Pi imagines that the alert has gone out about the sinking of the Tsimtsum and that help is on the way. The hyena whines, but the animals are otherwise quiet. Pi tries to make his spot on the tarpaulin as safe as possible, throwing the net over the middle, but there is almost no barrier between him and the animals. The hyena begins to act strangely, jumping up onto a bench and looking into the water, then racing around the zebra over and over again. Finally the hyena vomits and nestles into a small space just behind the zebra, where it remains for a time. The zebra remains silent.
Daylight begins to fade and Pi contemplates the coming night with horror. In the dark, a rescue ship won’t be able to spot him, and the animals might attack him. Night falls. It is cloudy and there is no moon, so the darkness is complete. Pi hears snarls coming from the hyena and barks from the zebra, as well as “wet mouth sounds.” Still, the animals do not come near him. He hears sounds from under the boat and notes that the animals in the water are also battling for life.
After that first full night in the lifeboat, the sun rises, and Pi’s thoughts turn to rescue and seeing his family again. But when he looks into the lifeboat, he sees an appalling sight: the hyena has bitten off the zebra’s broken leg and is eating it. The zebra is alive, still silent but grinding its teeth.
Pi feels queasy. He sees Orange Juice near the boat’s gunnel, panting with seasickness, and laughs at the orangutan’s humanlike demeanor. She looks out at the water. Upon reflection, he finds it strange that Orange Juice remains unhurt by the hyena. Pi fantasizes about a zoo enclosure in which orangutans and hyenas live together peacefully and contentedly. A sea turtle bumps against the hull of the boat; Pi tells it to go find help, and the turtle slips back down into the sea.
Pi notices that the water around the boat is full of mako sharks and other fish. Orange Juice sits up and looks around at the open water; Pi realizes she is looking for her two sons the same way that Pi has been searching the horizon for his family. Pi is devastated.
Suddenly the hyena attacks the zebra, pulling off a large expanse of its hide and then sliding headfirst into its side, eating it alive from the inside. Orange Juice roars in protest and the hyena howls back. The two animals engage in a fierce standoff while the zebra fades. Some blood falls over the side of the boat, and sharks begin to circle and bump the hull. Pi fears that they will break the boat, causing it to sink, but soon the standoff between the hyena and orangutan ends, and the sharks swim away. Horrified and scared, Pi admits to himself that his family has likely perished. As he sinks deeper into his grief, the hyena continues to eat.
The zebra finally dies later the next day. Afterward, the hyena attacks Orange Juice. The orangutan puts up a fight, thumping the hyena on the head and impressing Pi with her savagery, but she is no match for the hyena, who decapitates her. Pi cries and goes to the edge of the tarpaulin, ready to throw himself to the hyena, when he sees Richard Parker’s head under the bench. He goes back to the bow and falls into a delirious sleep.
Pi’s true education in nature’s savagery begins in this gruesome section. In Part One, Mr. Patel teaches Ravi and Pi about animal nature and its violent tendencies, but it is not until he finds himself in a lifeboat with a zebra, hyena, orangutan, and tiger that Pi truly understands the vicious behavior of wild animals in close quarters. Somewhat naïve, Pi is stunned by much of what he sees—for example, when the hyena eats the zebra’s leg and when the gentle orangutan acts out violently to protect herself from the hyena.
The brutality of the animals teaches Pi another lesson: the qualities a human or animal exhibit when unprovoked can vary radically from those that same human or animal will show if attacked or threatened. He is astonished when Orange Juice, a maternal creature that grew up at the Pondicherry Zoo, strikes the hyena with a powerful blow. Pi has never before seen her make any outward displays of aggression; he had assumed her nature was sweet and her disposition even and benevolent. The strike Orange Juice gives the hyena is like a slap in the face to Pi: suddenly he realizes that personality is something separate and distinct from instinct.
Equally surprising to Pi is the fact that life continues in the face of unimaginable pain. The clearest and most obvious example of this is the poor zebra, whose slow death takes place over the course of days. To live in such physical misery is horrifying to Pi. To the reader, however, Pi himself stands as a clear example of heroic endurance. Pi’s body is unharmed, but his emotional and spiritual anguish is intense. He says that his second night in the lifeboat was one of the worst of his life. Yet, in the face of great mental anguish, he endures.
Alone and grief stricken without his family or any other human survivors, Pi finds both solace and sadness in the presence of Orange Juice. He notes that Orange Juice seems to be having some very human reactions to her predicament: she looks queasy and seasick, holding herself up at the edge of the lifeboat like a nauseated person might. More significantly, she looks out at the open water in a way that Pi instantly recognizes as both hopeful (awaiting the appearance of her two sons) and hopeless (not really expected them to appear after all). Though comforted by Orange Juice’s humanlike demeanor, Pi is also saddened by their common bond—their loss of family.