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CHAPTER SUMMARY FOR LIFE OF PI
When the men return they tell Pi that they do not believe his story. Pi asks why not. Their first argument is that bananas do not float. Pi produces two bananas from somewhere in his bed and insists that they try it for themselves in the sink. The bananas float. Their second argument is the impossibility of the floating carnivorous island with meerkats. Pi counters that Venus flytraps would seem impossible, as would the bonsai trees that Mr. Chiba brings up in the conversation, if one had never seen them. Their third argument is the missing tiger. Pi explains instances of wild animals that escaped into civilization and were never found. Pi is angry at the men for denying his story just because it is “hard to believe.” Mr. Chiba produces a chocolate bar to distract Pi from his anger. The men comment aside that Pi has stolen their entire lunch.
Mr. Okamoto tries to redirect the conversation to facts about the sinking of the ship. Pi is not deterred. The discussion continues with additional objections and counters. Again Mr. Okamoto tries to redirect the conversation to the sinking of the ship, something Pi will never forget. They converse idly to relieve the tension.
Pi irritably agrees to tell the men “a story that won’t surprise you. That will confirm what you already know. That won’t make you see higher or further or differently...dry, yeastless factuality.” Pi tells them a story without animals. In the second story, there was a French cook, a sailor with a broken leg, and Pi’s mother on the lifeboat. The cook amputates the sailor’s leg, and then when the sailor dies, butchers and eats him. Pi and his mother are aghast. Some time later, after a heated argument, the cook kills Pi’s mother, tossing her head into Pi’s lap. The next day, Pi kills the cook. This is when he turns to God to survive.
Mr. Okamoto points out to Mr. Chiba, in Japanese, the similarities and analogies between Pi’s two stories. They don’t know what to make of it. They press Pi for information about the crew and the actual sinking. Pi is annoyed and speaks scornfully of the crew and the officers. They discuss the technicalities of the shipwreck.
Since both stories have basically the same outcomes, the ship sinks and Pi loses everything, Pi asks the men which story they prefer. The men agree that the story with the animals is the better story. Pi replies, “Thank you. And so it goes with God.” He cries. The men thank Pi and leave commenting that they will try to avoid Richard Parker. “He’s hiding somewhere you’ll never find him,” is Pi’s response.
Pi’s description of the cookies which “are good but they tend to crumble,” could well be Mr. Okamoto’s description of Pi’s story. It is a good story but Okamoto’s perception of reality causes it to crumble. However, each objection the men present is argued against logically by Pi. Yet even with logical support for his story, Pi cautions against being overly reasonable or “you risk throwing out the universe with the bathwater.” This alludes to the saying “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” which warns one not to eliminate everything when it is only part that needs to be disposed of.
Pi’s second story of cannibalism, but no animals has parallels to the first. The zebra and the sailor both have a broken leg and are attacked, scream at first but die silently, and are then eaten. Orange Juice, the orangutan, and Pi’s mother both have two sons, and both are decapitated after a screaming and slapping the assailant. The hyena and the French cook both kill and eat a male (the zebra or sailor) and a female (the orangutan or Pi’s mother). The French castaway also admits to killing and eating a man and a woman. That leaves Richard Parker and Pi. They both kill the animal/person that had killed and eaten the others. The Japanese men assume that Pi has made up the story of the animals because the other story is too unbearable. There is no Richard Parker; Pi is the tiger.
Pi tells Mr. Okamoto that Richard Parker is “hiding somewhere you’ll never find him.” This could mean that the tiger is deep in the jungle, or it could mean that Pi, who admitted to becoming animal-like during his ordeal, has buried his cannibalistic killer side deep inside himself forever. The reader is left to choose which story to believe.
Reason would prompt belief in the second story. Heart would choose the first. Choosing the first story requires faith in the divine and so this story may after all “make you believe in God.” Pi tells Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba that, like them, God prefers the better story.
Mr. Okamoto submits his report explaining that the cause of the sinking of the ship cannot be determined. In an end comment he adds that Mr. Patel’s story is one of tragedy and courage, for no one else has survived at sea “in the company of an adult Bengal tiger.”
In the end, despite using words such as “unreliable,” “speculation,” and “conjecture,” it is apparent that Mr. Okamoto has chosen “the better story.”