There is a tremendous storm with huge waves that threaten to sink the lifeboat. Pi decides to take his chances with Richard Parker rather than with the sea, so he climbs under the tarpaulin and closes it over the boat. He holds on to the tarpaulin rope and the bow bench to keep from being thrown onto Richard Parker as the boat tosses in the storm. At night the sky clears. Pi is soaked and bruised. The raft is gone. Most of the food has washed overboard, but the bags of water in the locker are unbroken. Pi unhooks the tarpaulin, and soon after daylight, Richard Parker emerges. Pi mends the tarpaulin and bails the boat as the tiger looks on disinterested. He finds one last orange whistle.
Pi is distraught. When he closes himself into the lifeboat with the tiger he is choosing his mode of death - by animal rather than by water. He has lost hope for survival. But at the end of the chapter, the sun is out and Pi finds some hope in the last whistle, a whistle that helps him hold his dominance over Richard Parker.
A whale swims by the lifeboat. Pi imagines the whales communicating his predicament all through the ocean, seeking help. Unfortunately they are harpooned. Dolphins swim by as well and, though he tries, Pi is unable to catch one on his gaff. There are birds which Pi hopes are a sign there is land close by. He catches one, breaks its neck and eats every organ. He tosses the skin, bones and feathers to Richard Parker. “None of the birds ever announced land.”
Pi falls to anthropomorphizing again as the whales converse about him in his imagination. It is indicative of his starving condition that Pi could, at the same time, consider the killing of whales a “heinous crime,” yet attempt to gaff a dolphin. He refers to the albatross as “supernatural” perhaps referring to Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner where the Mariner frees himself of the curse from killing the albatross when he regains his ability to pray. The birds’ ability to announce land comes from the Bible story of the great Flood when Noah sends out a dove, and the dove returns with an olive leaf indicating there is dry land.
Pi is awestruck by a spectacular lightning storm. He tries to share his wonder with Richard Parker, but the tiger is trembling with fright. Pi describes the light as overwhelming and penetrating and he is not afraid. He praises Allah (Muslim word for God) and tries to get Richard Parker to share his joy. Pi is happy.
Occurrences such as this are what keep Pi going. As he described earlier, he gleans happiness from any source he can. This is a moment of divine wonder for Pi. He praises God and is happy.
Pi sees a ship! With uncontrollable happiness Pi envisions his family safe in Canada where he will join them. He is amazed at the size of the tanker as it approaches, and then realizes in horror that it is about the hit the lifeboat. Rowing frantically, Pi maneuvers the lifeboat slightly so the tanker misses it by less than two feet. He fires a flare that hits the side of the ship. The ship passes by, noisily. Pi is unable to get anyone’s attention. Richard Parker seems to be aware that something important has happened, but is more concerned with resuming his nap. Pi bursts out with professions of love for Richard Parker, his only companion, and promises to get the tiger to land.
This is the event presaged by Pi in Chapter 69. A ship has cut into his tiny circle, but did not see him. Pi is over having to constantly assert his position as super-alpha male. He sees Richard Parker as his companion and his salvation.
Cite this page:
Cassie, Donna L.. "TheBestNotes on Life of Pi".
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