Diane Frolov and Andrew Schneider once said that, “We hold in our hands, the most precious gift of all: Freedom. The freedom to express our art. Our love. The freedom to be who we want to be. We are not going to give that freedom away and no one shall take it from us! ” (1992). The novel Life of Pi by Yann Martel is about the life journey of Pi, the challenges that he encountered at sea and being the sole survivor during the shipwreck. Freedom is something that people always wish to have. It is not just the right to act but also for securing an equal right of life for everyone, liberty in term of physical and mental freedom, and the search of happiness (Treder 2009). “Freedom is also defined as the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action” (Merriam). Freedom can be classified into few categories which are physical freedom, animal freedom and spiritual freedom. It can be said that the meaning of ‘freedom’ is rather controversial. Every human being has their very own idea of freedom. Whether is it the ability to speak freely, the ability to act freely or the ability to choose freely, each person’s definition varies from one another. Based on the novel Life of Pi, Yann Martel describes freedom as contentment. It has nothing to do with speaking or acting. Freedom in Pi’s context is the ability of a person to be happy and content with life.
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First and foremost, physical freedom is the freedom of body where daily activities can be done without physical constraint (Willett 2011). If you can travel around the world, this shows that you are physically free to move around and experience the beauty of the world. In Life of Pi, it is clearly shown that Pi is a vegetarian. Due to the unfavourable condition and scarcity of food in the lifeboat, he has compelled himself to take in meat to stay alive. This shows that Pi could not practice his lifestyle freely as the condition is hostile and he has no freedom of choice. The days on the lifeboat led Pi to kill and consume sea creatures such as sea turtle, flying fish and Dorado. Surprisingly, sea turtle was deemed to be his favourite dish on the sea. Other than that, Richard Parker which is the Bengal tiger that accompanied Pi in the lifeboat for 227 days during the shipwreck and Pi lost their vision for a short period of time. The blindness caused him to lose his freedom to move. At that moment, Pi could not stand up or eat and his movement was limited. He felt restless as he had to bear with the blindness and hunger that he faced. Eventually, the idea of giving up his life came to his mind. During that time, he heard someone asking him “Is someone there?” (Martel 326) consecutively. Pi expresses that “It’s astonishing what you hear when you’re alone in the blackness of your dying mind, (Martel 326)”. This quote portrays that he sensed a ray of hope in his life. After the conversation about food with the French guy, Pi discovered that he was a man killer who murdered a man and a woman and they were both blind due to the lack of nutrition. Lastly, when both of them embraced, it is clear that the French guy was attempting to murder and eat Pi rather than be friend with him but he was saved by Richard Parker, his saviour. This can be proved from the quote, “you’re damn right your heart is with me! And your liver and your flesh! (Martel 341)”. Lastly, his brimming tears and the sea water brought back his vision within 2 days and he resumed his life as usual. He was physically free again as he can observe everything at sea and in the life boat.
Other than that, animal freedom prevailed in the novel Life of Pi too. Generally, animal freedom is the basic rights of animals. It comprises freedom from hunger and thirst, fear, physical abuse, security and diseases. The concept of animal freedom differs from everyone’s perspectives and it plays a vital role in treating animals with respect and compassion (Stoop n.d). Some people might think that keeping pets deprives animals of their freedom. However, in pet lovers’ point of view, they will consider various aspects in order to determine whether their freedom is being encroached upon. For instance, typically, pets are well-protected, well-fed, provided with shelter and they are allowed to wander around in particular period of time daily. This proves that their freedom is not being taken for granted as they live a joyful life.Pi argues that animals that live in the wild actually have not much freedom compared to those that are confined in a cage. Wild lives in the jungle have to fight in order to survive. This can be a misconception as we can view freedom through diverse aspects. This fallacy can be seen through the quote, “misinformed people think animals in the wild are “happy” because they are “free” (Martel 20)”. Animals are territorial. If there are laws implemented on the conservation of wild life, it is a clear-cut that animals in the wild can live happily and experience the freedom. They can explore the forests, do whatever they want and fend for themselves. In contrary, if no laws are imposed, this may pose a threat to the animals in the jungle. They might be hunted to extinction due to commercial purposes or the destruction of nature. If this is likely to happen, this is not freedom to the animal but a death sentence. Zoo can be a best place for the animals to live because the food supply is continuous, they are protected, and their territories are clean. The only difference is the size of their territories is much smaller than the nature. If the animals are chased out from the cage and compelled to survive in the wild on their own, do you think they are going to live with joy? They most probably prefer to live in such a comfortable and secure life like they used to. However, it can be an adversity to the animals if their enclosure is not suitable since every animal has its particular habitat needs that must be achieved. They might seek to escape and reluctant to live there. For instance, the animals will definitely not be at peace if their enclosed space is too wet or sunny, extremely sandy ground, overly low food trough and inadequate food supply (Martel 53). This contributes to the difficulties in adapting the new environment and intent to escape. This is where freedom ceases to exist.
Spiritual freedom was also portrayed in the novel Life of Pi. Freedom of religion is a basic human right which includes the freedom of individuals to choose and practice their religion or belief through worship and how to serve Him (Tzanko 2009). The verse in the last book of bible “The Apocalypses of John”, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me,” portrays the respect of God towards human freedom (Tzanko 2009). According to the novel Life of Pi, Pi wanted to believe in three religions, namely Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. However, this was not encouraged by his parents and the 3 wise men. The pandit expressed that Pi cannot be a Hindu, a Christian and a Muslim at the same time and he can only choose one. Pi is an agnostic due to his confusion to belong to a particular religion. He tended to be sceptical about each religious tenet. He realised that Islam and Christian are about love rather than hatred and violence. Being defensive, Pi claimed that he loves God (Martel 92). By loving God regardless of any religion, he felt contented with his life. Pi’s father also interrupted when the 3 wise man were arguing and reminded them that there is freedom of practice in the country (Martel 91). This shows that humans are given rights to choose their own religion. In chapter 73 of Life of Pi, Pi saw a Gideon Bible in the side table of the hotel room in Canada and he wanted the faith to be spread to all places where weary travellers might rest there. This illustrates the freedom of religion that is the spreading the words of God. Furthermore, he claimed that they might not just rest in the hotel rooms but also leave Bibles and sacred writings there.
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In conclusion, freedom is a fundamental need for all humans and animals in this world. For us human, freedom in the form of physical freedom, spiritual freedom and other freedom like financial freedom and freedom of speech make our life complete and live up to our full potential. However, freedom must not be abused as some form of freedom such as freedom of speech are subjective and differ from everyone’s view. Although freedom of speech is given to everyone, in a multi-racial society, we have to avoid showing abusive racist remarks to create disunity. If freedom of speech and press are not used responsibly, it can lead to havoc and disharmony.
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