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The Color Orange in Life of Pi: Symbolism & Quotes

The Color Orange in Life of Pi: Symbolism & Quotes
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  • 0:02 Orange: Violence and Danger
  • 0:42 Orange Cats: Vitality…
  • 2:16 Orange: Survival,…
  • 3:11 Orange Juice,…
  • 4:03 Orange Juice and Courage
  • 4:30 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Celeste Bright

Celeste has taught college English for four years and holds a Ph.D. in English Language and Literature.

Many authors assign symbolic values to colors in their work. This lesson will look at the symbolism of the color orange in Yann Martel's 'Life of Pi' and discuss some examples and quotations that support the many concepts linked with this color.

Orange: Violence and Danger

In Chapter 8 of Life of Pi, Santosh teaches his sons how dangerous zoo animals are, believing they'll one day be tempted to touch the ''pretty orange fur'' of a tiger. He forces Pi and Ravi to watch a starved Bengal tiger, Mahisha, rip apart and consume a live goat. Pi observes the ''streak of black and orange flow(ing) from one cage to the next.'' Here, the color orange is associated with a cat, but more specifically with the speed and savagery of which the cat is capable. Later, even as he admires Richard Parker (another Bengal tiger), he realizes that ''God's cat was a constant danger.''

Orange Cats: Vitality and Pleasure

Before teaching his sons this lesson, Santosh remarks: ''It may very well save their lives.'' In addition to violence and danger, Mahisha's orange fur is also linked to the continuation and quality of the boys' lives, or their vitality. This becomes crucial for Pi later when he finds himself on a lifeboat with a hyena, an orangutan, and a tiger. Because of the lesson from the first tiger, Pi understands that his coexistence with Richard Parker is a precarious one at best.

By contrast, in Chapter 36, Pi's daughter Usha awkwardly holds an orange cat called Moccasin in her arms. Moccasin is a harmless, domesticated, and good-natured animal who doesn't mind this. We can link the cat's orange fur to vitality here, too: Usha and Moccasin are products of Pi's survival. Usha and her brother Nikhil additionally represent the continuation of his family line.

In Chapter 57, the color orange is again associated with a Bengal tiger: Richard Parker. Pi says that ''his presence was overwhelming,'' but describes it in terms of beauty, or aesthetic pleasure. The tiger, whose body is ''bright brownish orange,'' is full of ''lithesome grace'' and is ''incomparably beautiful.'' Pi soon realizes that Richard Parker is also an important companion during his ordeal.

Near the end of the novel, Richard Parker jumps over Pi and disappears into the jungle. Pi observes ''his body, so immeasurably vital, stretched in the air above me, a fleeting, furred rainbow.''

Orange: Survival, Hope, Sunlight

Hope and survival are closely linked in Life of Pi and represented by the color orange. Hope is represented by the sun, which is also orange. In Chapter 45, Pi describes daybreak after a night in the lifeboat. He imagines the sun as ''an electrically lit orange.'' This is a strange, almost commercial-sounding image, but it's definitely a positive one: Pi recalls that ''(w)ith the very first rays of light it came alive in me: hope.'' The sight of the orange sun and the arrival of light help him to feel hopeful that he will be rescued that day.

In Chapter 50, Pi spells out a major symbolic value of the color orange. In discussing the lifeboat, he remarks: ''It seems orange---such a nice Hindu colour---is the colour of survival because the whole inside of the boat and the tarpaulin and the life jackets and the lifebuoy and the oars and most every other significant object aboard was orange.''

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