Literature Study GuidesLife Of PiPart 2 Chapters 83 89 Summary

Life of Pi

Yann Martel

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Life of Pi | Part 2, Chapters 83–89 : The Pacific Ocean | Summary



Part 2, Chapter 83

One cloudy afternoon the sea swells rise to heights Pi has never seen before. The sea anchors barely keep the lifeboat afloat. Soaked, Pi takes cover. The boat dips up and down until Pi has nearly drowned. After the storm Pi assesses the damage. The raft is gone. He's lost all the whistles but one, which is crucial to his survival.

Part 2, Chapter 84

One day Pi sees a whale close to the lifeboat. He continues to observe whales, dolphins, and a handful of seafaring birds with awe. "None of the birds ever announced land," he thinks.

Part 2, Chapter 85

In a downpour, lightning strikes near the boat. Pi is astounded at the closeness of the lightning, which makes the sky turn white. He's nearly hit. The lightning "thrust me into a state of exalted wonder." He praises the gods he worships.

Part 2, Chapter 86

Pi sees a ship, a large oil tanker, approaching. He cries out to Richard Parker, "We're saved!" Pi begins to imagine Canada and his waiting family. Then he realizes the ship is bearing down on him and will pass without seeing or hearing him. After the ship leaves Pi tells Richard Parker he loves him and he'll never give up getting them to land and safety.

Part 2, Chapter 87

When he wants to escape, Pi wets a rag with sea water and drapes it over his face. He calls the rag his "dream rag" because the oxygen restriction it provides gives him visions, trances, and memories. Pi passes time quickly this way.

Part 2, Chapter 88

The lifeboat runs into some trash, and Pi looks through it for something he can use. He finds an empty wine bottle, and the scent from an abandoned refrigerator disgusts him. Pi writes a message in the bottle explaining his circumstances. He tosses the bottle into the sea.

Part 2, Chapter 89

Everything on the lifeboat is being consumed by sun, weather, and salt. Pi and Richard Parker are perishing, so slowly Pi doesn't always notice. He begins to sleep more. Pi shares the last pages of his diary at sea where he describes losing energy, dealing with changes in weather, and contemplating his approaching death. He runs out of ink after writing "I will die today" in his diary.


The second storm in the book provides great tension. Pi is more prepared for this storm, but not enough. He has maintained meticulous control of his world on the lifeboat up until now. But he's in "God's wide acres" and can't control the weather. The storm is not the first time, nor the last, when Pi is brought to the brink of death and saved at the last minute. The book strains credibility more and more as it proceeds, seeing how far the reader will go to believe "the better story." The incident of the whistle is an example. Pi has mentioned as he was taking stock of the lifeboat that small things will later become the most important things in the world. The last orange whistle, the only weapon he has to control Richard Parker, saves his life in chapters to come.

Pi is writing a travelogue as well as a survival narrative. Most ships travel too fast to see the diversity of undersea life up close. Pi, drifting, discovers a new city and a new ecosystem. When Pi says, "None of the birds ever announced land," it's a reminder he's only visiting the world of the Pacific Ocean. He's still searching for home.

Mostly, Pi says, he suffers. But his emotions are heightened. When he experiences something good, like a caught fish, the experience is transcendent. He believes he's seen miracles, which is why he chooses to see the universe from a moral rather than an intellectual perspective. Intellectually, miracles are hard to believe.

Pi deals again in opposites, like how "everything was either pure white light or pure black shadow," as well as exaggeration, like when Pi claims "ten thousand trumpets and twenty thousand drums" couldn't have made as much noise. While Pi feels he's being pulled out of his mortal ways, Richard Parker reverts to instinctual fear. The two are different, after all. Pi remembers his humanity.

When Pi sights the tanker, for the first time in a long time he pictures a reunion with his family as a possibility. The reader knows his hope is in vain, but Pi's excitement at seeing an ambassador of the human-made world still makes the reader hope, too.

The departure of the ship doesn't make Pi give up, as it might have earlier in his lifeboat journey. Instead, it makes Pi even more grateful for Richard Parker and determined to get them both to land. His words of love are "pure and unfettered, infinite," revealing love as the foundational force of Pi's existence.

The narrative's dreamlike quality is reinforced by Pi's actual dreams, including those he induces with his dream rag. He no longer measures time, and his experiences are becoming more extraordinary. This chapter adds to the book's surreal quality. Is Pi's experience hallucinated or invented? Which parts? The reader again questions the relativity of his truth and the reliability of his narration.

Pi is by now disgusted by the refuse of the human world. He's done many things that would disgust him in his previous life, including eating meat and killing fish. But he's transformed in many ways also.

The message in a bottle that he sends in Part 2, Chapter 88 may seem like a castaway cliché. But it subverts the cliché by never being found—just as none of the birds ever announce land and the tanker departs without seeing the lifeboat. Pi truly must save himself.

Pi is moving into the final, dreamlike stages of his journey. As he approaches death again, the story becomes more unrealistic. He says "daydreams and reality were nearly indistinguishable," which is important for the reader to remember.

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