Something in me did not want to give up on life, was unwilling to let go, wanted to fight to the very end. Where that part of me got the heart, I don’t know.

In the moments right after the ship begins to sink and Pi finds himself in the water, he realizes two things: He’s lost everyone he loves, but his will to survive remains strong. Yet, at the time, Pi does not understand why he would even want to continue living with all this terrible loss. However, as the reader comes to understand, Pi feels not only the instinctual desire to live, but also a strong faith in God, which insists he not give up. Just as he has faith in God, Pi has faith in himself.

When your own life is threatened, your sense of empathy is blunted by a terrible, selfish hunger for survival.

As the sun rises on the first full day in the lifeboat, Pi discovers with horror that the zebra has been grievously attacked by the hyena, but his thoughts soon turn back to his own survival. Pi instinctually understands that he mustn’t use up his energy worrying about the zebra, who faces certain death, and must instead focus on his own needs. He needs to invest all his effort into figuring out how he can increase his own chances of survival.

I had no idea a living being could sustain so much injury and go on living.

Pi comments on the fact that on the second day in the lifeboat, the zebra suffers fatal wounds after being attacked by the hyena but doesn’t die right away. The zebra’s slow death represents a testament to the will of a living body to cling to existence despite injury, pain, and seemingly impossible circumstances. Although the zebra finally succumbs, this scene foreshadows the tenacity to which Pi clings to life in his 277 days as a castaway. Pi survives his ordeal through his own hard work and ingenuity.

You might think I lost all hope at that point. I did.

Pi’s words mark a pivotal moment in both the animal and human versions of his story. In the animal version, Richard Parker reveals himself, with Pi feeling doomed to have a tiger on board. In the human version, Pi’s words mark the moment he kills the cook, with Pi experiencing the darkness of his own nature. In both versions, Pi’s realization that nothing can get worse allows him the freedom to fight with careless abandon to live. In either case, he survives the discovery of the violence within the boat or within himself.

Survival had to start with me. In my experience, a castaway’s worst mistake is to hope too much and do too little.

Shortly after Pi discovers Richard Parker aboard the lifeboat, he begins to devise his plan for survival. Pi realizes that up until then, he had been waiting to be saved by others—waiting for a ship to come along and find him. But now he resolves to work to earn his own survival, for instance, by fishing for sea life and devising ways to store rainwater. Not only will taking an active role in surviving his ordeal increase his chances for success, but also remaining active will give him purpose and keep him from wallowing in despair.