Literature Study GuidesLife Of PiPart 2 Chapters 78 82 Summary

Life of Pi | Study Guide

Yann Martel

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Life of Pi | Part 2, Chapters 78–82 : The Pacific Ocean | Summary

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Summary

Part 2, Chapter 78

Pi describes the "many skies" and "many seas" of the Pacific Ocean. The winds, nights, and moons also offer diversity and change. But as a castaway he's trapped in a "harrowing ballet of circles" and caught between unpleasant extremes—light and dark, heat and cold, rain and drought, boredom and terror. Life at sea is less a life than a high-stakes game. Despite the constant despair, small things like a dead fish can make Pi happy.

Part 2, Chapter 79

Pi sees sharks daily and becomes fond of them, even catching a few to eat. The first shark on the boat fights with Richard Parker until the tiger kills the shark. Pi can't get much meat from the large animal and catches smaller sharks in the future.

Part 2, Chapter 80

Although Pi caught many dorados, he remembers one in particular that flopped onto the boat. Starving, Pi prepares to eat it. But Richard Parker is also starving and moves to attack Pi. Though Pi knows Richard Parker is close enough to kill him easily, he stares into the tiger's eyes and holds the gaze for as long as possible. Finally Richard Parker retreats. Pi has established his dominance permanently. He rewards Richard Parker with a few pieces of fish.

Part 2, Chapter 81

Pi knows his survival is hard to believe. He survives in part because he's the source of food and water for a weak Richard Parker.

Part 2, Chapter 82

Pi diligently maintains his solar stills. During rain he fills every bucket available. Despite his work he and Richard Parker barely have enough drinking water. Water is their most pressing need constantly. Even food is secondary. Richard Parker eats more than Pi does, and Pi is dismayed to find himself eating like an animal, as quickly as possible and without discernment.

Analysis

The descriptive, poetic repetition returns in Part 2, Chapter 78. Metaphors suggest many worlds in one. Pi returns to the idea of circles and their irrationality and mysticism. Circles have no end, like the mathematical pi. In fact, he says, "the circles multiply." He's trapped in an infinite-seeming world, knowing his existence is finite. Fortunately, he's learned early in his religious life to be comfortable with opposites and contradictions.

Pi is not shy in depicting the emotional ramifications of subsistence-level existence on human beings. Earlier he cried after killing a fish; now a dead fish makes him rejoice. He doesn't apologize for the depths to which he has stooped, however. He knows they are necessary.

In Pi and Richard Parker's still-evolving relationship, Pi notices for the first time when Richard Parker fights the shark that the tiger isn't perfect, "that despite his honed instincts, he too could bumble." Pi is not as afraid of Richard Parker as he has been. He's feeling more secure and comfortable with predatory animals. Sharks scared him the first time he saw them on the lifeboat. Now he's fond of them.

The final showdown between Pi and Richard Parker in Part 2, Chapter 80 cements their dynamic. The "terrific battle of minds for status and authority" makes Pi the leader. But Pi takes pains to point out he is not extraordinary. He is only saved by his determination to eat. His remark "Isn't that what all survivors say?" suggests Pi knows his story is not unique in its spirit though it may be unique in its details. Nothing is especially amazing about Pi—he's simply fighting for survival, as many people would do, he thinks.

Again Pi wants to establish his story's authenticity. But his ultimate survival will be the only proof that can be independently verified; Richard Parker is never found. Pi feels his lived experience should be proof enough, even without a tiger to show for it. He is claiming story as a way of claiming selfhood.

In Part 2, Chapter 82 readers see water, the life-giving force, as even more significant than food. Water can both give life and take it away. This chapter also describes the final stage in Pi and Richard Parker's relationship. Pi is still the alpha, but now he feels he's more animal than human. The human and the tiger are united in their goal of trying to survive.

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