Natural survival instincts in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi and Ernest Hemingway’s Old man and the Sea.

This essay is an attempt to shed light upon the natural survival instincts in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi and Ernest Hemingway’s Old man and the Sea. Sea is the major setting in both the novels and most of the actions take place from the sea. One of the aspects of the sea is that readers could connect it’s characteristics with human emotions and the realms of unconscious. Martel and Hemingway have used this method in their novels throughout, to show physical and psychological features of the characters.


In Old Man and The Sea, Santiago’s mental suffering is more emotional and private. Related to his age, his physical struggles are more. In the case of Marlin, he suffers physically until his death. In Life of Pi, Pi suffers mentally because of two reasons. One is, he was not sure about the existence of his parents who loved and nurtured him and the other one is, he couldn’t say a proper goodbye to Richard Parker, the tiger. He was physically tormented- like he suffered from dehydration, his taste in the mouth was unbearable, and he feels like his blood is thickening of lack of water. The tiger also suffers from lack of food and water along with Pi.


Santiago’s words ” everything kills everything else in some way ” is applicable in Life of Pi. Pi was a vegetarian and for the sake of living, he kills and eats fish. Similarly Hyena kills Zebra and Monkey, and the Tiger kills Hyena.
The Isolated stage in Old man’s life defines who he really is and also shows the uniqueness of his character. He constantly wishes Manolin’s presence there, so that he will be able to show his capabilities infront of the other folks by the greatest catch of his life. Readers can understand how he is viewing himself with reference to nature. In the case of Pi, his journey on the boat and isolation from the world taught him that having faith is not that easy. In chapter 37, he says “Something in me did not want to give up on life, was unwilling to let go, wanted to fight to the very end”.
Both the protagonist’s aim is to have a better life. They are stuck in the sea, that is, they are trapped in between normal and better lives. Nature is always treated with feminine traits.

One of the oldest binaries that we can find in literature is nature versus culture, nature is feminine and culture is masculine. So the image of two men who couldn’t reach their aim because of the sea, which has female notion is unveiling the layers of eco feminization’s. Also, Hemingway holds a very traditional perspective of manhood and masculinity in The Old Man and the Sea. A man is expected to be strong, fearless and tough, and to continue working in the presence of defeat, which Santiago does despite his age and the pain he struggles with. He also avoided female characters. The thoughts and dialogues of the characters indirectly states that nature and women are always the victims of exploitation or the domination of men.

Violation of nature’s law is evident in these two novels. According to the rule of nature, humans are considered as terrestrial beings. Both Santiago and Pi indirectly violates this rule, which results an instability in their life environment. The mega – risky events of the life of the protagonists, happened from the ocean and they could overcome the death crisis- implies that they are the fittest ones as survivors, even from an unfamiliar surrounding.
The presence of the ocean makes the men’s life unstable. In both the novels, struggle with animals is occurring in this uncertain condition. Santiago was a failure in this struggle ; but later he was able to built a brotherly affection with the fish. With the help of nature philosophies, he tried to console himself for his act of killing Marlin. In Pi’s case, during the first part, he struggled with Richard Parker for his existence. He was afraid that whether the tiger would kill him for it’s own survival. But, within days, he befriended the tiger, which gives readers, a picture of a domesticated wild animal. The idea of domesticating is not relevant in nature.
When Pi reached back on the land, the tiger abandoned him and entered into a forest- which is wild in nature. Here, Pi again struggles of their emotional bonding. He tried to overcome this crisis in order to survive completely. ‘ The Others’ were not ready to grasp Santiago’s and Pi’s experiences. They consider it as mere stories or some elements of fantacy and they treated their struggles as dreams rather than reality- like a process of dream revising.

We can consider Richard Parker and Marlin as the alter egos of Pi and Santiago respectively. Ocean is treated as the unconscious realm, which is known as id. My partner has mentioned, how ocean is connected with human mind. We can trace their pre-conscious through their activities from the ocean.
Both of the characters were alone in the sea or they were stranded. The struggles they faced over the course of the novels, develop their characters and they also teach them important life lessons. The similarities in the names of the fish and the boy, Marlin and Manolin, itself shows the connection between nature and humans. Manolin was the old man’s shadow-like friend from the land, and the man feels a brotherly affection towards the fish when he was suffering from the sea. There exists a fundamental interconnection between human and natural life forms. Moreover their thoughts and actions are indulged in eco critic dimensions. Anthropocentrism comes when they are removed from the sea to the land. That is, they got alienated from the natural resources