Part 3, Chapters 95–100 Summary and Analysis

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Chapter 95

Summary

Told from the point of view of the author’s persona, this chapter summarizes how Mr. Tomohiro Okamoto and Mr. Atsuro Chiba from the Japanese Ministry of Transport’s Maritime Department make their way from California down to Tomatlán, Mexico, to interview Pi about the sinking of the Tsimtsum. They get lost because a poorly folded map causes them to read “Tomatán” as “Tomatlán.” Chapters 96–99 are excerpts from the transcript of their conversation with Pi.

Analysis

The fact that these men drove over a thousand miles to get answers about why the Tsimtsum sank shows the intensity of the human need for meaning. The fact that it is an incorrectly folded map that confuses them shows how fate and random chance control our destinies.

Chapter 96

Summary

Mr. Tomohiro Okamoto and Mr. Atsuro Chiba start to interview Pi, shifting in and out of Japanese to keep some elements of their conversation private.

Analysis

The shifting languages and mundane details, like Okamoto being tired and Pi wanting a cookie, show the many difficulties in the human search for the truth.

Chapter 97

Summary

This chapter is just two words long: “The story.”

Analysis

This chapter makes the entire book a story within a story as Pi supposedly retells “the story” readers have read to this point. However, since Pi admits to leaving things out and the author to missing many details, the reader does not know exactly what is told, leaving private experience a mystery, as it always is.

Chapter 98

Summary

Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba praise the story publicly but doubt it in Japanese.

Analysis

As the men hide their true feelings behind a foreign language, keeping what is most important to them private, so Pi keeps his cookies private. His priorities were changed by this voyage; he is more purely biological than they are.

Chapter 99

Summary

Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba challenge Pi’s story, saying bananas do not float, a carnivorous island is impossible, no trace of Richard Parker was ever found, and two blind strangers in lifeboats meeting in the Pacific is unlikely. Pi first argues with them, pointing out the limits to human knowledge, then offers them another story that fits their worldview better.

In this story, there are four Tsimtsum survivors—Pi, his mother, the cook, and a sailor. The sailor broke a leg jumping into the lifeboat (just as the zebra did in the original story). In this story, the cook convinces the other humans to cut the sailor’s leg off (just as the hyena bit off the zebra’s leg in the first story) to save the man’s life, but with the real intention of using the rotting leg as bait so that they can survive. Eventually Pi’s mother and the cook fight, and Pi’s mother is killed (just as Orange Juice the orangutan is killed in the first story). This story ends with Pi killing the cook and eating his flesh (just as Richard Parker killed the hyena and the blind stranger in the original story).

The two men questioning Pi note the similarities between the stories, then move on to questioning Pi about the ship and its crew. Pi makes a few observations, noting that the crew seemed sullen and drunken, but is careful not to claim too much knowledge about how the ship was being run or how it sank. When the men are done with their questions, Pi asks some of his own, asking them which story they like better. Both men admit that they like “the story with animals” better, and Pi says, “Thank you. And so it goes with God.”

Analysis

This chapter shows how important stories are in making sense of the world and how people judge the truth of them. In everyday life, people judge the truth of stories against their (very limited) knowledge of the world. In a divine world, people judge them by intrinsic quality.

Quotes

I know what you want. You want a story that won’t surprise you. That will confirm what you already know. That won’t make you see higher or further or differently. You want a flat story. An immobile story. You want dry, yeastless factuality.

Here Pi shows that he understands his inquisitors from the Japanese Ministry of Transport’s Maritime Department better than they understand themselves. He has lived that sort of story on the lifeboat; they have not.

So tell me, since it makes no factual difference to you and you can’t prove the question either way, which story do you prefer? Which is the better story, the story with animals or the story without animals?

Pi’s question to his inquisitors from the Japanese Ministry of Transport’s Maritime Department sums up the central importance of stories in his world. Humans cannot know the ultimate truth of the universe. What we can do is choose the better story.

Chapter 100

Summary

Told from the point of view of the author’s persona, this chapter includes a section of Mr. Okamoto’s report, which indicates his belief in Pi’s core story about Richard Parker.

Analysis

Though this chapter technically leaves the question of what happened open, Mr. Okamoto’s conversion indicates the path the reader should take: believing in Pi’s core story of animals, wonder, and God.

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Part 2, Chapters 88–94 Summary and Analysis