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CHAPTER SUMMARY FOR LIFE OF PI
Pi lists the survival records of other famous castaways. Not one comes close to his 227 days at sea. He attributes his survival to his “busy” schedule which includes frequent daily prayers. The heat of the sun and the rocking of the sea help keep Richard Parker at bay when he wavers from his feeding routine. Having the tiger as a diversion and a companion also helps keep Pi “busy.” Pi tells the dates that begin and end his story, but is not aware of the dates or the specifics of time during his days at sea. He explains that he remembers specific occurrences and sensations, but not necessarily in order.
Pi makes a point of specifically including prayer in his daily routine. His will to live is rooted in his faith. Richard Parker may represent faith or God here because it is the tiger that inspires Pi to go on living. The dates and duration of Pi’s ordeal may also be significant. The family left India on June 21st, the summer solstice which is a pagan holiday. The day the ship sank, July 2nd , is the exact middle of the year (and the same day Amelia Earhart was lost in the Pacific). Pi’s landfall, February 14th is a Christian holiday honoring Saint Valentine, a day to celebrate love. And 227 days might be interpreted as 22/7 which closely approximates the value of pi, though as Pi explains, the days (like pi) cannot be divided exactly.
CHAPTERS 64 AND 65
Pi’s clothes are gone and his skin is badly damaged by the elements. He tries to understand the navigation information in the survival manual but, having no seafaring training, cannot. He has experienced spiritual guidance from the stars, but cannot glean geographic guidance. So Pi drifts, trying to control his life, but unable to control his direction. He is traveling the Pacific equatorial counter-current.
Pi is drifting, not only along with a current, but “down the road of life.” Though he cannot control where he is, he pays close attention to his surroundings with the understanding that each of his actions has consequences, possibly fatal ones.
Pi changes from hook and line fishing to using gaffs to impale the fish. He is over his revulsion of handling and killing them. Using the cargo net as a lure proves fruitful. On rare occasions there are so many fish that Pi is covered in scales and feels he looks like a fish god. He begins catching turtles and wrestles to get them on board, exhibiting the strength of Hanuman. Pi is repentant that he, a vegetarian, has become a flesh eating killer.
Previously, Pi was repulsed by the thought of eating even the animal fat in the survival biscuits. He was in tears killing the first flying fish. Now he desperately slaughters and eats anything he can catch. This chapter perfectly illustrates Pi’s inner conflict where he must maintain his faith yet compromise his beliefs in order to survive. Pi has become animal-like while Richard Parker has become a human companion.
Hanuman refers to the Hindu god with a simian form. He is a symbol of physical strength, perseverance, and devotion. He helps when faced with ordeals or challenges. Pi mentioned him in Chapter 23 as a suitable god for Father at the zoo. He is suitable for Pi in his current predicament as well.
CHAPTER 67, 68 and 69
Pi describes the distractions from the nerve-wracking monotony of his daily existence. Algae begin to grow on the underside of the raft and eventually an entire ecosystem develops. Pi watches the worms, slugs, shrimp, crabs, and fish, sampling them as possible food items. He settles on the crabs as most palatable and eats them to local extinction. He also sucks on the barnacles that attach to the lifeboat.
Another distraction is, of course, Richard Parker. Pi, unable to sleep much, examines in detail the tiger’s favorite sleeping positions
The third distraction is that of a light in the distance. When Pi sees what might be a ship he sets off flares that smell, to him, like cumin. This smell of home helps relieve Pi of the crushing disappointment that there is no hope that he will actually be found. Richard Parker stares at the light of the flares. The light illuminates the water briefly making the fish visible.
There is no mention of God in these three chapters or in the next. Pi is desperately hanging on to every little bit of life around him. The flares, instead of saving Pi, become a dismal reminder that it is just Pi, Richard Parker, and the fish. Pi feels there is no chance that a ship “would cut into such a tiny circle and see me”. The italicized words are noteworthy as will be shown in a subsequent chapter.