Course Hero. "Life of Pi Study Guide." Course Hero. 12 Dec. 2016. Web. 3 June 2023. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Life-of-Pi/>.
Course Hero. (2016, December 12). Life of Pi Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved June 3, 2023, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Life-of-Pi/
(Course Hero, 2016)
Course Hero. "Life of Pi Study Guide." December 12, 2016. Accessed June 3, 2023. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Life-of-Pi/.
Course Hero, "Life of Pi Study Guide," December 12, 2016, accessed June 3, 2023, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Life-of-Pi/.
As Part 3 begins the visiting writer introduces Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba. They are the officials in the Japanese Ministry of Transport who were informed of Pi's arrival as the single survivor of the Tsimtsum. The officials plan to drive from California to Tomatlán, Mexico, to meet Pi. But Mr. Okamoto misreads the map and mistakenly drives to Tomat, a California town.
The officials take 41 hours to travel to Tomatlán. Their car breaks down twice, and they're exhausted when they arrive. The visiting writer explains he's about to share the transcript from Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba's three-hour interview with Pi Patel. He'll print portions in a different font to indicate spoken Japanese.
Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chibu introduce themselves to Pi. They've seen the lifeboat and agree when Pi says he had a terrible trip. They offer him a cookie.
Part 3, Chapter 97 consists only of the words "The story." The implication is that during the time represented in this chapter Pi relates his tale to his interviewers.
After Pi tells the officials his story, Mr. Okamoto says in Japanese, "He thinks we're fools." Pi requests another cookie, which they give him, despite noticing the cookies he's hoarded in his bedsheets. The officials request a few minutes alone.
Mr. Okamoto tells Pi they don't believe his story. He claims bananas don't float and could not have held up an orangutan; Pi proves them wrong. They also find the algae island impossible to believe. Pi says scientists are constantly making new discoveries.
Mr. Okamoto points out no one has found a trace of the tiger in Mexico, and Pi couldn't have survived in a lifeboat with one. Pi describes animals' innate fear of humans and the many escaped wild animals who are hiding in cities such as Tokyo. When the officials insist he's lying, Pi becomes angry and says both love and life are hard to believe. He also defends the existence of the blind Frenchman and the presence of meerkat bones in the lifeboat.
The officials request the story of what really happened. Pi thinks they want a story "that will confirm what [they] already know." So Pi tells his new version. The ship sank, and he landed on a lifeboat with three other people—his mother, a cook, and a young sailor with a broken leg. The cook amputates the sailor's leg, saying the amputation will save his life. But the cook wants to use the leg for bait. Pi's mother accuses the cook of gorging on their available supplies. The sailor dies, and as Pi and his mother look on in horror, the cook eats the sailor's body.
Pi and his mother retreat to one end of the lifeboat, and the cook takes the other. They sail for days, eating the raw fish and turtles the cook catches from the sea. Despite himself Pi starts to feel a tenderness toward the cook. Then the cook kills Pi's mother in a scuffle over a sea turtle. Pi watches from the raft. The next morning Pi fights with the cook, kills him, and then eats his flesh.
Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba discuss the story privately. They notice the people in the second version parallel the animals in the first—the orangutan is Pi's mother, the zebra is the sailor, the cook is the hyena, and Pi is the tiger. Mr. Okamoto asks Pi if the cook mentions a mechanical or structural failure or foreign object as the cause of the Tsimtsum's wreck. Pi says he did not. Pi can't think of anything that caused the Tsimtsum to sink. He answers the officials' specific questions about the shipwreck as briefly as he can, noting the "third-rate" nature of the ship and its crew.
The officials realize they'll never know what really happened with the Tsimtsum. As they prepare to leave, Pi tells them he's given two stories to explain his survival and neither can be proven. He asks which is the better story. The officials agree on the story with animals. Pi responds, "And so it goes with God."
The visiting writer shares Mr. Okamoto's official report on the Tsimtsum's wreck. Mr. Okamoto poses some theories of the wreck's cause in his report but concludes the cause is impossible to determine. He adds Pi's survival is "an astounding story of courage and endurance," a story that stands alone in the history of shipwrecks. Finally Mr. Okamoto mentions Pi crossed the sea with a tiger.
Part 3 functions as a postscript to the novel and provides a twist ending. The characters of Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba will cast Pi's entire story into doubt. They are credible witnesses—intelligent, thoughtful men in the Ministry of Transport. Their reaction to Pi's castaway narrative will inform the reader's perception. To add to the confusion, the officials go on an unexpected journey of their own, having misread the map. This detail shows even humans with the best of intentions are fallible.
Martel adds to the authentic feel of the story by providing a facsimile of a taped transcript. For instance, Mr. Okamoto records the date and case file number in the transcript.
The reader may not have expected an incredulous reaction from officials to Pi's story. Pi is now reintegrating into the human world, but he's been changed permanently. Those who haven't been with Pi during the shipwreck and journey, as the reader has, won't understand his motivations.
Part 3, Chapter 99 upends the entire narrative. A reader tends to trust a narrator, even an unreliable one. When Martel introduces new narrators to the mix, the reader has new perspectives to consider. Maybe events didn't unfold the way Pi says they did. Maybe Richard Parker, who can't be found anywhere in the Mexican jungle, didn't survive or exist. Pi admitted to hallucinations, dreams, and less-than-reliable recording of facts. Did he invent the entire story he told the visiting writer? And if he did, what really happened?
But Pi has a counterargument for both the reader and the skeptical officials. "What do you do when you're in the dark?" he says when the officials say people believe what they see. He knows animals better than anyone else in the room because of his background, and he backs up his explanation for the missing tiger with facts and examples.
When so much else has been taken from him, Pi grows angry at the officials who try to take his story from him, too. Inventing, he feels, is different than lying. He doesn't intend to deceive, but he feels his listeners are arrogant in their reliance on facts they already know. Even scientists must constantly stretch the boundaries of what they believe. Why shouldn't everyone else? Why shouldn't a story teach its reader something new?
He complicates the matter by having the officials choose between his first story and his second. As he points out, there's no practical difference. Neither story will provide adequate answers to the officials' questions or change Pi's situation. The second story, however, is in many ways more tragic; it shows man's inhumanity to man. It involves Mrs. Patel being killed right in front of her son, and Pi killing the cook himself. His summary lacks the first story's small triumphs, magic, beautiful sights at sea, courage, prayers, and bonding with Richard Parker. In the second story Pi learns nothing new except how cruel people can be.
The officials realize slowly if they choose the story with animals, they're choosing to let Pi have a story full of dignity, hope, and optimism—even if it's more far-fetched and fantastic.
Martel also uses this chapter to comment on the nature of reading fiction. He's writing a novel that passes itself off as an autobiography, and which includes a thinly fictionalized version of himself as a character. He's already playing with narrative form. He implies any story someone tells—whether it is an autobiographical recounting of facts or a whimsical novel with fantastic characters—becomes fiction, an invention, through the retelling.
Martel concludes the book with another official-seeming document, the report to the Ministry of Transport. Mr. Okamoto's voice is the last voice the reader hears, and it is a hopeful one. He did select the "better story" and is willing to back it up in his report.
The last paragraph gives Pi what he wanted: full credit for his story and validation of his suffering. It also acknowledges the existence of Richard Parker. Mr. Okamoto's reference to Pi's "impressionistic and unreliable" descriptions of the weather indicates he may not fully believe everything Pi says. However, he's electing to choose the Story (with a capital S) representing the larger, moral truths of Pi's journey.