We are the Working Class

by derekmcc

The true nature of Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion is justly described in the epigraph with the quote “Never again will a single story be told as though it were the only one” by John Berger. Though the tale begins with intimate childhood memories of the main character, Patrick Lewis, it quickly darts about in a deviational plot that interacts thoroughly with characters that interrelate with him. A romance work of both organism and architecture, the plot loosely follows Patrick as he seems to amble aimlessly through Toronto in the ‘20s and ‘30s. After leaving his childhood town he immerses himself in the working class lifestyle and finds himself absorbed into dealings with a deliberately misplaced millionaire and his lover, industrious immigrant workers, and voluptuous architecture.

Body versus building is a major theme throughout the book. Seemingly vivacious structures are related to complex relationships throughout the story in the sense that while they may seem picturesque, detrimental consequences are required to achieve them. This same idea also resembles the story’s ongoing struggle between the rich and poor and the battle between those who imagine the city, and those who will physically create it. The use of factual people and an extant setting helps to solidify occurring themes by making them easier to relate to.

A hybrid of history and fiction, this book is bursting with remarkable poetic descriptions that help to plunge the reader into the bustling streets of Toronto and its community. Characters are not clearly defined, but instead discovered through their experiences. The use of dark and light imagery helps to depict the occasionally secluded sensation experienced by peculiar individual throughout the story. An unconventional style of writing in which a linear journey is not adhere to throughout the narrative is enjoyably challenging for the reader. As the plot leaps from setting to setting, character to character, and experience to experience, the reader is pressed to be attentive and involved in the formation of the plot.

Collectively, In the Skin of the Lion was very interesting. I enjoyed reading it very much and would recommend it to anyone of with higher level capacity for literature.



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