One day the lifeboat washes ashore on a Mexican beach, but Pi is so weak that he can barely believe it or experience happiness. He guides the lifeboat through the breakers and then carefully lets himself down into the shallow surf. Richard Parker leaps over his head and walks slowly and clumsily down the beach. Pi is sure that the tiger will at least look back and acknowledge him, but instead Richard Parker disappears into the jungle without a backward glance.
Pi’s salvation is anticlimactic, but fitting for the chaotic, meaningless movements of the ocean and fate. Pi has reached land at last, but he still has one last failure to communicate – Richard Parker leaves without saying goodbye. We realize how invested we are in Richard Parker as a character because this slight seems so tragic and callous, though it is also a reminder that the tiger is still a wild animal. (Though this scene might also be read as Pi’s animal will to survive, as embodied by Richard Parker, is no longer necessary once he reaches land).
Pi crawls ashore and sprawls in the sand, feeling totally alone now that even Richard Parker has left him forever. A few hours later some people find him and carry him away, speaking in a language Pi doesn’t understand. Pi starts to weep, not out of joy but because Richard Parker left him without saying goodbye.
Pi’s universe has consisted only of Richard Parker for so long that the tiger’s disappearance creates a stronger emotion in him than the rescue he has longed for for months. Even back in the world of humans, Pi is still unable to communicate with his rescuers.
Pi says that this “bungled goodbye” with Richard Parker has pained him all his life, and he wishes that he had at least thanked the tiger before the boat touched land. Pi says that things should conclude properly, and as an aside he asks the author to tell his tale in exactly one hundred chapters. Pi says that the one thing he hates about his nickname is that the number pi runs on forever. Without a conclusion one can never let go of a painful memory.
If Richard Parker is actually the animalistic, violent side of Pi’s nature, then the tiger’s abrupt disappearance shows how thoroughly Pi has cut off this side of his soul once he reaches civilization. Pi wants conclusions, and good stories provide conclusions, but life does not always do the same. Martel returns to the idea of symmetry and geometric harmony, as Pi’s nickname is contrasted with his story, which the author has indeed told in 100 chapters.
Pi’s rescuers take him to their village and bathe and feed him, and the next day a police car takes him to a hospital. He speaks vaguely of the time following this rescue, where he was treated kindly by doctors and then sent to a foster home in Canada. From there he entered the University of Toronto. Pi offers his thanks to all the people who helped him and ends his tale.
The tiger’s disappearance, though painful, shows that Richard Parker (if he is a part of Pi) only had to exist on the lifeboat, where Pi would do anything to survive. Now that he is back among civilization, Pi has a chance to become fully human again and achieve the “happy ending” that the author observed. Pi’s “conclusion” comes about because of the disappearance of Richard Parker.