Life of Pi

Life of Pi Summary and Analysis of Part 3


The author explains that what follows are transcripts of a recorded conversation between Pi and two men, Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba, of the Maritime Department in the Japanese Ministry of Transport, after they come to see him in the hospital in Tomatlan, Mexico.

Mr. Okamoto gives Pi a cookie, and asks if he would be willing to tell them everything that happened to him. Chapter 97 says simply, “The story.” After the story Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba think Pi is fooling with them. They take a break, and Pi asks for another cookie.

Mr. Okamoto tells Pi that they don’t believe his story because bananas don’t float. Pi says that they do, and insists that they test it. They do, and it becomes clear that bananas do float. They tell Pi that they also don’t believe him about the island, or about Richard Parker. Pi tries to convince them, and they remain hard to persuade. They insist that they want the true story, which leads Pi to tell them a completely different story.

In this new story, Pi (Richard Parker) ended up in the lifeboat with his mother (the orangutan), the cook (the hyena), and a sailor (the zebra). The cook was voracious, and ate things like flies and rats even when he still had plenty of rations left. The sailor was young, and had broken his leg getting into the lifeboat. He only knew Chinese, and he suffered greatly.

As the sailor’s leg got infected, the cook said they must amputate it to save the sailor’s life. This they did, using only surprise as an anesthetic. The cook later let it slip that he had amputated the leg to use it as fishing bait, but it was too decayed and did not work effectively. The sailor died, and the cook butchered him. He claimed this too was for bait, but after a few days he started eating the flesh himself. Pi and his mother never ate any of it, but they did start to eat the fish and the turtles that the cook captured from the sea.

One day Pi was too weak to pull in a turtle, and the cook hit him. His mother hit the cook back, and sent Pi to the raft. The cook killed the mother.

Eventually Pi got back onto the boat with the cook. They shared a turtle, then Pi killed the cook with the knife the cook left out. Pi subsequently ate some of the cook's organs and flesh.

Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba notice the parallels in the two stories. They continue to question Pi about how the boat actually sank.

The final chapter contains Mr. Okamoto’s report after the interrogation, in which he says that the cause of the Tsimtsum’s sinking is impossible to determine, and references Pi’s amazing feat of having survived 227 days at sea with an adult tiger.


Part 3 of Life of Pi revisits and reemphasizes themes raised earlier in the novel, as well as complicating and redefining them and the story itself. With the exceptions of the author’s chapters scattered throughout the novel, Part 3 is the first significant portion of the text that departs from Pi’s point of view to tell his story. This is especially significant, because Pi has claimed that his story is over; the author’s choice to continue it is in a way a departure from Pi’s presentation of, and thus control of, his story.

This idea of narrative control is crucial. Pi tells Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba that everything in life is inherently a story - even facts, because they are being perceived by someone, and thus can never be truly objective. Yet in the mens' unwillingness to believe Pi's story, they weaken his control over it. Even faced with evidence—the floating bananas, the meerkat bones—they stand firm in their disbelief.

In response, Pi tells another story, one which should be more believable to them. In being forced to do so, he is in essence losing his control as storyteller - for the mens' dislike of zoo animals being involved must define how he tells the story.

Pi’s second story is, seemingly, more realistic, as well as significantly more tragic and horrifying. In both stories, he survives a long and terrible ordeal, but in the second, he seems to contains both his own, rational self, and the ferocious, wild, and very dangerous Richard Parker. Even if this is not the “true” story, the possibility of such a division of Pi’s personality is made clear by his doing so here—throughout his ordeal, we see his need to survive slowly overpowering his rational (vegetarian) self.

Yet while the second telling of the story may cast doubt for the reader on the first story, it is not meant to do so for more than a moment. Even the highly skeptical Mr. Okamoto and Mr. Chiba in the end choose to believe the first - the better story - because Pi tells them that they may. Neither story affects their investigation, so there is no reason not to take the less tragic and more "enjoyable" story as the true story. And this is how Pi finally defines his belief in God, and why Mr. Adirubasamy tells the author that this story will make him believe in God. Why not believe in a fundamentally benevolent universe?