Life of Pi
Man and the Natural World Quotes
How we cite our quotes:
Just beyond the ticket booth Father had painted on a wall in bright red letters the question: DO YOU KNOW WHICH IS THE MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL IN THE ZOO? An arrow pointed to a small curtain. There were so many eager, curious hands that pulled at the curtain that we had to replace it regularly. Behind it was a mirror. (1.8.4)
Obviously, the most dangerous animal in the zoo is the human being who's gawking at the animals. Very cute. Think ahead, though, to later events in the book, especially to the savage cannibalism recounted in the final chapter. Does danger have anything to do with unpredictable evil?
Getting animals used to the presence of humans is at the heart of the art and science of zookeeping. (1.9.1)
We're going to venture a guess here: Pi's insight about his father's zoo will be invaluable later when he tries to tame Richard Parker. It's also, on a deeper, more allegorical level, advice on how Pi can tame the savage parts of himself. Which is both art and science. And essential to completing his spiritual journey.
The animal in front of you must know where it stands, whether above you or below you. Social rank is central to how it leads its life. Rank determines whom it can associate with and how; where and when it can eat; where it can rest; where it can drink; and so on. Until it knows its rank for certain, the animal lives a life of unbearable anarchy. It remains nervous, jumpy, dangerous. Luckily for the circus trainer, decisions about social rank among higher animals are not always based on brute force. (1.13.3)
Here, Pi muses on the technique of circus trainers. The trainer must establish himself as the social superior of the lion. Think ahead to the training of Richard Parker. How does Pi accomplish this feat? Throughout his ordeal, Pi comes to value two traits human beings possess in abundance (more so than animals): cleverness and willpower. Do these traits also bring about evil in the book?