The concept of having conflict amongst the different classes in society has always been a consistent indication that humans believe that societies must be segregated by a system of class. Through the course of history, authority and repression have always been a constant fight concerning the poor and the rich. In Michael Ondaatje’s novel, “In the Skin of a Lion,” an in-depth sense of conflict is being told in a unique way. His story reveals the lives of the poor immigrants that are new to Canada and have to survive in the fast, developing city of Toronto in the early twentieth century. Ondaatje describes the adversities the immigrated families had to conquer, and their efforts and hatred directed at the wealthy. The main theme of this literary fiction is the opposition between the rich and poor of society, which is being portrayed through conflicts and the characters that arise in the story.
Ondaatje is a Canadian writer of prose and poetry whose skill of expression captivates audiences from across the world. His novel, “In the Skin of a Lion,” has brought much success to his involvement in literature. This is the novel in which he creates such relatable characters that have their own, personal story. The main character, Patrick Lewis, goes through childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, while experiencing pain, love, and confusion.
The theme of rivalry between the wealthy and poor finally appears in “The Searcher,” in which Patrick is hired to investigate the disappearance of millionaire, Ambrose Small. The audience is presented to Ambrose Small’s mistress, Clara Dickens. Clara becomes Patrick’s lover, where he suddenly falls deeply in love with her. Only after a few weeks is when Clara tells Patrick, “…sometime after that I’ll leave you…for Ambrose” (Ondaatje 72). She would leave him for Ambrose, because of his wealth and power, which leaves Patrick heartbroken. The controversy between Patrick and Ambrose surely reflects on the theme of the novel.
Before Clara leaves, Patrick is introduced to Clara’s friend, Alice Gull. Alice is another character besides Patrick in this novel to show aggression to the rich. She has an immense hatred towards the rich, where she tells Patrick to “name the enemy and destroy their power” (Ondaatje 124). This is what Alice sets out to do; start a revolt.
Although from the beginning of the novel the reader may feel confused, after reading the final two chapters the story becomes clear. If readers are interested in stories depicting love triangles, this is the novel to read.