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LIFE OF PI - ONLINE STUDY GUIDE
Pi awakens during the night in wonder of the beauty and vastness of the ocean and sky. He compares himself to Markandeya, who catches a glimpse of the overwhelming universe when he drops out of Vishnuís mouth, and nearly dies of fright before being rescued by Vishnu. Feeling inconsequential in the scheme of the universe, Pi prays and goes back to sleep.
Piís situation is looking up. Having rediscovered his faith, as evidenced by his reminiscence of a Hindu story and his Muslim prayer, Pi now has the spirit to survive. This is the first time prayer or God has been mentioned in several chapters. In the chapters without God, Pi is without hope. His faith will flow for the next several chapters, then, like the sea, will ebb once again.
The Hindu saint, Markandeya, has more in common with Pi than Pi describes. Markandeya was destined to die at the age of 16, Piís age. However, his devotion to Shiva (the expression of Brahman, or God, who destroys the universe) prevents death from claiming him. When he falls from Vishnuís mouth, Markandeya is lost in a dark sea. Vishnu (the expression of Brahman who preserves the universe) appears as a mountain and rescues Markandeya. Like Markandeya, Piís devotion will save him from death. This chapter, though brief, reminds the reader, who is aware from the start that Pi will survive, that this is a story ďthat will make you believe in God.Ē
Pi is feeling optimistic and surprisingly strong. He tries his hand at fishing, using his shoe leather as bait. He fails. Pi then rummages through the locker in search of something more to use as bait, but finds nothing. He sits up and sees that he has become Richard Parkerís center of attention. He is struck in the face, and assumes the tiger has attacked. To Piís amazement, it is not Richard Parker but a flying fish that smacked him. The fish is flopping around inside the locker. Pi tosses the fish to Richard Parker, but the fish flies right past the tiger. Dozens more flying fish leap out of the water to escape being eaten by dorados. Pi likens his experience to Saint Sebastianís martyrdom. Richard Parker, rather than taking a beating like Pi is, seizes this feeding opportunity confidently. When the onslaught of fish is over, Pi takes one of the many that landed in the boat and returns to his raft.
Pi needs to use the flying fish as bait, but anguishes over having to kill a living thing. Tearfully, he forces himself to do it feeling ďas guilty as Cain.Ē The head of the flying fish turns out to be the best bait and Pi catches a three foot dorado. Pi thanks Vishnu. Killing the fish is easier this time because it is for Richard Parker. In its death throes the dorado changes colors like a rainbow. Pi pulls himself over to the lifeboat and drops the dorado in, blowing his whistle repeatedly to remind the tiger of the source of the food. Grabbing the remaining dead flying fish from the locker, Pi returns to his raft feeling accomplished.
Piís spirits are high and accordingly, this chapter is full of religious references. Saint Sebastian was a Christian martyr who survived being executed by arrows, and was subsequently beaten to death. Likewise, Pi is both pierced and buffeted by the flying fish. Cain is the firstborn son of Adam and Eve according to the book of Genesis in the Bible. Jealous that God accepted his brother Abelís sacrifice but not his, Cain murdered Abel. Pi likens himself to this first murderer when he kills the flying fish. According to Hindu tradition, the first incarnation of Vishnu is a fish that warns man of a great flood, a story that closely parallels the Christian story of Noah. Upon catching the dorado, Pi thanks Vishnu, who saved man in the form of a fish, for saving Pi, in the form of a fish. After the great flood, God reminded Noah of His bounty with a rainbow. Pi is reminded of Godís bounty with the rainbow of the dying dorado.
Unable to sleep well, Pi shifts his attention to Richard Parker. The tiger seems disturbed and Pi attributes this to thirst. There must be a way for Pi to provide water for the tiger without sharing his own canned water. Pi checks the solar stills, unconvinced of their utility. Elated, he discovers that each still has generated almost a liter of fresh water. He gathers the water in a bucket, adds a little sea water to increase the volume, and brings it to the lifeboat. He secures the bucket to a bench and gets Richard Parkerís attention by tossing pieces of flying fish. The tiger goes for the fish and finds the water as well. Pi stares straight into the tigerís eyes and blows his whistle. Richard Parker retreats under the tarpaulin. Pi notes that the lifeboat is functioning just like a zoo enclosure.
Pi fishes again, but without success. A sea turtle swims by and Pi thinks he will soon have to consider catching them. It is oppressively hot, but Pi takes comfort in the increased production of the solar stills. Pi is completing his first week as a castaway.
Pi refers to the solar stills as ďsea cows.Ē The marine mammal sea cow has supposedly been mistaken for a mermaid by shipwrecked sailors, and has also been hunted as food. In Piís situation, the productive solar stills are as satisfying as sighting a woman or eating meat might have been for sailors. Also, cows are sacred to Hindus and are not to be slaughtered. They are symbols of the sanctity of life. The solar stills are certainly life-giving to Pi and Richard Parker.
Pi, the whistle-blowing provider of food and water, is becoming successful at establishing himself as the super-alpha animal. Once again, his zoo background will work in conjunction with his faith to provide for Piís survival. Martel does not write that it has been one week since the shipwreck; rather he writes that is a ďweek since the Tsimtsum had sunk,Ē reminding the reader that it was not just a shipwreck, but a cosmic tsimtsum for Pi.