Life of Pi

Life of Pi Summary and Analysis of Part 2, Chapters 42-56


Pi finally sees another sign of life—Orange Juice, the orangutan, floating on a net filled with bananas. She steps into the boat, and Pi pulls the net aboard. The hyena runs in circles around the boat all morning. Pi remains tense the whole time, but eventually the hyena stops, vomits, and lies down.

There are flies everywhere, and night falls. Pi hears all kinds of noises that terrify him, but he makes it to the next morning. As the sun rises again, Pi regains hope. Then he notices that the hyena has ripped off the zebra’s broken leg, and is eating it. Pi also notices that Orange Juice is very sea-sick. In the afternoon, a sea turtle appears.

As the sun starts to set again, Pi notices there are sharks circling. Orange Juice looks mournfully for her son, and the hyena attacks the zebra again, essentially eating her from the inside out. When the sun sets, Pi realizes that there is no longer any hope that his family is still alive.

The next morning, the zebra is somehow still alive, but by noon it finally dies. Tension rises between the hyena and Orange Juice, and the hyena attacks. Orange Juice defends herself impressively, but eventually the hyena kills her. When Pi prepares to fight the hyena to his own death, he sees that Richard Parker is still on the boat.

Pi tells the story of how Richard Parker got his name. He was captured as a cub with his mother, and the hunter who caught him intended to name him Thirsty. The paperwork got mixed up, however, and somehow the hunter’s name wound up listed as Thirsty, while the tiger was given the hunter’s name—Richard Parker.

Because Pi has now lost all hope, he paradoxically perks up—he has nothing left to lose. He realizes that he is dying of thirst, and, hoping to find fresh water on the boat, begins to explore. While investigating the boat, Pi finds fresh water, and after drinking two liters feels infinitely better. He then eats for the first time in three days.

Pi considers his options, and realizes he has no chance of survival either staying in the boat with Richard Parker, or leaving the boat and trying to swim to safety. He decides, however, that he is not going to give up and accept death. He builds a raft using oars, life jackets, and rope.

Right as Pi is about to finish, Richard Parker emerges, and swiftly kills the hyena. As the tiger then turns toward Pi, a rat suddenly appears and runs up Pi’s body and to the top of his head. As Richard Parker hesitates to step onto the tarpaulin toward Pi, he throws the rat into his mouth and descends back under the tarpaulin, seemingly satisfied. Pi manages to finish the raft and throws it overboard; it floats, so he gets on it and, using a rope, keeps it about thirty feet from the boat.

During Pi’s first night on the raft, it rains from dusk to dawn. While he is kept awake by the downpour, Pi considers possible plans to rid the boat of Richard Parker. He realizes that his best chance of survival is simply to wait for Richard Parker to die of starvation or dehydration, as Pi’s own supplies are likely to last much longer.

In the morning the rain eventually clears and Pi gets some sleep. But upon waking he realizes how vast the sea is, how small his raft is, and it occurs to him that Richard Parker can both survive on saline water, and will likely swim to Pi’s raft and kill him if he gets hungry enough. Stricken, Pi describes the utter power of fear.


This section will by the end of the novel emerge as thematically very important: it contains the portion of the story paralleled in Pi’s second telling, yet to come. In this first telling, the events—the deaths of the zebra, Orange Juice, and the hyena—are clearly traumatic, but not devastating. In Pi’s second go-around, however, the moments of narrative are imbued with the horror of a 227-day ordeal—the cruel murder of a sailor, cannibalism, a mother’s brutal murder, and Pi’s choice to kill another man in retaliation and for survival.

The primary concern in this section is survival. From here until the end of the novel, survival will be Pi’s, and the story’s, driving force; here it is a new burden, and Pi learns for the first time how it will change him. It is not all bad—it allows Pi to be distracted from the tragic and awful loss of his whole family—but it is more all-consuming than he could have expected.

The motif of naming comes up again in this section, too, when we learn the origin of Richard Parker’s unusual name. Throughout Life of Pi, Pi always refers to Richard Parker by name—he is never “the tiger.” That this name is meant for a human adds to the feeling that Pi has humanized Richard Parker. He manages to survive with him for so long, but does, in the end, pay for it emotionally, because he expects a human-like goodbye from the tiger - a good-bye he does not receive.

This section also emphasizes Pi’s profound isolation. The size of the ocean, the overwhelming power of nature as it rains down on him, make his odds of survival seem bleak, his situation dire. Pi does not accept this, however, and decides that he will survive. Yet, even in making this decision, he quickly realizes that the one plan he has come up with that seems at all plausible will not succeed.

The power of nature is also emphasized in terms of emotional toll. Pi loses all hope, accepts his parents’ and brother’s deaths, and feels true, overpowering fear. Yet he also finds freedom in his hopelessness, and he discovers that he has an ultimate will to survive that cannot be squelched.