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The story moves forward, to the point just after Pi jumped overboard to escape Richard Parker. Pi clings to a fallen oar and then finds a lifebuoy. He climbs onto the buoy just as shark’s fins slice through the water around him. Pi looks into the lifeboat and sees the zebra, but not Richard Parker. He jams the oar under the tarpaulin and hangs onto it, dangling off the edge of the lifeboat.
Pi’s situation is almost ridiculously dangerous right now, as he is trapped between a tiger and sharks, alone on a stormy ocean. Martel has to use a lot of space describing Pi’s situation in the lifeboat, as the details of Pi’s setting now become overwhelmingly important to his survival.
Pi hangs there over the water and assesses his situation – he is alone in the middle of the Pacific, surrounded by sharks and an adult tiger. His adult self wonders why he didn’t just let go of the oar and succumb to what seemed an inevitable death. Pi eventually slips the lifebuoy over himself, making his position more comfortable.
Pi’s will to live overwhelms his reasoning, as his adult self recognizes just how logically hopeless his position was. Pi remains clinging to the oar, trying to keep himself separate from the lifeboat and out of Richard Parker’s territory.