In the Skin of a Lion

Clara Dickens Character Analysis

The radio actress Clara Dickens is Ambrose Small’s mistress before becoming Patrick Lewis’s lover. Although she is affectionate toward Patrick, she remains more committed to Ambrose and does not think twice about leaving Patrick. Her view of romantic relationships is marked by ideals of passion and adventure. Following Ambrose’s consumerist view of society, she believes that people can be replaced and can easily move on from one relationship to the next. She believes in the importance of creativity in people’s lives and enjoys taking part in fanciful activities such as spirit drawings with her friend Alice Gull.

Clara Dickens Quotes in In the Skin of a Lion

The In the Skin of a Lion quotes below are all either spoken by Clara Dickens or refer to Clara Dickens. 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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There was a wall in him that no one reached. Not even Clara, though she assumed it had deformed him. A tiny stone swallowed years back that had grown with him and which he carried around because he could not shed it. His motive for hiding it had probably extinguished itself years earlier. . . . Patrick and his small unimportant stone.

Related Characters: Patrick Lewis, Clara Dickens
Page Number: 71
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

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:
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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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Clara Dickens Character Timeline in In the Skin of a Lion

The timeline below shows where the character Clara Dickens appears in In the Skin of a Lion. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: Chapter 1: Little Seeds
Love and Family Theme Icon
Literature, Imagination, and Creativity Theme Icon
...one of his handkerchiefs. Years later, this fact will come back to his mind while Clara and he are making love in a car and she throws his semen-incrusted handkerchief out... (full context)
Part 1: Chapter 3: The Searcher
The Working Class vs. the Rich Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
...and abstinence, Ambrose Small organized extravagant parties and had various lovers. One of them, actress Clara Dickens, was only twenty-one when Small was thirty-five. (full context)
The Working Class vs. the Rich Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
...callous in business, either owning people or making them his enemies, he was generous with Clara. She encouraged him to stop taking part in wild parties and, instead, to go on... (full context)
The Working Class vs. the Rich Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
...with Small’s two sisters, who appreciate his interest in these letters, they tell him that Clara knew Small best, because Theresa was too morally upright. (full context)
The Working Class vs. the Rich Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
When Patrick first meets Clara, she tells him she does not want to talk about Small and asks him to... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
The next evening, late at night, Clara too takes part in this process of seduction. She comes to pick Patrick up at... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Another day, Clara helps Patrick carry boxes of files to his apartment. Exhausted, they fall asleep holding hands... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
One day, as they lounge naked in the bed, Patrick tells Clara he loves her and asks her about her past lovers, which prompts Clara to tell... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Literature, Imagination, and Creativity Theme Icon
...morning, behaving like a child, since love makes him feel free and unconstrained, Patrick wakes Clara up to show her a tree frog against the window—a rare sight at night. Patrick... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Patrick and Clara spend the next day making love, driving around the country, and talking about their lives.... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Although Patrick learns about some of Clara’s most intimate, erotic experiences, he does not feel comfortable talking about his own past, preferring... (full context)
The Working Class vs. the Rich Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Reflecting on his feelings for Clara, Patrick wonders if he was attracted to her because she was so unreachable, living a... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
When Alice finally arrives, Patrick watches Clara as the two women walk together. Clara recounts a childhood anecdote in which her father... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
While Patrick and Clara share episodes from their childhood, Alice prefers to talk about the present, revealing little about... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Literature, Imagination, and Creativity Theme Icon
At night, in the dark, Clara and Alice approach the bed where Patrick is sleeping. They place candles on a chair... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
...discovered at dawn throwing rhubarb at each other across the kitchen, Alice laughing wholeheartedly and Clara a little shy at seeing him enter the room. He touches Alice’s elbow and tells... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
...trying to make himself as invisible as possible. Patrick then leaves, telling Alice to tell Clara that he will see her at the hotel. While Alice goes back to sleep by... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Literature, Imagination, and Creativity Theme Icon
That night, at the Arlington hotel, Patrick looks at the sketched portraits that Clara shows him but does not believe her when she says his soul is flexible, because... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Literature, Imagination, and Creativity Theme Icon
...moves around his room faster and faster, avoiding objects carefully. That night, after Patrick and Clara talk extensively about Clara’s intention to leave the next day to follow Small, Clara asks... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
After trying to convince Clara not to leave, Patrick blindfolds himself, telling her not to move, and begins to leap... (full context)
Literature, Imagination, and Creativity Theme Icon
...the end of a relationship. Patrick, by contrast, recalls only feeling resentful and bitter when Clara left him at the train station. She gave him her blind iguana, whom she did... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Literature, Imagination, and Creativity Theme Icon
Obsessed with Clara’s absence, Patrick imagines writing letters to her, sharing his reflections about her relationship with Ambrose,... (full context)
Community and Immigrant Culture Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
...she sees that Patrick is trying to repair the objects he broke in anger after Clara left. Alice asks him about these objects and Patrick explains that he is trying to... (full context)
Community and Immigrant Culture Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
...have come to bring him back to reality, and reflects that she must know where Clara is. (full context)
The Working Class vs. the Rich Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
...all he wanted was to walk away, feeling as though Alice has taken part in Clara’s departure. (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
In Patrick’s apartment, after Alice and Patrick make love, Alice mentions that Clara’s mother probably knows where she is. She encourages him to look for her so that... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Clara’s mother mentions that Clara said she had seduced Patrick. She enjoins Patrick to forget her,... (full context)
The Working Class vs. the Rich Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Literature, Imagination, and Creativity Theme Icon
...Small prepares to talk about his own life, Patrick says he is only interested in Clara because she has cast a spell on him. After Small realizes that Patrick has told... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
...out of one eye. He looks out the window at the river and then hears Clara call him outside the door. Patrick pushes back the bolt but cannot turn the handle... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
As Clara washes Patrick’s cuts, she asks him how he is and Patrick laughs nervously. Clara finds... (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... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
As she had said she would, Clara leaves at dawn without waking Patrick and goes to the beach by Ambrose’s house, watching... (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
...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)
The Working Class vs. the Rich Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
...strenuous tasks, but for the moment he feels awake and energetic. Patrick remembers a comment Clara had made about Alice after Cato, Hana’s father, died. She said that Alice experienced something... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Literature, Imagination, and Creativity Theme Icon
...embrace for the first time while drunk. As he also recalls his old conversation with Clara about Alice, he feels as though all these women might be a succession of painted... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
...Patrick marvels at Alice’s frail, yet agile body. Once, Alice tells Patrick that she misses Clara, who made her sane for years and has made Alice the person she is now. (full context)
Part 3: Chapter 2: Maritime Theatre
The Working Class vs. the Rich Theme Icon
Community and Immigrant Culture Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
...events in his life have taken place: his arrival at the age of twenty-one and Clara’s departure. Patrick then walks out into the city, noticing the changes in fashion that have... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
When Clara left to join Ambrose Small, she realized that Ambrose keeps every aspect of his life—whether... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
...Patrick up to tell him that he needs to answer an urgent phone call from Clara Dickens she forgot to tell him about. When Patrick picks up the phone, feeling that... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Clara tells Patrick that Marmora is four hours away from Toronto and that she needs his... (full context)
Community and Immigrant Culture Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Literature, Imagination, and Creativity Theme Icon
...to Marmora. While they walk to the car, Hana asks Patrick to tell her about Clara, and he explains that she was Alice’s best friend. He promises to tell her the... (full context)