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Life of Pi

Yann Martel
Summary

Part Two: Chapters 63–80

Summary Part Two: Chapters 63–80

Pi catches a four-foot mako shark with his bare hands and throws it to Richard Parker, who clubs it with his paw and accidentally gets bitten. Pi takes this as a reminder that the tiger is not perfect. One day, a dorado leaps onto the lifeboat and Pi grabs hold of it. Richard Parker sees the fish and gets into an attack crouch. Pi stares Richard Parker down until he backs away, then throws him a portion of his catch. Pi notes with some disappointment that he has begun wolfing his food down like an animal.

Analysis

The repetition of activities necessary for life proves distressing for Pi. Biology dictates that animals (humans included) perform the same few essential acts again and again: eating, drinking, urinating, defecating, sleeping, and so on. In ordinary life, such repetition can be comforting. But in the context of a lifeboat in the Pacific, where food and water and everything else are scarce and normalcy has gone out the window, repetition is a curse, a threat. Because there is no regular source of water, the compulsion to drink water every day is a nuisance. Because Pi must wear the same clothes every day, they disintegrate and fall off his body.

The regularity of events on the lifeboat is reminiscent of the habits of animals in the wild or in a zoo, which Pi has remarked on at length earlier in the book. Indeed, the lifeboat itself becomes a sort of zoo enclosure, and the tethered raft serves as a cage, protecting zookeeper from wild creature. Pi feeds Richard Parker just the way a zookeeper would, cleaning up after him in a similar fashion. The entire setup is familiar—clearly, Pi has learned well from his father. Pi follows in Mr. Patel’s footsteps, letting reason and faith in himself to serve as his guides.

New activities lighten the monotony of Pi’s daily life, though they are quickly absorbed into routine. Each “first” in the lifeboat or on the raft is treated in the account with detail and great passion. However, and inevitably, those firsts quickly meld into a monotonous series of repetitions that dull the senses. The first time Pi kills a fish, we are held in thrall as he hesitates and frets over the act. But as soon as it is over, it is as though a spell has broken: Pi is now free to kill as many fish as he can, any way he can, without any sort of guilt. Unlike a wild animal that tends to find any break in its routine disastrous, Pi is pliable, versatile, and resourceful. Even without his devotional objects, he holds onto his religious customs, adapting them and integrating them into his daily routine. Though he is a strict vegetarian, he soon finds himself drinking turtle blood, skinning birds, and eating eyes and brains. It is easy for him to slip into a routine—he becomes a creature of a new habit.