Life of Pi

We know from the outset that the island is empirically impossible. (chapters 92-93)

Why then, do we believe it as readers?

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This section continues the pattern created in the previous one, of great hopes followed by great disillusionment. When Pi discovers his island, it seems too good to be true—it has plenty of food, fresh water, meerkats for companionship, and protection from the weather. It is even moving, so there exists the potential that Pi could meet a ship, or other, human-inhabited land. Pi regains his strength, and some degree of happiness.

Yet while Pi seems to believe this island is a paradise, Martel's (and Pi the storyteller's) significant use of foreshadowing prevents the reader from ever truly believing it. Richard Parker’s sore paws and refusal to stay on the island at night, the meerkats’ panicked run to the trees, the disappearing fish, all foretell that something sinister is afoot. Pi does not give up his belief that this island is his perfect new home until he physically encounters the truth.

Pi the storyteller transitions abruptly from this realization to his coming upon land in Mexico. What happens in between - Pi's utter loss of all hope, his final turn to God - is told to us in one brief sentence. That is all. How and when Pi comes upon land is left unsaid; this again emphasizes the depth of Pi’s loss of hope after learning the truth about the island. Pi, who normally cannot say enough about God and the rituals he uses to worship him, here says only that he turned fully to him.

This section also marks the betrayal by Richard Parker, a betrayal Pi can never forgive—not the killing of the Frenchman, but the act of leaving Pi without any indication of a goodbye. The resulting feeling of loss and sadness, rather than any excitement or relief at having finally returned to land, is what Pi emphasizes at the end of his story. The reader is thereby reminded that, although Pi has survived, he has lost all his family and everything he cared about, and now must face that loss within the human world.

Pi's declaration that this is the end of his story is also significant. Much in fact happens after his recuperation in Mexico. Positing "the end" when he does is a choice; the author, after all, does not end the story there, but instead includes an additional five chapters. Storytelling thus implies the ability to choose one's own story.