In the Skin of a Lion - Critical Response


In the Skin of a Lion
Michael Ondaatje

To what extent has your own interpretation of In the Skin of a Lion been informed by Ondaatje’s narrative exploration of two of the following ideas:

In my opinion, Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion explores the untold history of the working class and presents a perspective on their neglected plight in post-colonial Canada. Through this portrayal of the working class it is evident how potently a community can influence a sense of identity within an individual. Throughout the novel, Ondaatje creates a meta-fictional history that reflects the disjointed nature of a forgotten past. He focuses on smaller characters that play a seemingly smaller roll within history but whom, without their help, events would never have occurred. The protagonist, Patrick, is plagued with a powerful desire to create an identity for himself that reflects the world around him. In the Skin of a Lion is an acute exploration of the unwritten history of the working class told through their stories and their communities. Furthermore, their plight is expressed in Patrick’s struggle to assume a permanent skin through the myriad of communities he becomes apart of.

The metafictional, postmodern style of the novel reflects the fragmented nature of ‘history from below’ and, as such, presents a fictional history that is not necessarily explored by conventional methods. Similarly, the narrative structure of the novel reflects its postmodern genre by unravelling a non-linear plot that creates pastiche of stories that link and interweave. “His own life was no longer a single story but part of a mural, which was a falling together of accomplices.” This structure is crucial to the development of the novel as it presents the story in such a way that resonates with the chaotic order of a community. Ondaatje stated in ‘The Silent Partner’ that “as the facts and fragments started to come together I knew I had to structure the book in such a way as...