Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
CHAPTER SUMMARY FOR LIFE OF PI
Pi presents a detailed picture of the process of slaughtering a sea turtle. He cannot do it on the raft, so he hauls the turtle over to the lifeboat in hopes that the oppressive heat will dissuade Richard Parker from emerging from the shade of the tarpaulin. Following the recommendations in the survival manual, Pi slashes the turtle’s neck with a hatchet and catches the blood in a beaker. He drinks it. He saws off the belly shell with a knife, though it is difficult because the turtle is thrashing about. Almost spent from this part of the task, Pi pulls off the belly shell. “It lifted reluctantly, with a wet sucking sound. Inner life was revealed, twitching and jerking - muscles, fat, blood, guts and bones. And still the turtle thrashed about.” Pi stabs the turtle repeatedly and even cuts the head off, but it continues flailing and the head tries to breathe. He shoves the head overboard and drops the rest of the quivering turtle down to Richard Parker. Knowing the tiger has smelled blood, Pi retreats to the raft. He is exhausted and got only a cup of blood from his efforts. He decides to rethink his relationship with Richard Parker, to exert his “rights” as the super-alpha.
Pi has reached the basest point of his savagery. He carries out the gory process of killing the turtle without remorse and without a prayer of sadness or appreciation for the turtle’s life. His revulsion and anguish that “a living being could sustain so much injury and go on living” (Chapter 47) is gone. He expresses the attitude that might makes right and will attempt to show his might in order to exercise his right to a place on the lifeboat.
CHAPTERS 70 and 71
Pi outlines a step-by-step procedure for taming a wild animal at sea. It is actually the rationale for Pi’s own plan of action. To implement the program, first provoke the animal, but not to the point of attack. “If it does, God be with you.” Maintain eye contact. Then, when the animal attempts to cross into your territory, blast on the whistle and trip the sea anchor so the boat rocks the animal into seasickness. (If you become seasick yourself, use your vomit to mark your territory.) Then, retreat to your own safety zone and leave the animal alone, but safely sheltered. Repeat the process until the animal associates the sound of the whistle with extreme nausea. By this time, the whistle alone should suffice in controlling the animal.
For the training of Richard Parker, Pi fashions a shield from a turtle shell. His first attempt at intimidating the tiger earns Pi a smack into the water with a paw. Panicked, Pi swims to his raft. After acquiring another turtle shell, Pi makes a second attempt, and a third and fourth with the same results as the first. He reasons that Richard Parker does not want to fight, just “make his point.” With a fifth shield, Pi is finally able to prevail.
Pi explains that the training of Richard Parker is a “simple necessity.” He no longer searches the horizon for a rescuer, but has accepted that he must survive on his own. Richard Parker has become Pi’s load in life and rather than being consumed by it (literally), Pi is drawing on his scientific knowledge and faith. It is as if his whole life has been preparation for his present situation.
Pi wishes he had a book that he could read over and over and appreciate anew each time. He wishes for scripture. He considers himself as Arjuna, but without any advice from Krishna. Remembering his feelings the first time he found a Gideon’s Bible in a hotel, he believes that finding scripture when in need of a place of rest is an excellent way to spread faith.
He would even appreciate a novel, but all he has is the survival manual. He keeps a diary, writing small so as not to run out of his limited supply of paper. The things he writes are not chronological, but clumps of information about the events and feelings he is experiencing.
Pi wishes for divine guidance in the form of a book. He refers to himself as Arjuna, the “Doer of Good Deeds,” about whom the story from the Hindu scripture the Bhagavad-Gita is written. Arjuna is reluctant to battle against people who are dear to him, but Krishna reminds him of samsara (the cycle of reincarnation) and moksha (liberation from the cycle and its worldly conception of self) to show Arjuna that death is not a bad thing. Arjuna can then complete his task. The relationship between Arjuna and Krishna is that of Man guided by God. Pi has a task to complete, but no godly words of wisdom to guide him. Having nothing to read, he writes.
Pi conducts his own religious rituals. This practice is comforting, yet difficult. When feeling his lowest he professes out loud his belief in God as Creator. However, the creations of God that Pi has in his current possession are rapidly deteriorating, as is his spirit. He remembers his family and rekindles the light of God.
Pi’s rituals at sea are completely devoid of the requirements of the religious rituals. His Mass (Divine Liturgy of Catholicism) is without Communion (sacrament of bread and wine commemorating Christ’s Last Supper before His crucifixion). His darshan (meaning “sight” or devotion to something seen) is without murti (holy statues or images to look upon). And his pujas (chanting of mantra while making offerings to murtis) are with turtle meat (definitely non-vegetarian) as Prasad (offerings to a deity that are then consumed). He even prays to Allah, having no clue which direction to face toward Mecca (sacred city which Muslims turn toward during prayer). There is an element of despair in Pi’s faith. He often comes close to losing it, but God always remains and Pi “would go on loving.”