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LIFE OF PI - CHAPTER NOTES / ANALYSIS
Pi clings to the lifebuoy, relieved that Richard Parker has not jumped in the water to eat him. The water is black, rough, and there are sharks within reach. He cannot see Richard Parker under the orange tarpaulin so he wedges an oar under it and pulls himself out of the water. Eventually he slides the lifebuoy onto the oar and around himself.
Pi’s only concern is survival. There are frequent references to the color orange - the whistle, the life jacket, the lifebuoy, the tarpaulin, and Richard Parker. Orange symbolizes survival. It is also the color of the second Hindu chakra (energy center in the body), which is related to water, emotional identity, and the ability to accept change.
Pi carefully inches his way down the oar toward the boat. He reasons that Richard Parker is under the tarpaulin and will not come out if Pi is not in view. Pi pulls himself onto the boat remarking at the exotic beauty of the zebra, and wondering why Richard Parker has not eaten it. Shocked, Pi sees that there is another animal on board, a male spotted hyena. He surmises that the hyena is the reason the crewmen threw Pi into the lifeboat - to get rid of the hyena somehow so that they could safely board. As threatening as the hyena is, though, it is preferable to the tiger, which Pi thinks must have fallen overboard because the two animals would never coexist. Pi drifts, the immense sea and his immense pain consuming him.
Pi is living exclusively in the present. He is not yet considering his future survival, just his immediate circumstance. He has the beauty if the sea and sky around him, but the pain of loss within.
Orange Juice, a female Borneo orangutan (and mother of two sons), drifts toward the lifeboat on a raft of netted bananas. She climbs aboard, dazed. Pi grabs the net, but does not think of salvaging any bananas. The hyena screams.
The variety of animals increases. The reader will soon see the value of Pi’s previous digressions into the particulars of animal behavior.
CHAPTER 43 and 44
Pi is optimistic that there is a furor of rescue activities occurring, and he and Orange Juice will be saved. The hyena jumps on to the tarpaulin briefly, frightening Pi, then discouraged by the expanse of water, retreats. It reemerges, barking and running laps around the zebra. Pi tenses each time it nears him. The hyena continues this interminably, allowing Pi to digress into describing the repulsive nature of hyena appearance and behavior. When it finally stops, the hyena vomits, and then lies in the mess.
Another day dawns and Pi remains suspended on the oar, flies buzzing around him. Toward evening he becomes frightened of what animal activity the night may bring. In the darkness he hears snarling and barking from the other end of the boat, and grunts, possibly from Orange Juice, closer to him. Beneath the boat he could hear even more sounds of predator and prey as they splashed.
The animals are displaying unpredictable, yet natural according to Pi, behaviors. The zebra is helpless, yet still exotic and beautiful. The hyena is at once aggressive and cowardly. It expresses power, and then ends up succumbing to its own involuntary condition. Martel plays on the word “catholic” which in this case describes the hyena’s wide-ranging, universality of taste rather than one of Pi’s religions.
Pi passes another day in “breathless boredom,” and a night in fear.
Pi’s hopes rise with the orange sun and he searches the horizon for the rescue ship where he will be reunited with his family. Within the boat, the hyena is eating the zebra. The piteous zebra is still alive. The rocking of the boat is making Pi nauseous, so he changes his position and is now able to see Orange Juice. She appears terribly seasick and her expression causes Pi to laugh. He is amazed that the hyena has not harmed her, but reasons that they are from such separate origins that they may not recognize each other as predator and prey. A hawksbill turtle swims past and Pi beckons it to alert a ship of Pi’s location.
Pi is still an observer of his situation. He feels rescue is imminent and has no plan for long term survival. He is frightened, amused, and perplexed at his state of affairs. The sky, the sea, and the animals are a backdrop to the rescue scene he anticipates.