In The Skin Of a Lion
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. Hazen Lewis, his father was an ‘abashed man’. Hazen never influences Patrick, or provided him with ‘his ways’. Hazen allows Patrick to become his own person (INSERT QUOTE) reinforcing Patricks individuality.
Patrick can be views as a ‘blank canvas’ that can be changed by people who play a part in his life and therefore influence him. The role of relationships in this novel involves the interaction between certain characters. The migrant workers are forced to communicate in English, a language they are not familiar in, “if they speak…in any language other than English, they will be jailed, a rule of the city. ” The fractured, abrupt sentence – “A rule of the city,” conveys the harshness of the laws of the rich.
As we know Patrick isn’t an immigrant, however manages become friends and communicates with the migrants becoming comfortable and as some may see a part of the group. This is shown through (PROVIDE E>G). In this relationship Patrick starts learning their ways; the immigrants provide Patrick with guidance and are influential in his life. Postmodern writing is the challenge to dominant narratives through a manipulation of narrative voice. Ondaatje does this as part of his overall purpose to give a voice to the typically unheard voices in history.
Ondaatje writes from the perspective of the unacknowledged drones of society, the voiceless manual labourers who are scarcely regarded by society, the rich or history. This derisory attitude is reinforced many times: “A man is an extension of hammer, drill, flame. ” However this manipulation also becomes structurally significant in that it allows Ondaatje himself to enter the novel and remind us that it is the wise author who is indeed the puppeteer with ultimate control over the patterns and paths which the characters follow.
So as well as the structural function, this narrative technique of Ondaatje’s becomes a thematic function in knitting together the characters in the way that he does. The non-linear, elliptical structure of the novel resembles the way in which an individual tells a story. Memories are fragmented, incomplete and shift from one moment to the next. Metafiction is use through the novel as a self–reflexive stressing the constructiveness of the novel.
Patrick’s use of a reading metaphor to recall aspects of life with Alice, “All these fragments of memory … o we can retreat from the grand story… Those moments, those few pages in a book we can go back and forth over. ” Identity is one of the major themes in the novel “In the Skin of a Lion” in the first part of the story “Little Seeds” we see Patrick a young boy who loves insects and is much more comfortable in the darkness. The insects represent transformation and the change that will occur within him later on in the story, and the darkness provides a medium for him to do just that and to discover who he is.
We are given a glimpse of his future self when we read on page 20 “Years later, Clara making love to him in his car, “Hey lightning bug! ” he had said, laughing offering no explanation. ” We see that Patrick has clearly lost his childhood innocence, but he still feels that connection to insects, pointing out that is identity is still developing. Alice was another character that greatly impressed me, as she is a strong, confident female figure. Her character would have been revolutionary in the set context; however is more accepted in today’s society, as a result of women’s liberation.
Context provides us with different perspectives, in both set and today’s context with Alice being viewed as an insightful and interesting character. Patricks use of verbal cinema when he speaks to Alice, reinforces he is learning the capacity of love from her. The very feminine perspective provides us with mysterious and powerful women, and also a lover. Ondaatje’s skilful, unbiased, and in-depth exploration and subversion of gender roles, as well as feminist elements in the novel’s plot and characters, will then contribute to ‘in the skin of a lion’, and the different view which are available in this text.
In the skin of a lion is an everlasting novel which continues to be perceived through different perspectives. Ondaatje implemented such beautiful poetic language, in a creative structure, in order to address all areas of context. The exploration of relationships between Patrick and Alice recounts the journey towards purpose and human interaction. The different perspectives throughout this text, in my opinion broaden my awareness of how I want to be shaped as a person, and all the different options in which I have.