In the Skin of a Lion

Ambrose Small Character Analysis

Millionaire Ambrose Small is characterized by his rapacious attitude toward business and, in general, toward life. He believes that everything can be bought and discarded, even his romantic relationships. At the end of his life, his lover Clara Dickens realizes that he has kept to himself many of his secrets and has displayed a façade of indifference that is not necessarily in line with his actual emotions.

Ambrose Small Quotes in In the Skin of a Lion

The In the Skin of a Lion quotes below are all either spoken by Ambrose Small or refer to Ambrose Small. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Working Class vs. the Rich Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of In the Skin of a Lion published in 1987.
Part 1: Chapter 3: The Searcher Quotes

I loved the piano. It was something to get lost in. My exit, my privacy. He had his money, gambling, he had his winning elsewhere. I had my radio work and my piano. Everyone has to scratch on walls somewhere or they go crazy. And you?

Related Characters: Clara Dickens (speaker), Patrick Lewis, Ambrose Small
Page Number: 70
Explanation and Analysis:
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Patrick believed in archaic words like befall and doomed. The doom of Patrick Lewis. The doom of Ambrose Small. The words suggested spells and visions, a choreography of fate. A long time ago he had been told never to follow her. If Patrick was a hero he could come down on Small like an arrow. He could lead an iguana on a silver leash to its mistress.

Related Characters: Patrick Lewis, Clara Dickens, Ambrose Small
Page Number: 83
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 2: Chapter 1: Palace of Purification Quotes

Come on, Patrick, of course some make it. They do it by becoming just like the ones they want to overtake. Like Ambrose. Look at what he became before he disappeared. He was predatory. He let nothing cling to him, not even Clara.

Page Number: 123
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Ambrose Small Character Timeline in In the Skin of a Lion

The timeline below shows where the character Ambrose Small appears in In the Skin of a Lion. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Chapter 3: The Searcher
The Working Class vs. the Rich Theme Icon
In 1919, millionaire Ambrose Small disappeared. The Bertillon identification system, according to which people could be correctly identified according... (full context)
The Working Class vs. the Rich Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Between 1910 and 1919, Ambrose Small dominated Toronto’s business life by buying theaters. Although his wife Theresa Kormann lived a... (full context)
The Working Class vs. the Rich Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Although Small was tyrannical and callous in business, either owning people or making them his enemies, he... (full context)
The Working Class vs. the Rich Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
The Ambrose Small case so excited people’s curiosity, as everyone followed the police’s investigations, that companies paid... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Literature, Imagination, and Creativity Theme Icon
...tree frog against the window—a rare sight at night. Patrick says that the frog is Ambrose and Clara gives the frog on the other side of the window a kiss, calling... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
...making love, driving around the country, and talking about their lives. Patrick asks her about Ambrose and learns some anecdotes from her. When Clara mentions that Ambrose gave her a piano,... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
...at the thought of losing her, since Clara insists that she will leave him for Ambrose, Clara tries to reassure him by telling him that everyone is replaceable. (full context)
The Working Class vs. the Rich Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
...to her because she was so unreachable, living a life of wealth and extravagance as Ambrose Small’s lover, understanding the subtle exchanges implied in rich people’s gifts. As Patrick holds her... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Literature, Imagination, and Creativity Theme Icon
...Patrick and Clara talk extensively about Clara’s intention to leave the next day to follow Small, Clara asks Patrick not to follow her. Patrick feels lost and alienated from Clara’s life. (full context)
Literature, Imagination, and Creativity Theme Icon
...in romantic tales in which fate is predestined. He imagines himself as a hero, destroying Small and rescuing Clara with her own iguana. (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Literature, Imagination, and Creativity Theme Icon
...Clara’s absence, Patrick imagines writing letters to her, sharing his reflections about her relationship with Ambrose, his dreams, and his notes about hearing lovers fight at night in the street. He... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
...old pictures of Clara with Stump and, when Clara’s mother says that Clara is somewhere Small knows Patrick will never go back to, Patrick becomes convinced that they must be at... (full context)
The Working Class vs. the Rich Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Literature, Imagination, and Creativity Theme Icon
When Patrick finds Ambrose Small in the early hours of the morning, both men seem excited by each other’s... (full context)
The Working Class vs. the Rich Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
...feels some water dripping on him even though there is no rain, he realizes that Small has poured kerosene on him from the roof and is about to throw a match... (full context)
Literature, Imagination, and Creativity Theme Icon
...fire, he has cut his hands with his knife. When he looks up, he sees Ambrose throw a burning bottle at him and, when it explodes against the water, Patrick feels... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
After the doctor comes, Clara tells Patrick that Small is not actually interested in him, but only wants to protect himself and remain anonymous.... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
...she would, Clara leaves at dawn without waking Patrick and goes to the beach by Ambrose’s house, watching the river and thinking. In the meantime, Patrick has woken up and discovered... (full context)
Part 2: Chapter 1: Palace of Purification
The Working Class vs. the Rich Theme Icon
Community and Immigrant Culture Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Literature, Imagination, and Creativity Theme Icon
...she argues that the only way to succeed economically is to become as predatory as Ambrose Small, who considered even Clara a possession he could detach himself from. (full context)
Part 3: Chapter 2: Maritime Theatre
Love and Family Theme Icon
When Clara left to join Ambrose Small, she realized that Ambrose keeps every aspect of his life—whether economic or romantic—perfectly separate,... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
...after. Clara then asks him to come pick her up in Marmora, Ontario, now that Ambrose has died. (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
...help. Patrick makes ironic comments about the time that has passed, Clara’s sudden reappearance, and Ambrose’s death, but Patrick agrees to come pick her up, even though he has a broken... (full context)