The lifeboat runs into some floating trash, and Pi finds a rotted lamb in a floating refrigerator. He pulls a corked bottle from the trash, puts a message in it, and launches it in the water.
Given Pi’s powerful religious leanings, the lamb should be taken as symbolic. After becoming a killer as he has, Pi is no longer innocent (as a lamb), but rotten.
Pi describes how everything suffered on the lifeboat from exposure to the weather, and how Pi and Richard Parker were slowing dying. His pens ran dry, ending his diary. His last entry is “I die.”
Pi’s ability to use words—to plan, tell stories, conduct rituals, and praise God—have kept his spirits alive. That ability is gone now, symbolizing spiritual death.
Richard Parker goes blind, then Pi goes blind. He decides he has failed as a zookeeper and says his goodbyes to Richard Parker and his family out loud. A voice answers him; they begin to talk of food. Pi thinks it is Richard Parker, but it turns out to be another human on another lifeboat who has also gone blind from poor hygiene and lack of nutrients. The stranger tries to kill Pi, but Richard Parker kills the stranger instead.
This chapter can be read as a metaphor for Pi’s entire cursed voyage: blind beings moving through the sea without any clue of who they are speaking to or where they are going, and telling gentle stories only to lure the innocent close by so that they can be killed. On a simpler level, it is a sign of how far gone Pi is that he thinks Richard Parker is talking and, once again, how extreme their situation is that the stranger is killed.
Something in me died then that has never come back to life.
Pi thinks this after his joyous encounter with the stranger turns first violent, as the man tries to eat him, then deadly, as Richard Parker kills the stranger. This is Pi’s final personal passage through hell, as the trip to the carnivorous island is the final contextual passage through hell.
Pi cries, and his vision comes back. He admits that he eats some of the stranger’s flesh.
This chapter blends the literal and the symbolic. If crusted salt and lack of nutrition caused Pi to go blind, then crying and meat (human flesh) should correct it. On the symbolic level, though, only by weeping for his loss can Pi see this man clearly.
I will confess that I caught one of his arms with the gaff and used his flesh as bait. I will further confess that driven by the extremity of my need and the madness to which it pushed me, I ate some of his flesh.
Earlier in the novel when Pi kills a fish for the first time, he is consumed by guilt. Now he can eat human flesh and make excuses. Something in Pi really was killed by what he went through.
Pi sees an island of trees. The tide carries the lifeboat to shore, where Pi confirms it is not a hallucination. He tastes the vegetation there and finds it sweet. Both Pi and Richard Parker begin to explore the island but return to the lifeboat for safety (and due to familiarity). Pi continues to train Richard Parker while they are on the island, which seems to be inhabited by only one kind of animal, meerkats. There are freshwater ponds on the island,...
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but the fish in them are dead.
Pi eventually leaves the lifeboat to sleep on the island. He sleeps in a tree, only to be joined by many meerkats. Pi climbs a tree that has fruit, but when he peels it, he finds that he can keep peeling. He does so and finds a human tooth at the center of each fruit. That night, Pi tests his suspicions about the island by dropping a meerkat onto the ground; the ground burns its feet. Pi then steps on the ground, which burns him. Disgusted by this carnivorous island, Pi repacks the lifeboat, gets Richard Parker, and goes back to sea.
Like the encounter with the blind killer, this chapter is deeply symbolic. According to Pi’s survival guides, an island should be his salvation—an oasis, even an Eden. Instead, it is a perversion, a hell on earth in which the fruit of the tree of knowledge shows evidence of eating humans, a great sin.
The island was carnivorous.
This single line sums up Pi’s horrific line of reasoning that follows the discovery of human teeth hidden in the tree’s fruit. It also sums up the horrific nature of Pi’s larger discoveries: that within each of us, no matter how gentle, there is a killer.
Pi passes over most of the rest of his story as depressing, saying that in such depths it was natural that his mind should turn to God.
This chapter can be read literally, but even so, it is a form of escape. Pi does not share the thoughts that haunted him after he left the island, only the claim that he turned to God.
Pi reaches land in Mexico. Richard Parker jumps off the lifeboat and disappears into the jungle. Locals take Pi in, clean him, and feed him. The next day the police take him to the hospital, where Pi is overwhelmed by the generosity of his rescuers.
Though he is at last rescued and might weep for joy, Pi says he weeps because Richard Parker left him “so unceremoniously.” Pi has become so attached to Richard Parker, his cage-mate, that he expects him to act human, in turn, and say goodbye.