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LIFE OF PI - FREE ONLINE STUDY GUIDE
CHAPTERS 50, 51, 52
Pi gives a detailed accounting of the size, shape, and capacity of the lifeboat, paying attention to the amount of space Richard Parker has under the tarpaulin. He confirms orange, “such a nice Hindu color,” as the color of survival. There are five oars, but Pi does not have the strength to row the substantial boat.
Finding no containers and driven by thirst, Pi unhooks part of the tarpaulin, exposing Richard Parker’s hideaway. He is spooked by an orange life jacket, thinking it is Richard Parker, but discovers there are several life jackets aboard. Behind the jackets lay Richard Parker. “God preserve me!” Pi finds a compartment in the forward bench and eases it open so that the lid blocks off the space that is open to the tigers den. The locker is full of survival supplies, including cans of water. Too frazzled to find a can opener, Pi smashes a hole in the can and feasts on the water. He repeats this again and again drinking four cans of water. His entire body revels in the experience. His thirst quenched, he is now aware of his hunger. There are biscuits in the survival locker. Being vegetarian, Pi balks at first at the animal fat in them, but knows his situation is an extenuating circumstance. He eats more than the daily allotment and he is rejuvenated. He takes inventory of the contents of the locker and calculates that he has enough food for 93 days and enough water for 124 days. Each item he finds brings grateful pleasure.
Pi makes a list of all that he has, including the food, water, ropes, rain catchers, notebook, etc. from the locker, plus one boy, one hyena, one tiger, one lifeboat, one ocean, and one God. He sleeps soundly.
Pi has an incentive to live. He has discovered the survival supplies, and rediscovered his faith. He calls out to God and makes sure to include God on the list of what he has. There will be surges and lulls in his reliance on God throughout his tribulations.
Pi ponders his impossible situation, certain death if he stays on the lifeboat with Richard Parker or certain death if he casts himself to the sea. With nothing else to occupy his mind, he anguishes over all he has lost. He is ready to give up, but an internal voice encourages him in the form of a prayer, “so long as God is with me, I will not die. Amen.” He builds a raft by weaving life jackets and ropes onto a framework made of the buoyant oars. He lashes the lifebuoy to the center and tethers the raft to the front of the boat. The hyena is shrieking and Pi prays to be given enough time to finish.
Pi is riveted with fear as he watches Richard Parker rise to his full magnitude. The tiger kills the terrified hyena silently. Standing over his kill, he moans, uneasy with the rocking of the lifeboat. He turns to face Pi. Even petrified with fear, Pi is awestruck at the majesty and beauty of Richard Parker. Suddenly, a rat appears from under the tarpaulin and clambers atop Pi’s head. Richard Parker makes for the rat, but hesitates because of the rocking of the boat and the unstable footing of the tarpaulin. Quickly, Pi throws the rat to the tiger and the rat disappears into Richard Parker’s mouth. The animal seems satisfied and returns to his den under the tarpaulin, dragging the hyena with him. As he is eating, Pi notices there is vomit in the den which confirms that Richard Parker is seasick.
Pi hurriedly completes his raft, tests it for buoyancy, and climbs uneasily aboard. The raft is a precarious means of survival so Pi pills himself back toward the lifeboat. He hears Richard Parker eating and opts for the seemingly less threatening sea and sharks.
A cold rain falls. Pi once again pulls himself toward the lifeboat to retrieve a rain catcher from the survival locker. The noise alerts Richard Parker and, rain catcher in hand, Pi lets out the rope in terror as night falls.
Pi’s faith has inspired his will to live. His knowledge gives him the means to survive. He knows, however, that existence on the raft is a temporary solution. This chapter graphically demonstrates that although the tiger has a human name, it is indeed a formidable animal.
Pi spends the night cold, wet, and without sleep. The rain intensifies as do the waves. Pi is afraid the raft may break free from the boat and realizes that he must come up with a more workable plan of survival. He concocts five plans. Each he immediately sees is impossible. Plan Number Six: Wage a War of Attrition seems, at first, a good idea. Richard Parker has no means of acquiring food or water. Pi can at least get fresh water and possibly out survive the tiger.
Pi is desperate. The construction of the raft is a step in the right direction, but he knows it is not the answer for the long term. Plan Six seems workable, but remember Pi’s comment from Chapter 47 about the inconceivable endurance of an animal.