Summary and Analysis: Part Two—The Pacific Ocean—Chapters 88-94
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 fresh water ponds on the island, 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...
(The entire section is 972 words.)