Pi relates the saying that “the most dangerous animal in a zoo is Man,” and describes different ways zoo visitors have tormented or injured the animals, sometimes in bizarre ways. Pi says that this saying (which was on a sign at the Pondicherry Zoo) was not quite true though. He says more dangerous than humans themselves is their tendency to anthropomorphize animals, giving them human feelings and motives.
Martel starts to show the animality in humans and the humanity in animals, as they will soon come together in Pi’s lifeboat. The human tendency to anthropomorphize (ascribe human traits to) animals refers back to Pi’s claim that zoos and religion have both “fallen out of favor” – people assume that animals desire freedom, just as humans think that religion constrains liberty.
One day Pi’s father decided to show Pi and his older brother Ravi about the dangers of wild animals. He took the boys to the Bengal tiger’s cage and fed the tiger a wild goat in front of them. The boys were traumatized by this sight, but their father continued by listing other ways even seemingly docile animals could hurt or kill them. Pi remembered this lesson forever and always recognized the “otherness” of wild animals.
While Pi loves animals (and will come to love religion) and Martel starts to blur the lines between human and animal, this traumatic scene serves as a constant reminder of the wildness and “otherness” of animals. Pi’s father’s choice of a tiger is especially pointed considering the rest of the novel.