HomeLiterature Study GuidesLife Of PiPart 2 Chapters 6369 Summary

Life of Pi | Study Guide

Yann Martel

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Life of Pi | Part 2, Chapters 63–69 : The Pacific Ocean | Summary

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Summary

Part 2, Chapter 63

Pi tells the reader of other castaways who survived long periods at sea. He himself survives 227 days, over seven months—longer than any other castaway he mentions. Keeping busy helps. Pi's daily ritual on the lifeboat includes prayers; inspecting the lifeboat, raft, and food stores; resting; fishing; and observing Richard Parker.

Despite "the emptiness of time," Pi always has something to do. Accommodating Richard Parker requires constant vigilance, for instance. One thing he stops doing is looking for a rescue ship. He also stops counting days, weeks, and months. His memories, later, are mostly "events and encounters and routines."

Part 2, Chapter 64

Pi describes his physical transformation on the lifeboat. His clothes wear away, and painful boils appear on his body.

Part 2, Chapter 65

Pi tries and fails to learn to navigate from the survival manual, so he simply drifts. "Time became distance," he says. He'll learn later he traveled a narrow route.

Part 2, Chapter 66

Over time Pi becomes a better hunter and fisher. He loses his anxiety about killing and pays attention to the habits of fish. His body begins to glitter from fish scales. Turtles are easy to catch, and he captures and butchers many. He "[descends] to a level of savagery" he never imagined before. Trying to keep his soul intact, he compares the fish scales covering him to the "symbols of the divine" that mark the bodies of Hindus.

Part 2, Chapter 67

Sea life accumulates on the underside of Pi's raft. He spends hours observing the plants and small animals under the raft, which move about in peace.

Part 2, Chapter 68

Pi grows accustomed to sleeping for only an hour at a time. "Apprehension and anxiety" wake him constantly. Richard Parker naps frequently, and Pi gets to know the tiger's sleeping habits.

Part 2, Chapter 69

When Pi sees lights in the distance he thinks are ships, he sends off rocket flares. But he knows he won't be safe until he reaches land. The flares smell like cumin, reminding him of Pondicherry.

Analysis

The chapters in the middle of Part 2 are brief. Pi, aware of his audience, says "my memories come in a jumble," and he remembers sensations and patterns more clearly than specific days and nights. He only survives because he "[make]s a point of forgetting" how time is kept in the human world.

Pi wants to feel his life is working and sustaining him, so he keeps a schedule. The schedule signifies the importance of prayers and routine. He's a creature of habit, much like the animals in the zoo. He's his own zookeeper, tending his enclosure and keeping his enemy at a good flight distance. He and Richard Parker develop a strange, friendly, and antagonistic relationship. Richard Parker keeps Pi alive, but Pi knows the tiger will eat him if given the chance.

Clothing was a marker of social status and cultural identification. When Pi loses his clothing, he's losing part of who he is. His self is changing; he's becoming more animal than human. The goal of going somewhere and getting there on time, keeping to a structure, becomes irrelevant.

Pi compares the saltwater boils on his skin to a "leprosy of the high seas." The image of leprosy, a disfiguring illness, again reinforces the idea of water as a destructive force. Even as drinkable water refreshes Pi and gives him life, salt water tries to erode his body.

Pi knows distance matters as much as time does to our human lives. He was taken aback by Canada's distance from India when the family decided to emigrate. Now distance doesn't matter. Every point is equally far away. For this reason Pi doesn't try to navigate by the stars, like other castaways. He realizes in some ways the natural world is beyond understanding. When he refers to time as distance "in the way it is for all mortals," he references something he's understanding more and more—his proximity to death.

Food means many things to Pi: sustenance, life, culture, aggression, authority, and territoriality. Though he hasn't killed a human or led (yet) to a human's death, his belief in the sacredness of life may be evolving with his hunger. When he considers his descent into "savagery" in Part 2, Chapter 66 he refers to his fight for survival.

Pi examines his own position, or absence, in the many ecosystems in the world. He still appreciates the lower life forms—algae, shrimp, worms, crabs—as sacred, but now they're both distraction and food. Still he notices their community and the way they belong, "an upside-down town" where the residents move around with the "sweet civility of angels." Pi detects community everywhere, including between himself and Richard Parker. Intimate physical details, like the tiger's preferred position when he sleeps, show Pi getting closer to Richard Parker and getting to know his habits.

In Part 2, Chapter 69 Pi imagines himself in the center of a circle, as he did in Part 1, Chapter 20. The circle, which the mathematical pi helps scientists understand, connects the human Pi to the larger world. Can he achieve this bond adrift in the Pacific? He makes a small connection as he associates the smell of cumin with home, food, heritage, and now rocket flares.

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