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LIFE OF PI CHAPTER NOTES
CHAPTER 55 and 56
The rain continues through the night and the morning. Pi is worn out and has only a vague recollection of “Plan Number Six.” When the rain stops and the sun begins to warm and dry him, Pi falls asleep. He wakes and observes the vastness of the sea, realizing that the raft and the lifeboat are vulnerable and insignificant. He feels doomed. He sees Richard Parker in the lifeboat and envisions him surmounting the “moat” between them and vanquishing Pi. That vision, and Pi’s knowledge that tigers can drink salt water, leads Pi to conclude that Plan Number Six is the worst of his plans.
Pi describes how, no matter what your resources and intelligence, fear will defeat you. Fear will involuntarily adversely affect all parts of the body, except the eyes which will “always pay proper attention to fear.” Fear is the opponent that must be defeated.
Pi’s spirit ebbs and flows throughout his time at sea. During these low points there is no reference to God, only Pi’s dismal interpretations of his plight. When his intellectual and emotional feelings combine once again with his faith, his perception of his situation will change.
Pi sees that Richard Parker now seems content after eating the hyena and drinking rainwater that accumulated in the lifeboat. The tiger is making a sound that Pi has never heard before, but knows of from his father’s description. It is a contented purring sound called prusten. Pi understands clearly now that he and Richard Parker must both survive. He is determined to tame the tiger. In this Pi finds an incentive to survive, a means of conquering his fear.
Acting like a circus performer and shrieking on his whistle, Pi causes Richard Parker to cringe. The tables are turned, at least temporarily. Richard Parker is now afraid of Pi. The first “training” complete, Pi formulates a seventh plan - Keep Richard Parker alive.
The reader can now begin to make sense of the detailed description of lion taming from Chapters 13 and 14. It is this knowledge that will help Pi carry out Plan Number Seven. The incongruity of the tiger with its current surroundings may provide the “measure of madness” that will make Pi’s attempts at training work.
Pi lists survival tips from the manual he found in the locker. There are many practical and very specific recommendations, not the least of which assures “If you have the will to live, you will.” There is, however, no information on the training of a tiger so Pi set his thoughts upon devising a training program. He reviews in his mind that he must establish his territory and provide himself shelter, daunting tasks. He remains hopeless.
The chapter illustrates how “crude reality” is not enough. Even though Pi knows what must be done, he has not yet uncovered the faith to make it work.
Pi takes note of the relationships between the lifeboat, the raft, and the sea. When Pi pulls the raft in close to the boat, the boat turns sideways to the waves and rocks, causing Richard Parker distress. In response to the tiger’s growls, previously unknown inhabitants of the lifeboat, cockroaches, like the flies and rat before them, attempt to flee the lifeboat. Pi discerns that, except for microbes on the decaying flesh of the tiger’s prey, he and Richard Parker are now completely alone.
Pi lifts himself on to the boat to get rations from the locker. He smells that Richard Parker has urinated to mark off territory only under the tarpaulin, and sees that there is a pool of rainwater that the tiger may use to drink and to cool himself. Pi dares to dip out a beaker of water to drink. Unconcerned about contamination, Pi drinks the purloined water and then urinates back into his cup an almost identical volume of liquid. He distributes his urine over the tarpaulin to mark it as his territory.
Next, Pi deciphers how to use the solar stills and strings them out between the boat and the raft. He reworks the raft to make a seat and shelter, all the while keeping an eye on Richard Parker. He gathers rations and blankets, boards his raft, and lets out the rope. He watches Richard Parker from a distance, marveling that the tiger is truly worthy of its title, Royal Bengal tiger.
Suddenly, splashing from the sea below brings Pi from his musings. He examines the colorful plethora of sea life, comparing the activity of the fish to a busy city. When aboard the Tsimtsum, Pi had thought only dolphins lived in the open ocean. He watches the scene below him contentedly until he falls asleep.
Pi is becoming more adept in his perilous environment. Here, Martel reminds the reader of the name of the ship, Tsimtsum. Pi is left to contemplate tsimtsum as he withdraws himself from the lifeboat and prepares to create an inhabitable world for Richard Parker and himself.