Power of language:
The migrant workers are given English names that deny their culture and heritage. "Charles Johnson, Nick Parker…The names strange in their foreign language were remembered like a number, much like the numbering in prison." "if they speak…in any language other than English, they will be jailed. A rule of the city." They are forced to be alienated from their own culture and are in turn disempowered.
Plight of the worker:
The migrants are objectified by likening them to the bridge. "a man is an extension of a hammer, drill flame." They are anonymised as they are portrayed as large groups without individuality. "their candles for the bridge dead like a wave of civilization, a net of summer insects over the valley." They are always enduring harsh working conditions; they ironically work on the "Palace of Purification," but they will later die from "tuberculosis, and arthritis and rheumatism. The workers are likened to animals, degrading them to mere products in building, "The brain of the mule, no more and no less knowledgeable than the body of a man who dug the clay wall in front of him."
The significance of stories:
Patrick is shown as the story teller who “absorbed everything from a distance…" and " …he himself was nothing but a prism that refracted their lives." This sets up Patrick as the character to magnify the issues and lives of the migrant workers and their working conditions. Temelcoff is given the power of language he is able to realise that "he has been sewn into history. Now he will begin to tell stories." This also directly relates to the Epic of Gilgamesh which is the first recorded myth The book’s title is from a direct quote of the myth. "I will let my hair grow long for your sake, and I will wander through the wilderness in the skin of a lion" This emphasises the need of a story teller who must reveal the errors and flaws of the world which is directly represented by Patrick.
...Michael Ondaatje’s 1987 postmodern novel ‘In The Skin Of a Lion’ has shaped and given new meanings when viewed in depth from different perspectives. Through Ondaatje’s continuous ideas on identity and history, through his language and form, this novel continues to be studied in various contexts. The use of poetic language and cellular structure has allowed him to create a piece of literature, ‘never again will a single story be told the same as this one’, which is unique and everlasting.
In The Skin Of a Lion is a worthy critical text providing inspiration which is achieved through its thematic concerns, relationships and creative poetic language explored through different perspectives. Ondaatje’s view on identity and retelling unofficial history created an impact on how I feel about my identity and my future. It captures the modern audiences attention making the considerer what type of character they are. Ondaatje crafts strong, beautiful characters in which enable the audience to be aware of all that we can become through relationships and love. Positive relationships allow us to discover who we are and why we exist in this world, even though at first our role may be difficult to define.
Patrick Lewis is a very significant and important character in this novel, as he is the storyteller. Personally I view him as ‘a lost soul’ having been deprived of life lessons, in which are generally taught by our parents....
...In the novel ‘In the skin of a Lion’ by Michael Ondaatje, Ondaatje creates a journey of identity, he explores the lack of identity of the migrants and workers, also the journey of Patrick Lewis’ transformation. In the chapter “the Searcher” Patrick has left his farm and moved to the city of Toronto, He becomes a searcher on many levels; he is to find his place and identity and as he does, Patrick also finds love and the story of the workers. This passage is the record of his arrival; he is beginning with a fresh identity.
“He was new even to himself, the past locked away” this simple statement shows Patricks displacement, he has a past but it no longer matters as he tries to define himself in this new place all he has is his memories “What remained in Patrick...were letters frozen inside mailboxes…”
“He spoke his name and it struggled up in a hollow echo and was lost in high air” the essence of a man is his name, unless you have a name you are anonymous, the fact that Patrick has spoken his name but no one replies or acknowledges him represents the loss of his name, Patrick has now become one in thousands, he does not have a place and he must recreate his identity in the city. Eventually he finds his voice through Clara and Alice who both have showed him love. After the death of Alice he steps forward and uses his voice to break the barrier for the workers and tell their story, as they are nameless to the higher-class world, they are...
... In the novel, In The Skin Of A Lion, by Michael Ondaatje, Patrick Lewis is put through events and has certain expectations placed on him that greatly affect his perception and his method of handling situations that he is placed in. Patrick Lewis is always expected to be compassionate and affectionate towards others no matter what the situation, this leads him making some dramatic decisions in the book. He grew up in a very isolated area which always made him an immigrant towards wherever he went and this alienated him from everyone around him. Lastly, Patrick develops a relationship with Alice Gull which exposes him to a whole new world. Their relationship changes his perspective towards the people around him and his view of the world. Michal Ondaatje uses the expectations placed on Patrick, his life in isolation, and his important relationship with Alice to show Patrick`s journey of self discovery and the idea of adaptation and change.
Michael Ondaatje starts the book off by introducing and expanding on a very key element towards showing Patrick’s self discovery and adaptation, his environment. Patrick Lewis is born and raised in a very isolated environment which causes him to make some decisions and learn live lessons in a very distinctive way. From his young years, Patrick is always isolated from the world, “He was born into a region which did not appear on a map until 1910, though his family had worked there for twenty years and the...
...Many angles can be taken in perceiving the truth and “real” story mixed in with the tangle of official history.
Ondaatje clearly empathises with the side of the workers in the novel. He positions us to feel connected with the workers, as he feels that the soul of the bridge is the men who toiled to make it possible. Nicholas Temelcoff, Patrick and Hazen Lewis are all manual labourers who take no part in the grand schemes of construction, but it is their lives that are risked, their sacrifices that build the waterworks. Nicholas Temelcoff is therefore represented poetically, as the “man in the air” who “floats” and “pushes in the air before him as if swimming in a river”; he is described using the simile that “he knows his position in the air as if he is mercury slipping across a map.” Patrick is the son of an “abashed man,” and he is fascinated with moths, but his vendetta against Harris and the waterworks is what most makes Patrick’s actions representative of class warfare. Patrick manages to “swim through the tunnel” he “helped build” and set up explosives that could bring it all down. The very fact that a simple working man, a man who helped build the waterworks, is able to bring the entire construction to its knees symbolises the inherent power of the worker within society.
While Ondaatje’s text can be viewed as Marxist, it also has elements that explore notions of gender. After Clara leaves Patrick, he becomes lost and it is Clara’s friend, Alice Gull that...
...Michael Ondaatje’s novel, In the Skin of a Lion, can be said to have textual integrity as a result of the way in which the composer has shaped this novel, through a variety of techniques employed. Textual integrity itself can be said to embody a timelessness in literature: that is, good literature is shaped by its textual integrity, reflected in the ways in which values within a text are presented, as well as the universality of themes discussed.
Setting exists in three spheres that are often seen to intersect, these spheres being Location, Time, and Critical Influence. And, further to this, any text that recreates the past especially when postmodernism is an accepted influence involves two intersecting fields of time: The author’s own, and that in which they delineate the events of their work.
Construction of a work that can be said to have textual integrity and hence be considered a model of good literature, or literature of timeless value, is therefore complicated when a post-modern style is employed that attempts to construct a text adequately flexible to accommodate the creation of new meaning in a way that accurately reflects the values of a period now elapsed.
Ondaatje’s novel, In the Skin of a Lion, is one such text: it creates layered meaning, employing a form true to the post-modern ideal that is, rejection of a mandate that meaning must be created through textual delineation, as meaning in a...
...Significance of Honesty
Michael Ondaatje a Sri Lankan born Canadian novelist and poet is known for his writings The English Patient, In the Skin of a Lion and his many poems. During In the Skin of a Lion he adopts the cubist approach to the novel by breaking the story up into fragments each told from their own point of view. Each fragment is a memory taken from the characters to express their voice. The collections of vignettes not only give their authors honest opinion of their actions and their impression of the classes around them, but their dreams also are significant in emphasising honesty through their use by Ondaatje to create ambiguity between reality and dreams. The post-modern form is what allows the scattered assortment of memoirs to emphasise the significance of honesty in this novel.
Michael Ondaatje's In the Skin of a Lion is a story, broken up by him to reflect the nature of memories. The key structural themes in this novel are the fragmentation of form and ambiguity of reference frame. "...as Caravaggio sleeps, his head thrown back, witnessing a familiar nightmare" The passive imagery as Caravaggio is 'thrown' back and the present tense of 'witnessing' gives the impression of exactly that; that Caravaggio along with the reader is just a witness. This stresses the non-linear structure of the novel and reveals Caravaggio's truth, that he as a "master of disguise" and is an...
...Discuss the ways in which textual forms and features shape your understanding of In the Skin of a Lion.
Michael Ondaatje’s postmodern exploration of the early, developmental years of Canada, In the Skin of a Lion, is expressed through multiple perspectives, with no dominant perspective or omniscient narrator. The narrative is presented as fragmented and contains interruptions from intersecting perspectives. The presence of class conflict forces the characters to experience extreme adversity, with their contributions to building the society going unnoticed until Ondaatje has addressed their social exclusion. Through reinterpretations of motifs and symbols, Ondaatje adds new dimensions to events in history and characterizations, whilst the ambiguity of events, as a result of the blurring of imagination and reality, encourages the reader to determine a personal interpretation of truth, regardless of official records of history.
History has emphasized the significance of written sources. As a result, oral transmission of stories has been devalued and considered unreliable. However, history and written words do not always reflect truth, as things that are deemed “insignificant” by history can be highly valued by certain individuals. Through Ondaatje’s style of storytelling, the reader is able to reinterpret and recognize oral transmission as a valid form of expressing events that adds new layers of meaning to official...
...Chapter: The Searcher
they think they will make an order
like the old one, sow miniature orchards,
carve children and flocks out of wood
1. The events that begin “The Searcher” chapter can be compared to this stanza of Atwood’s poem “The Immigrants”. Patrick is in a state of denying his victimhood. He looks back on his hometown with memories of frozen laundry and hated whiteness and the smell of shit that followed him everywhere. He looks ahead to his future in Toronto and sees lavish possibility. “He could shave, eat a meal, or have his shoes coloured.” Similarly, the characters in the poem believe they are entering a land of promise, where they will be granted the opportunity unavailable back home. Wood, something used practically, will be so plentiful that it will be used to carve children and flocks. They will no longer have to pinch their pennies.
2. The shouting man in Union Station shares Patrick’s need to latch on to safety. He returns to the station because it represents an escape from the lonely life of an immigrant in a big city. He stays in his “safe-zone”, as if one step away was the “quicksand of the new world”. I believe that this foreshadows the struggles Patrick later faces with life in Toronto, as he is usually isolated. When Clara leaves him he clings on to her, obsesses, refuses to enter into a life without her. He then submits to Alice, finding safety in her presence.
Ondaatje uses biblical allusion in the last phrase of the...