Ondaatje’s passionate writing of In the Skin of a Lion

by jsimak

The development of Canadian cities and their infrastructure in the early 20th century was heavily dependent on the labour market made up mainly of European immigrants. This was no different in the up and coming lively city of Toronto.

Michaeal Ondaatje takes the reader through these exciting and perilous times of new Toronto in the novel In the Skin of a Lion. As a third person narrative Ondaatje utilizes his talent of embroidering striking imagery and effortless poetry; that surround the main character of Patrick Lewis throughout the novel.

In the Skin of a Lion opens with Patrick’s detailed memories of his unique and intriguing childhood on the farmland near the Napanee River. His innocent and appeasing personality is carried throughout the novel, and ultimately turns him into a passionate young man who wears his heart on his sleeve. 

                The non-linear structure of In the Skin of a Lion correlates well with Ondaatje’s specific use of characters. These characters create an environment in which Patrick’s innocents and obsession make him fall in love all too easily, and follow others with no direction of his own.

 However, due to this Ondaatje is able to intensify the theme of the novel through Patrick; a character who seems to evoke no emotion other than love, however is aware of, and puts into perspective the harsh, yet very real conditions of immigrant labour in the 20’s and 30’s. Patrick is able to absorb and speak poetically to the reader about the rich and powerful, and how they juxtapose the working class immigrants; who only seek recognition and praise for their work.

The poetic and passionate writing of Ondaatje in this piece of Canadian literature brings forth- in a refined way, what many consider to be an appalling issue in Canadian history. This in turn creates a deeper sense of meaning and compassion in the reader when they immerse themselves In the Skin of a Lion.

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3 Comments to “Ondaatje’s passionate writing of In the Skin of a Lion”

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