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Literature Study GuidesLife Of PiPart 2 Chapters 57 60 Summary

Life of Pi

Yann Martel

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Life of Pi | Part 2, Chapters 57–60 : The Pacific Ocean | Summary



Part 2, Chapter 57

Richard Parker observes Pi from the boat. The tiger snorts through his nostrils, a call known as prusten expressing "friendliness and harmless intentions." Pi has never heard this sound from a tiger before; he realizes he needs to tame Richard Parker. Pi also confesses that Richard Parker's companionship gives him a hopeful distraction and keeps him alive during his ordeal. Pi takes a whistle from a life jacket and imitates a lion tamer in the circus ring. He blows the whistle, inspiring fear in Richard Parker. Pi settles on a new plan: to keep the tiger alive.

Part 2, Chapter 58

After reading the detailed survival manual in the lifeboat, Pi thinks of the many things he needs to do, like improve his raft, fish for food, find a way to shelter himself from the weather, and develop a training program for Richard Parker. Overwhelmed and lonely, he weeps.

Part 2, Chapter 59

Pi notices the raft is acting as a sea anchor to the lifeboat, keeping the boat from steering into the wind. He observes Richard Parker's territory under the tarpaulin, evidently sprayed with his urine, and thinks of how he'll establish his own territory. Pi busies himself with tasks, including fixing his life raft and setting up solar stills to collect and purify evaporated water. As the sun sets Pi notices the diversity and patterns of marine life in the sea that most sea craft pass too quickly to observe.

Part 2, Chapter 60

Pi wakes during the night. The sea is black and silver, and stars shine in a dark sky. Pi feels "half-moved, half-terrified." The night shows him how grand the setting of his suffering is and makes him feel insignificant.


Despair will take Pi's soul, not just his life. He decides despair is a worse foe than a tiger. At this point in the journey Pi starts, both by decision and default, to see Richard Parker as a companion and not an obstacle. This way of seeing leads Pi to thank Richard Parker years later. The tiger's use of prusten gives Pi hope they can have a mutually beneficial relationship. Tigers, as he describes, can communicate in diverse ways, just like humans can.

Official-sounding lists like those in Part 2, Chapter 58 are a trick of autofiction. The survival manual writer is another voice adding to Pi's story. Pi, turning into an adult well before he's ready, knows he needs self-determination: "survival had to start with me." He's a contemplative castaway, mirroring the stories of other castaways before him who survived the impossible.

Once Pi understands what he must do for survival, he sets about doing those tasks. His explanations of exactly how he survived increase his credibility to readers. The tension of whether he can get drinking water goes on for two or three pages, as if proceeding in "real time."

Pi contrasts the real trouble of survival with the beauty he sees underwater in Part 2, Chapter 60. The undersea civilizations enhance his respect for all sentient life, which he shows with his sorrow at flies and cockroaches leaving the lifeboat. The extended metaphor of the sea as a city reinforces how the animal world is like the human world in many ways.

Despite his upbringing as a zookeeper's son, Pi has grown up in the human world. When he compares the sea to a city, he's consoling himself by finding a parallel to his familiar world in this unfamiliar one—anthropomorphizing, or giving animals human tendencies, again. He shows a similar instinct to anthropomorphize when he uses human names and gendered pronouns for Richard Parker and Orange Juice. He feels closer to these companions if he sees them as partially human.

Light is significant in the novel: it brings clarity. When the light of the sun isn't shining on him, Pi feels less self-aware and less important and can place his suffering in perspective. He turns to Hindu legends and Muslim prayer. With the physical world hidden, he feels relieved of the need to "fit anywhere." Day brings illumination. In the day he feels he "can't help but mix my life with that of the universe."

Does one person's life and suffering matter? How much of an effect can one person have on the natural world? Pi will ask these questions implicitly throughout the novel.

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