On their twenty-seventh day at sea, a Japanese plane spots the raft and opens fire at them. To escape the bullets, the men jump into the ocean. When the plane is out of range, they climb back on the raft but the plane turns around and prepares to shoot again. Phil and Mac are too weak to jump into the ocean so they take their chances on the raft while Louie jumps back in.
The book circles back to the opening scene in the preface. We now fully understand what resilience it took Louie to dive back into the water despite the days of starvation. He really is “unbreakable.”
As the bomber shoots from overhead, Louie jabs an oncoming shark in the snout. After the plane passes, Louie climbs back onto the raft and finds Mac and Phil unharmed. Four more times the plane tries to kill them and each time Louie jumps back into the water, fends off sharks, and then climbs back into the raft. Machine gun holes pepper the raft, but Mac and Phil are uninjured. Finally, the bomber flies away.
Louie is beset on all sides by violence: below him, sharks, the symbol of the violent natural world, try to tear him apart and above him, people, being cruel for cruelty’s sake, shoot at unarmed and helpless men. The men’s survival in the face of such overwhelming violence could, once again, be read as evidence of God’s intervention into their lives.
The bomber completely destroyed one of the rafts and the puncture holes in the other one is making it sink fast. As Louie patches up the raft, Phil pumps in air. With a renewed sense of life, Mac uses an oar to hit the sharks when they come close to the raft. They keep this up for hours until Louie patches all the holes.
Mac begins his journey towards redemption by protecting his crewmates from the shark attacks. For at least a moment, he makes up for the betrayal by tirelessly providing a necessary service to his friends, possibly returning to him some of his lost dignity.
The men realize that the presence of the Japanese plane must mean that they are close to Japanese territory. Louie and Phil predict that they’ll arrive at land in three weeks. Not saying anything, Mac’s burst of life vanishes and he slips even deeper into despair.
Mac cannot muster strength from the victory over the sharks and Japanese plane, losing his resilience as soon as the men realize they have three more weeks on the raft.