Part 2, Chapters 78–87 Summary and Analysis
Last Updated on May 16, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 682
In chapter 78, Pi describes the changing skies and seas he faces, but a castaway’s gaze, he says, does not change; it is always a radius with the castaway at the center of the circle. His life as a castaway is a life of opposites, such as wishing to be wet when it is hot but wishing to be dry when it is raining. Chapter 79 describes the many kinds of sharks that Pi sees, a number of which he catches for food. The first shark that Pi tries to catch is a large mako shark. He grabs it by the tail with his hand and pulls, but it jumps into the air and ends up in the lifeboat. The tiger and the shark fight. Richard Parker wins, but his paw is injured.
When a large dorado chases a flying fish over the lifeboat, Pi captures it. Pi senses Richard Parker and sees that he is in a crouch and ready to attack him. Because of Pi’s hunger, he is more concerned about eating than staying alive, so Pi stares the tiger down until he turns away. Pi demonstrates his new confidence at the end of the chapter by sitting with his back to the tiger. All of chapter 81 reflects on the meaning of this battle and on Pi’s survival.
Chapter 80 is a marker. The battle of wills between the two of them only lasts two or three seconds, but it cements their relationship and Pi’s dominance. In chapter 81, Pi, characteristically, identifies biological sources for this event (the tiger’s seasickness) but attributes its meaning to divine sources, calling it miraculous.
In chapter 82, Pi tells how he saves and rations their water. He gives “the lion’s share” of the food he catches to Richard Parker; Pi realizes he has started to eat like the tiger, not so much from hunger but in a rush to get some before the tiger takes it. In chapter 83, Pi describes a terrifying storm that comes up and lasts into the night. After the storm, his raft is mostly gone, a fatal blow to Pi’s spirits. The lifeboat is in disarray, much of the food is gone, and Pi’s leg is badly cut. Pi finds the last of his whistles while bailing water from the lifeboat. He considers the whistle to be “all that remained between me and death.”
Chapter 82 describes Pi’s mastery over “contained” water: the water in the stills, which he can master and use to support his life because of previously existing technology. However, chapter 83 shows the power and majesty of “wild” water: the sea. It could kill them at any time, and only fate keeps them alive.
Pi describes the different marine life he sees: whales, dolphins, and birds. Pi catches and eats some birds, sharing some with Richard Parker.
Pi’s ability to wonder over the intelligence and beauty of the whales and dolphins shows that he has managed to protect his sensitive soul, despite all he has been through.
There is a powerful lightning and thunder storm in chapter 85. It terrifies Richard Parker but fills Pi with a sense of glory and wonder. A ship goes by in chapter 86. Pi tries to signal it, but he fails. Richard Parker’s lack of response to Pi’s inability to signal the ship fills him with love for the tiger.
Taken together, these two chapters show the difference between man and beast, and the wonders of zoomorphism. Pi can see the beauty of the storm, which the tiger cannot—but Richard Parker does not realize that they were not saved and so balances Pi out.
Pi uses a piece of cloth soaked with seawater to block the sun and let him enter a visionary daze.
The placement of this chapter, which essentially describes a much-needed escape, undercuts Pi’s burst of love at the end of chapter 86. This is how badly he needs to escape: he suffocates himself to hallucinate.