. In a general way we mean how our species' excessive predatoriness has made the entire planet our prey. More specifically, we have in mind the people who feed fishhooks to the otters, razors to the bears, apples with small nails in them to the elephants [...]. And there are indecencies even more bizarre: onanists breaking a sweat on monkeys, ponies, birds; a religious freak who cut a snake's head off; a deranged man who took to urinating in an elk's mouth. (1.8.1-2)
Don't hate us, but we're going to use the literary term foreshadowing here. The zoo atrocities mentioned by Pi foreshadow the later atrocities committed by himself and others on the lifeboat. Of course, Pi and his lifeboat companions will have more of an excuse: they just survived a shipwreck and will most likely starve to death. But notice how Pi equates madness and predatory behavior. And isn't it beautiful – and sane – how Richard Parker and Pi suspend the laws of predator-prey relationship? Isn't that a great and beautiful thing?
But even wild animals that were bred in zoos and have never known the wild, that are perfectly adapted to their enclosures and feel no tension in the presence of humans, will have moments of excitement that push them to seek escape. All living things contain a measure of madness that moves them in strange, sometimes inexplicable ways. This madness can be saving; it is part and parcel of the ability to adapt. Without it, no species would survive. (1.10.2)
Sometimes we read in the news about a husband or wife who leaves his or her family without warning to live somewhere else. Yann Martel himself dropped everything and traveled to India to write Life of Pi. This "measure of madness" inexplicably lights a fire underneath happy human beings and animals and sets them wandering (1.10.2). We can also read in these sentences Pi's attempt to explain Richard Parker's sudden departure at the end of the novel.