Free Study Guide for Life of Pi by Yann Martel Book Summary |
Page | Table of Contents | Next Page
Downloadable / Printable Version
CHAPTER SUMMARIES AND NOTES
Pi scavenges around in the other
manís boat and finds water and a bit of food. Finding that crying has partially
returned his vision, Pi rinses his eyes with seawater repeatedly. In two days
his vision has returned. He sees the gruesome horror of the remains of his ďbrotherĒ
castaway. Pi confesses to using some of the manís flesh for bait, and even eating
some of the dried bits himself. He prays for the manís soul.
It is not unusual that the madness and starvation of being lost at
sea lead to cannibalism. Pi, however stops when he catches a fish. Richard Parker,
true to his name (see Notes Chapter 48), is part of a cannibalism story.
Pi drifts to an island
made only of plants, no soil, just floating plant-mass. It is entirely green,
Piís favorite color and the color of Islam. Pi thinks it is an illusion, but decides
to try stepping out onto it. He smells the vegetation. Stunned, he falls overboard
on the green mass. He examines the tube-like algae. He tastes it. The inside is
salty, but the outside is sugary sweet. Pi continues to break off and eat pieces
of algae. He drags himself to the shade of an algal tree, which smells like a
lote tree but is not. He weeps and praises God.
Richard Parker summons
the strength to go ashore. He stumbles off to the inner part of the island. Pi
is concerned that the tiger will claim the island as its territory so he returns
to the lifeboat after a day of eating and resting. Richard Parker also returns
to the lifeboat, licking his paws. Pi accomplishes defecation for the first time
in a long while.
Pi goes back out on the island to feast the next day.
Richard Parker is reluctant, but eventually follows suit and disappears to the
interior of the island. Pi returns to the lifeboat. Soon he sees Richard Parker
charging toward the boat. Pi blows his whistle to stop the tiger. Richard Parker
stops, but jumps about uncomfortably. Pi holds the tiger at bay by whistling,
but the tiger becomes so agitated it jumps into the water, swims to its side of
the lifeboat and boards.
The next day Pi practices walking and eats more
algae. Richard Parker disappears into the island vegetation. Pi and Richard Parker
are regaining their strength. Richard Parker returns to the boat again that evening.
The following morning, after the tiger departs, Pi goes out to explore the island.
There are ponds, trees, and hundreds of thousands of meerkats. Pi joins the meerkats
which are huddled around a pond. Suddenly, the meerkats dive into a pond and swim
back out with many large dead fish. Pi examines a pond and finds it has cool fresh
water. He soaks in it. Soon Richard Parker appears, killing and eating meerkats
left and right. The meerkats know nothing of predators so they accept their deaths
Pi cleans out the lifeboat and he and Richard Parker spend several
more days on the island, returning to the boat at night. In Richard Parkerís absence
Pi explores the island. He finds it uniform throughout and six or seven miles
across, for a circumference of about twenty miles. He makes many other scientific
observations of the algae.
All the while Pi and Richard Parker are getting
stronger and healthier. Pi feels the tiger may be looking for a mate and may become
threatening so he decides to resume training. He teaches the tiger three jumping
through a hoop tricks, but is unable to perfect jumping through a rolling hoop.
Pi leaves the lifeboat and decides to sleep in a tree. At nightfall thousands
of meerkats noisily climb up the tree, surrounding Pi. He awakens in the morning
covered with furry meerkats that leave the tree and go back to the ponds. Pi brings
provisions from the lifeboat and continues to sleep in the tree, with the meerkats,
every night. One night, the meerkats shriek as dead fish once again appear in
the ponds. No meerkats leave the trees. In the morning, Pi discovers that the
fish are gone.
Later, Pi explores deeper into the forest. He finds a tree
that appears to have fruit. The fruits are actually bundles of leaves and as Pi
unwraps them he finds a human tooth in each. He thinks the island may be carnivorous.
To test this he drops a meerkat from the tree where he sleeps. The animal quickly
climbs back up, licking its paws. Pi gingerly steps onto the ground. His feet
burn uncontrollably and he too climbs back up, tending his feet. Pi reasons that
somehow the surface of the island exudes acid at night and digests anything in
contact with it. He decides, sadly, that he must leave the island.
He takes water, skinned meerkats, and dead fish. He takes algae, but it dissolves
in its own acid at night. He cannot leave Richard Parker to die, so Pi waits for
the tigerís return and is once again lost at sea.
The island is green. Not only is it the color recommended by the survival manual
as a color to watch for, but it is the color of Islam. The Qurían says that the
inhabitants of paradise will wear fine green silk garments. Also, Muhammad, the
Prophet and founder of Islam, is said to have worn green or carried a green banner.
The reference to the lote tree is also a Muslim reference. Since lote tress are
commonly used as boundary markers or fencing, they are symbolic of the spiritual
experience of Muhammadís ascension, where he crosses the border of the domain
of God. Perhaps the island is the Garden of Eden and Pi has crossed the border.
Pi literally and figuratively purges himself of corruption by defecating
and by cleaning out the lifeboat. He is ready for a new life.
there are hints that the island is troublesome. Richard Parker and the meerkats
cannot stay on the islandís surface at night. The animals must tend to wounded
paws if they try. Fish emerge dead from the ponds. Pi does not understand these
things at first.
The island offers only temporary salvation. On the island,
science and religion are not intermingled. Science offers Pi respite in the absence
of faith. When Richard Parker (representing faith or spiritual salvation) is away,
Pi conducts scientific tests and makes observations about the island ecosystem.
He calculates the circumference of the island after estimating its diameter. Pi
uses pi. When Richard Parker is there, Pi trains him to do hoop tricks as if the
tiger (faith) is something to play or experiment with rather than something necessary
When Pi comes upon the tree that appears to have fruit,
the Garden of Eden symbolism is confirmed. In Eden there were many trees, including
the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (i.e. the Tree
of Death). Like Adam and Eve in the Garden, Pi had plenty to eat and could have
chosen faith over the physical desire for fruit. The fruit was black, on twisted
branches, and out of reach, but Pi didnít take the hint. His innocence is shattered.
He kills and skins the meek meerkats, acquires water and leaves the island.
He does not leave, however, without his spiritual companion, Richard Parker. He
symbolically leaves pure logic behind and takes back his faith.
island is an even further stretch of the readerís imagination than the French
castaway. Pi loses the piece of algae that could have been physical evidence for
the existence of the island, but has the remains of small mammals evidencing the
meerkats. Martel is drawing the reader into the deepest frontier of the ďbetter
| Table of Contents | Next Page
Downloadable / Printable Version
Life of Pi Study Guide Free BookNotes Plot Summary