Course Hero. "Life of Pi Study Guide." Course Hero. 12 Dec. 2016. Web. 29 May 2023. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Life-of-Pi/>.
Course Hero. (2016, December 12). Life of Pi Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved May 29, 2023, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Life-of-Pi/
(Course Hero, 2016)
Course Hero. "Life of Pi Study Guide." December 12, 2016. Accessed May 29, 2023. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Life-of-Pi/.
Course Hero, "Life of Pi Study Guide," December 12, 2016, accessed May 29, 2023, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Life-of-Pi/.
Pi's second night at sea is one of the nights he suffers the most. Though the sunset is extraordinarily beautiful, he fears the sharks circling the lifeboat. Orange Juice doesn't recognize him. Then worst of all the hungry hyena eats the zebra alive. Orange Juice roars at the hyena, and Pi is shocked by this aggressiveness from the orangutan. Later in the night Pi realizes his brother, father, and mother are most likely dead. He compares his mother to the sun, a life-giving force, and thinks that Ravi was a potential lifelong companion while Mr. Patel was Pi's foundation. He weeps.
When Pi wakes, to his astonishment, the zebra is still clinging to life, but it is dead by noon. He's sure Orange Juice will be next. Instead, however, the orangutan thumps the hyena on the head as it makes a lunge at her. Orange Juice's self-defense surprises and warms Pi, but not for long. The hyena then kills and beheads her.
Now Pi is certain he's next to die. He glances below the tarpaulin and sees Richard Parker's head, confirming the tiger has been aboard the entire time. Pi collapses from fright.
Pi explains the story of Richard Parker's human name. A hunter in Bangladesh, hired to kill a panther that had been terrorizing humans, found a tiger and her cub. The hunter's name was Richard Parker. While the cub ran to the river to drink, the hunter immobilized the adult tiger. Both tigers were sent to the Pondicherry Zoo. The hunter named the cub Thirsty, but a shipping clerk switched the hunter's name and the cub's name by accident.
At first nights in the lifeboat are hopeless and days are more hopeful. Later Pi will feel the opposite way, agonizing over his situation by day and accepting it at night.
Pi's journey is spiritual just as much as it is physical, complete with spiritual pain. He is confounded by the lack of purpose for evil. There's "no order" to how the hyena eats the zebra, which is "appealing to heaven" with no luck. What's more, Pi realizes he has lost his family and community. He'll have to find a new community with his animal companions.
The animals are expanding the boundaries of what Pi knows is possible. Orange Juice displays an uncanny courage in standing up to the hyena. She may be protecting Pi, though he's not sure; he compares her to a "simian Christ on the Cross." The animals are acting like humans, and the ecosystem on the lifeboat is falling apart. Richard Parker represents a bigger danger than just a tiger—he represents every large force working against Pi's survival.
Like Pi, Richard Parker has an origin story behind his name; the tiger's first encounter with humans was a kind of rebirth and transformation. And like Pi, Richard Parker has lost his mother in an event that changed his life. The tiger becomes anthropomorphized (taking on characteristics of a human) with a pedestrian, generically Western human name. Just as Orange Juice's name denotes a human affection for her, Richard Parker's name reduces some of Pi's fear.
The tiger's original name, Thirsty, reinforces the symbol of water and the idea of thirst. He's not the only character affected by mix-ups and confusion. Mix-ups abound in the book: for instance, Pi's Auntieji thinks Hare Krishnas are "Hairless Christians." Pi records such errors out of a keen sense of the world's irrationality and absurdity.