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CHAPTER SUMMARY FOR LIFE OF PI
There is another school of airborne flying fish. Pi ducks behind a turtle shell while Richard Parker swats at and eats the fish. A dorado pursuing the flying fish crashes into the lifeboat and is stunned. Pi retrieves it from the water and praises Jesus-Matsya. The large fish catches Richard Parker’s attention. Reluctant to give up his prize, Pi defiantly stares down the tiger. Eventually, Richard Parker submits and returns to the flying fish. To his amazement, Pi is truly the master here. This gives Pi the confidence to spend more time aboard the lifeboat.
Jesus-Matsya is Pi’s own combination deity. Jesus is the name of the Christian Christ who sacrifices himself for mankind, and Matsya is Vishnu in the form of a fish from the story of the Great Flood. So the fish sacrifices itself for Pi’s salvation. Pi demonstrates here how hunger can make someone foolhardy enough to challenge a tiger, yet he is strong enough in spirit to defeat Richard Parker.
Pi reflects on the incredibility of his survival. He attributes his success partially to the fact that Richard Parker is a zoo animal and is without any natural sources of food and water. Pi is the supplier. He describes his relationship with the tiger as “pure and miraculous.” The concrete proof that Pi is able to survive is the fact that it is he who narrates this story.
Since the story is indeed incredible, Martel interjects reasonable proof here. In Part One, the author provided background to reinforce reality. In Part Two it is Pi reassuring the reader that his ordeal is true.
Obtaining and protecting fresh water is Pi’s obsession. He stores what he can carefully, mixes some salt water in to Richard Parker’s ration, and drinks of the rain when he can. Yet there is never enough to drink. Food is also scarce, especially since Richard Parker gets the bulk of whatever Pi catches. Pi eats whatever he gets his hands on quickly, partly out of starvation and partly to get his share before Richard Parker gets it. He feels that he has sunken to the level of an animal.
As Pi’s condition weakens he is concerned only with basic survival. There isn’t a glimmer of the deep concern he once had for other living things.
There is a tremendous storm with huge waves that threaten to sink the lifeboat. Pi decides to take his chances with Richard Parker rather than with the sea, so he climbs under the tarpaulin and closes it over the boat. He holds on to the tarpaulin rope and the bow bench to keep from being thrown onto Richard Parker as the boat tosses in the storm. At night the sky clears. Pi is soaked and bruised. The raft is gone. Most of the food has washed overboard, but the bags of water in the locker are unbroken. Pi unhooks the tarpaulin, and soon after daylight, Richard Parker emerges. Pi mends the tarpaulin and bails the boat as the tiger looks on disinterested. He finds one last orange whistle.
Pi is distraught. When he closes himself into the lifeboat with the tiger he is choosing his mode of death - by animal rather than by water. He has lost hope for survival. But at the end of the chapter, the sun is out and Pi finds some hope in the last whistle, a whistle that helps him hold his dominance over Richard Parker.
A whale swims by the lifeboat. Pi imagines the whales communicating his predicament all through the ocean, seeking help. Unfortunately they are harpooned. Dolphins swim by as well and, though he tries, Pi is unable to catch one on his gaff. There are birds which Pi hopes are a sign there is land close by. He catches one, breaks its neck and eats every organ. He tosses the skin, bones and feathers to Richard Parker. “None of the birds ever announced land.”
Pi falls to anthropomorphizing again as the whales converse about him in his imagination. It is indicative of his starving condition that Pi could, at the same time, consider the killing of whales a “heinous crime,” yet attempt to gaff a dolphin. He refers to the albatross as “supernatural” perhaps referring to Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner where the Mariner frees himself of the curse from killing the albatross when he regains his ability to pray. The birds’ ability to announce land comes from the Bible story of the great Flood when Noah sends out a dove, and the dove returns with an olive leaf indicating there is dry land.