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Literature Study GuidesLife Of PiPart 2 Chapters 49 52 Summary

Life of Pi

Yann Martel

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Life of Pi | Part 2, Chapters 49–52 : The Pacific Ocean | Summary



Part 2, Chapter 49

Convinced he can't possibly survive, Pi suddenly feels relieved. He wants to find his most immediate need—fresh water—on the boat, but he's afraid to move and invite Richard Parker's aggression. Pi moves slowly and carefully. He thinks the hyena's reluctance to kill the zebra, and to kill Pi, came from fear of Richard Parker, the greater beast. Pi owes his life to Richard Parker. He's curious why the tiger has been passive for so long.

Part 2, Chapter 50

Pi examines the lifeboat. He notes its length, width, and depth, both outside and inside. Most of the equipment, including tarpaulins and life jackets, are orange. He mentions he noticed all the nuances of the lifeboat's equipment gradually as they became essential to save his life.

Part 2, Chapter 51

Pi can't find the supplies that must be on the lifeboat somewhere. To search further he'll have to intrude on Richard Parker's den. Thirst drives him to open the tarpaulin, where he sees the tiger and thinks, "God preserve me!" He manages to move part of a bench to block off the tiger's lair.

In the locker under the tarpaulin he finds cans of drinking water and drinks greedily. Thirst sated, Pi looks for food and finds emergency rations of biscuits. He calculates he has food rations to last 93 days and water to last 124 days. He's grateful.

Part 2, Chapter 52

Pi lists all the items on the lifeboat. They include rocket flares, solar stills, vomit bags, life jackets with whistles, a hunting knife, a notebook, one Bengal tiger, and one God. Relieved, Pi sleeps through the night.


"Incredible that such a thing should need consent to be true," Pi says of Richard Parker's presence. This thought reflects the relativity of truth for Pi. He needs to agree the tiger is in the lifeboat for it to be there; the tiger's objective presence isn't enough. Besides, humans are the recorders of stories, and Pi is the only human on the lifeboat. He can make up whatever he wants.

The reader may wonder whether Pi even trusts his own version of events. Repeatedly during Part 2, Pi admits he is addled by hunger, thirst, shock, and exhaustion, especially in the early days on the lifeboat. Is he embellishing or making up details? Is he a reliable narrator? His reference to the "divining rod in my mind" implies the strong power of imagination.

The lifeboat is a symbol of life, so Pi's inventory and exploration of its contents takes on life-or-death urgency. "Orange, such a nice Hindu colour, is the colour of survival," he says when he notices the boat's color theme. The word Tsimtsum is on the bow. Tsimtsum is a Hebrew Kabbalist term expressing "divine presence and absence" in the world; the divine is concealed from human view. On Pi's new Tsimtsum, he feels God's concealment and silence.

Pi begins to sense the constant presence of danger as he must invade Richard Parker's territory for the first time. His instinctual "God preserve me!" shows the significance of prayer. Indeed, Pi often uses the language of divinity to express his feelings. Water brings him "back to life from the dead," showing divine healing. Drinking becomes a religious, symbolic ritual, the "wine of life," like eating bread with Mr. Kumar the baker or taking communion.

Lists and facts comfort Pi. The reader learns the practical nuts and bolts of his journey as part of their immersion in the tale. Survival narratives and sea stories often give this intricate level of detail; objects take on more weight in isolation. Moby-Dick, another story that takes place at sea, is famous for its explanations on whale anatomy—similar to Pi's detailed observations of the animals he encounters. Pi is listing his objects for another reason. He wants to feel they are all there for a purpose; he wants the universe on his side.

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