The lifeboat washes ashore on a Mexican beach. Pi sprawls in the sand and Richard Parker bounds away into the jungle. Pi weeps at the loss of his comrade, saddened that he wasn’t able to say goodbye. Villagers rescue Pi and take him to a hospital, where they clean him up and feed him. He cannot understand their language but realizes he is finally saved.

Analysis

Like the erratic motions of the ocean’s currents, this final section of Pi’s journey contains several unexpected stops and starts. First there is the storm, which Pi feels certain will cause his death. Then, the appearance of the tanker holds the potential for rescue, but ends in hopelessness. Next comes Pi’s dialogue with Richard Parker, which melds into the arrival of the French-accented castaway, whose companionship offers one sort of ending but whose murderous instincts offer a very different sort of ending. The island, too, begins as a beacon of hope, a seemingly healthful oasis that turns out to be dangerous. The real conclusion, when it comes, is sudden and unexpected. Without warning, the lifeboat lands in Mexico, and Pi is saved. The arbitrary nature of this landfall is both convenient to the storyline and emblematic of the changeable nature of the ocean, which has carried them throughout.

As Pi’s situation grows more desperate, his efforts to communicate become increasingly urgent and as frequently thwarted. He waves and shouts to the passing tanker and even tries to fire off a signal flare; all to no avail. The people aboard the ship do not even notice the tiny lifeboat they nearly crush. Later, Pi sends out a message in a bottle, but it is never found. So, desperate to talk, to tell stories, he has a conversation with Richard Parker. When he bumps into another castaway, Pi talks himself hoarse, elated at the company. But, this attempt at communication also ends in disappointment: the death of his new friend. Pi’s journaling, his communion with himself, comes to an end when the pen dries up and he cannot write another word. In Mexico, he is neither able to give Richard Parker a satisfying farewell nor understand the language of his rescuers. Communication fails him at every end.

The odd natural phenomena Pi encounters illustrate his inner struggles. The floating island symbolizes Pi’s own despair. As Pi notes, it would not have killed him immediately had he stayed; rather, it would have eaten away at his soul, deadening his spirit and causing a numbing hopelessness. The carnivorous vegetation represents Pi’s pessimism, his dwindling hope that he will ever be found. To stay on the island would be to give up, to decide to end his days on a man-eating island rather than in civilization. Pi’s choice to leave the island and get back into the ocean is his way of remaining optimistic, however minutely, about his odds of salvation.