Course Hero. "Life of Pi Study Guide." Course Hero. 12 Dec. 2016. Web. 8 May 2021. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Life-of-Pi/>.
Course Hero. (2016, December 12). Life of Pi Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved May 8, 2021, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Life-of-Pi/
(Course Hero, 2016)
Course Hero. "Life of Pi Study Guide." December 12, 2016. Accessed May 8, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Life-of-Pi/.
Course Hero, "Life of Pi Study Guide," December 12, 2016, accessed May 8, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Life-of-Pi/.
Pi worries for Richard Parker's health. They are both eating slowly. Pi's eyes begin to sting and ooze with pus, and soon he's temporarily blinded from malnutrition. He knows he will die and feels sad he can no longer care for Richard Parker.
As Pi prays and leaves his death in the hands of God, he hears a voice asking if someone's there. Certain he's hallucinating, Pi answers. He and the voice begin to talk about their favorite foods. While Pi describes vegetarian food, the voice fantasizes about meat in many forms, including calf's brains and beef tongue. Pi thinks the voice must be the carnivorous Richard Parker. He asks the voice if he's ever killed a man—the voice replies he's killed a man and a woman to preserve his own life.
Then Pi notices an accent belonging to a Frenchman, who is also blind. The two castaways compare items they've eaten in starvation. They meet and embrace. Pi hears Richard Parker stirring, and the blind Frenchman moves to kill Pi and eat him. Instead, Richard Parker kills the Frenchman. Pi grieves, though he knows his own life has been saved.
Pi raids the Frenchman's boat for supplies and finds food; his vision returns. Seeing the dead body of the Frenchman on the lifeboat, Pi reluctantly uses his arm for bait. He even eats part of the dead man's flesh. Yet each day Pi prays for the Frenchman's soul.
Pi warns readers they may disbelieve the story he's about to tell. At sea he comes upon an island—a forest of brilliant green trees. An ecstatic Pi brings the boat to land. He eats some of the algae covering the island and drinks fresh water. He explores the trees, praising Allah for the newfound discovery. But he worries Richard Parker's behavior may change with the new territory.
Pi learns to walk again, and uses the whistle to keep Richard Parker at bay when the tiger attacks. Slowly Pi explores the island. He encounters a huge population of meek and curious meerkats who behave unusually—for instance, the meerkats bring dead fish ashore. Pi slowly returns to health but still can't figure out the island's "stripped-down ecology." Richard Parker adapts to a new setting, and Pi retrains him with a hoop to keep his own alpha status.
One night Pi decides to sleep in a tree. He's surprised when the meerkats scurry up the trees at night and surround him. They're fleeing something, but he doesn't know what. In the morning he notices dead fish all over the island.
Sometime later Pi discovers a tree growing green fruit. He takes a piece of fruit and peels it only to discover the fruit is leaves wrapped around a human tooth. Pi unwraps more teeth. He realizes—to his horror—the island is carnivorous and is killing the fish. The ground burns Pi's own feet when he climbs down. The teeth show a human died on the island, too, and the teeth are the human's only remains.
Pi is reluctant to go back to the ocean, but he knows he must. The next morning he leaves in the lifeboat with Richard Parker.
Experiencing nothing but "grief, ache, and endurance," Pi elevates his thoughts to think of the divine. The lower he is, he says, the higher his mind will soar.
After a challenging landing, Pi reaches Mexico. He's weak and has trouble getting off the boat. Richard Parker jumps over Pi to reach land and walks away without looking back, leaving Pi forever. A group of humans finds Pi and carries him away.
Pi weeps, distraught because of Richard Parker's unceremonious disappearance. He wishes he could have told Richard Parker good-bye and thanked him for saving his life. Locals take care of Pi and feed him. The next day a police car brings him to a hospital. Pi thanks everyone who cared for him upon his return and helped him put his life back together.
Blindness means Pi doesn't see a light at his death, as he had speculated in Part 1, Chapter 22; instead, he hears a voice. Is the Frenchman real? Is he a projection of Pi's own desperation and moral questions? Does it matter, as long as Pi opens himself up, as he invites readers, to believe the better story?
The Frenchman, who brags about eating every part of an animal, is exactly who Pi doesn't want to become and fears he has become. He's also a vehicle for Pi to evaluate his relationship with Richard Parker, his "need expressed in all its amoral simplicity." The "vulgar curiosity" Pi confesses to means he's interested in what Richard Parker represents about human nature (as is Martel).
Does Pi take pride in distinguishing himself from the Frenchman since he hasn't killed or eaten a human? In Pi's second lifeboat story to the officials, the cook will mirror the Frenchman in killing "the man first, the woman second." Pi himself will kill and eat the cook, proving he, too, can change his morals under stress.
The tension is undercut by the wit and comedy in the dialogue, including a brief rhyming exchange. Martel experiments in form throughout the novel, including the theatrical absurdity of this scene. It takes a dark and possibly unexpected turn toward the end with the Frenchman's death. Pi's link to humanity, his belief in religion to make him a better person no matter what happens, may be the dead element inside of him. But one thing he knows for sure—Richard Parker is on his side.
Part 2, Chapter 91 is a confession to both the reader and the visiting writer. Pi lapses into a confessional mode throughout the book, revealing secrets about himself. He's committed to telling the whole story as he sees it, including details that reflect poorly on him. Anticipating the reader's alarmed reaction to his deeds, he apologizes defensively: "my suffering was unremitting and he was already dead."
But because of Pi's belief in the relativity of truth, he's more dedicated to confessing the truth of his own nature than to relating factual events. He, too, is a human animal who will cannibalize to survive. By referring to the Frenchman as his "brother," Pi shows he still feels a connection to and compassion for all living things.
Martel said his goal in Life of Pi was to make the story progressively less believable. The island Pi reaches in Part 2, Chapter 92 could be a result of Pi's starving hallucinations. Pi admits the biological world, as he understands it, could not have created such an island. The reader who hasn't doubted Pi so far may doubt him now.
The island is also an allusion to the "argument from design," a philosophical argument for the existence of God. The theory holds that the world has been too perfectly designed not to be created, just the way a watch can't make itself. The island, though, is baffling and seems to be a failure of design. Martel says the design argument itself, like the island, is beautiful but doesn't stand up to logic. It's a place of protection and shelter, like the Tsimtsum—inexplicable, holy, but ultimately dangerous.
Pi's compromised state means he's "getting used to the mental delusion" of living in what might be a dream. At the same time his senses are coming back to him; the ability to walk and relieve himself, the sensation of tasting sweet things, and the ability to see and appreciate colors. Richard Parker also heals, becoming a "magnificent animal bursting over the ridge at full gallop." As he heals he becomes more of a threat to Pi.
At this point Pi's learned enough about himself to know he wants more than simple survival. He won't stay trapped on the island just so he can live in comfort. And he is comfortable—he even survives a storm. But he sees the island for the illusion it is. He also wants to protect Richard Parker from harm, so in a way he makes a sacrifice by leaving.
It's unclear how much time elapses in Part 2, Chapter 93. Pi has no more events to bear witness to, so he ends his shipwreck story on a slightly optimistic note. He found a worldview that helped him survive.
When Pi reaches inhabited land at last, the reader may be surprised at the depth of his sadness over the departure of Richard Parker. How else would this zookeeper's son expect an animal to act? Does he feel Richard Parker should have bonded to him more as a caretaker? Or is he simply overwhelmed?
Clearly the tiger has come to mean much more than a tiger to Pi. As Richard Parker walks away, Pi nearly feels God has left him. His reaction, confused and bereft, is not unusual for a survivor of trauma. His narrative of the good-bye he would have said to Richard Parker is a testament to the power of words. Pi knows Richard Parker will never hear or understand his long good-bye, but saying the words is a healing act.