Richard Parker


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So, if you have seen the movie “Life of Pi” when you hear the name Richard Parker you probably think of a big, hairy, hungry Bengal tiger.  Thanks to edX, I learned that Richard Parker was a real person who met a terrible fate in a lifeboat in 1884. The young Richard Parker was only 17 and on his first voyage as a sailor. He found himself in a lifeboat with three other men. After 18 days at sea Richard Parker was murdered and eaten by the other three men. The boat was found and the three survivors, as they were having their “breakfast”, were rescued just 4 days later. Two of the men who killed and ate Richard Parker were sentenced to death, the third having testified against them in exchange for immunity. However, they had that sentence commuted by the crown to 6 months imprisonment.  I learned this while watching a lecture given by Professor Michael J. Sandel of Harvard.  The point of the lecture was to ask if the choice to kill and consume the weakest of the survivors so that the rest might live is “moral” or not, and why so. You can watch the lecture by clicking here.

So, my thoughts run like this… the Captain is responsible for the lives of his crew… So, was it not the Captains duty to protect the life of Richard Parker? Does the extraordinary circumstance excuse him of his duties as Captain? It is my opinion that the Captain is required to protect the lives of his crew. Had Richard Parker died naturally for whatever reason, then eating him might be OK, but to murder the young man is wrong.  I feel the Captain should have tried to protect Richard Parker by any means available.  The commutation of the death penalty to only 6 months in prison devalues the life of Richard Parker and practically absolves the killers of guilt. Richard Parker was an orphan, so the last of his line. He was only 17 at the time of his death, so had no children, no family, no one to miss him. At trial the killers used these as excuses to lower the value of Richard Parker’s life. The killers were all family men, who would be missed, and so they all had more to lose. This is obviously false, as Richard Parker, being the youngest aboard, had the most life left ahead of him. He had not had any children yet, so his entire family line ended on that little boat. Richard Parker had just as much, if not more, to lose than the other men.

So… what would you do?

We have all heard the expression that “art imitates life” or is it life imitating art? Either way, the tragic tale of poor Richard Parkers’ demise was penned 6 years before the event by Edgar Allen freakin’ Poe! IT’S NO BULLSHIT! Click here to learn the details of one of the most bizarre “coincidences” of all time.

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