Love & Relationships

by carleerocha

Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion is a story that takes place in Toronto, about the life of a man named Patrick Lewis. We are introduced to him as a young adolescent, and we follow him into his adult years. Patrick is a very passionate man, and it seems that he often makes strong relationships with others that he does not know very well (i.e.: Hana). In Patrick’s adult years, there is a very large emphasis on his romantic relationships; with Clara and then Alice. But, although the novel is centered mostly on Patrick, we are given pieces of other character’s lives scattered across the story; Nicholas Temelcoff and the building of the Viaduct, Caravaggio, Clara and Ambrose Small, and Alice’s relationship with Cato (Hana’s father).

Patrick Lewis is a very reserved man; he doesn’t let a lot of people into his life. But, the first time he meets Clara, he practically falls head over heels for her and invites her into his life right away.
He was dazzled by her- her long white arms, the faint hair on the back of her neck- as if she without turning had fired a gun over her shoulder and mortally wounded him. The ‘rare lover’, the ‘perfect woman’ (61).
Not long after they meet, they begin to have a sexual relationship and Patrick immediately falls in love with her. Clara basically means the world to Patrick, but for Clara, the relationship is purely sexual. Clara often pushes him away saying that she is going to go on a quest to find her lover, Ambrose Small. But, Patrick is never dismayed. Although their relationship was not exactly two-sided, Patrick was simply destroyed and heart broken after Clara left. After this, he keeps to himself even more, until one day, he crosses paths with Alice once again.

Patrick does eventually fall in love with Alice, an even deeper one than Clara.
He wants everything of Alice to be with him here in this room as if she is not dead (147-48).
But, this does take some time. At first, they are only friends, but later he realizes her beauty (of her face, her body, her acting). But, one reason that he has fallen for Alice, is Hana. Hana is Alice’s daughter and she is the only way that Patrick discovers Alice’s past with Cato. After he begins to understand what she’s been through, he can relate to her a lot more (perhaps in the way that they have both lost their first love?).

Lastly, although there is no sex involved in this relationship, it is extremely important and should be mentioned; the strong connection that forms between Patrick and Hana. This relationship is similar to his relationship with Clara in the way that it is formed almost immediately. Both he and Hana are very similar people; they are both missing a very important loved one in their lives (Clara and Cato) and they also share several characteristics (they are both shy and hesitant around new people). Perhaps Patrick saw a lot of himself in this young girl and this is why he has such a strong love for her.

In conclusion, a theme that is very important in this novel is indeed the love and relationships that are formed between Patrick and the few others that he allows into his life.


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