Patrick is released from prison in 1938, when police units focused on industrial political activity aim to crush any political activity, and thousands of immigrants are being deported out of Canada. Patrick takes the train from Kingston to Toronto’s Union Station, where crucial 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 taken place during his absence.
The state’s oppression of workers continues, demonstrating its willingness to crush democratic activities such as organizing unions in order to preserve the pre-existing socio-economic order. These events confirm Alice’s opinion that the rich seek to keep the poor helpless and marginalized. They also reveal the country’s distrust of the immigrant communities it hosts.
When Patrick reaches Geranium Bakery, Nicholas Temelcoff hugs him vigorously. Patrick then asks about Hana and Nicholas tells him that she is packing. Walking up to Nicholas’s apartment, Patrick finds Hana sitting on the bed and notices that she looks a lot like Alice. This makes him suffer, and Hana sees his deep love for Alice in his eyes. Five years earlier, before Patrick left for the Muskoka Hotel, Nicholas offered to take Hana into his family and Patrick had to tell eleven-year-old Hana that they would have to be on their own for a while.
After years, Patrick’s love for Alice remains as alive as ever, capable of making him suffer. The sequence of events Patrick remembers shows that he behaved in a rational fashion, premeditating his actions instead of simply abandoning Hana to take part in a rash act of revenge. Like Cato, it appears, he decided that his political act was more important than preserving the unity of his family.
Suddenly, Hana stands up, showing Patrick how tall she is, and hugs him softly. The two of them walk down to have lunch and feel comfortable joking together. In prison, Patrick believed that freedom meant being on his own in silence and keeping himself from thinking about Alice, but his refusal to communicate changed on the night that Caravaggio was attacked.
After a long time spent in silence and mourning, Patrick realizes that it is necessary for people to unite as groups, in order to protect each other and bring each other support. His conversation with Hana once again highlights that he enjoys social contact more than he thinks, as it brings pleasure and meaning to his life.
When Clara left to join Ambrose Small, she realized that Ambrose keeps every aspect of his life—whether economic or romantic—perfectly separate, and only shows the parts of him he wants people to see, even to Clara. When Ambrose was dying, he finally shared with Clara all of his memories, revealing the depth of his knowledge of many woman, financial affairs, and emotions she was not aware of. While Clara tried to figure out what might have become of these women or financial deals, Ambrose proved uninterested. Ultimately, despite Ambrose’s outflow of words and memories, Clara concluded that she would never know him fully.
This description of Clara’s relationship with Ambrose serves as a prelude to her return into Patrick’s life, and also proves to be a mirror of Patrick’s experience with Clara. In the same way that Patrick was disappointed to realize that parts of Clara would always remain unreachable to him, Clara was forced to accept that she would never know Ambrose as well as she thought she did. This contrasts with Patrick’s relationship with Alice, which might have also had its elements of mystery but was defined by consistent trust and honesty.
In their shared apartment, Hana wakes 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 he has not heard from her in a hundred years, Clara asks who the girl was and Patrick says she is a sixteen-year-old friend he is looking after. Clara then asks him to come pick her up in Marmora, Ontario, now that Ambrose has died.
Patrick’s description of Hana as a friend might signal his difficulty of accepting his fatherly role toward the adolescent or his lack of trust toward Clara. Clara’s attitude toward Patrick seems moved by necessity, since she believes he is the only person who could help her, but is also an expression of affection and trust on her part.
Clara tells Patrick that Marmora is four hours away from Toronto and that she needs his 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 arm. He tells her that Hana will keep him awake and that she has saved his life. When Clara asks if Patrick is her father, he does not initially answer, asking her for precise directions instead, but finally says that he is indeed her father. When they hang up and Patrick tells Hana that they need to go to Marmora, Hana begins asking him many questions. Patrick agrees to tell her about Clara during the trip, which makes Hana feel excited, but asks to take a nap first.
Patrick’s ironic comments suggest that he has perhaps never fully forgiven Clara for leaving him and choosing Ambrose over him. However, his unwillingness to let his resentment overwhelm him reveals his kindness and generosity, as well as the affection he still feels for Clara. Patrick’s admission that he is Hana’s father is a radical statement, proving that he has finally accepted his role in Alice’s family and that, as Alice believed, true love—more than official labels—leads to sincere commitment.
Six months earlier, when Patrick left prison, as the Spanish Civil War was evolving in Spain, the upper class became fearful and began to crack down on workers’ unions. At the waterworks, the police and the army began to guard buildings to protect from attacks. Harris established a security parameter and was the only person inside the building at night. Comfortable around the sound of machines, Harris would dream of his constructions and what he has achieved.
Even though the rich might have always feared the working class, the example of Spanish workers rising up against the government has made Canadian authorities willing to act decisively. The fact that Patrick’s life cannot be separated from international political dynamics shows that everyone—even the seemingly marginalized members of the working class—is part of history at all times.
One evening, on another section of the river, the Yacht Club holds a costume ball, in which the wealthy can dance, drink champagne, and try to hit chained monkeys with champagne corks to win a free bottle. That night, Patrick, Caravaggio, and Giannetta step off a motor launch toward the Yacht Club where, thanks to Caravaggio’s confident attitude, they are able to join the party even though they were never invited. The rich accept Caravaggio’s pirate costume and presentation as Randolph Frog, while Giannetta and Patrick stay on the sidelines, pretending to be shy.
The apparent disjointedness of these various events—from the Spanish civil war to a costume ball—demonstrates that history is made up of a variety of anecdotes and actors, whose lives intersect in ways that sometimes seem accidental or extraordinary. Although Patrick, Caravaggio, and Giannetta’s motives still appear obscure, their later actions will bring their purpose to light, proving that they, too, are part of world political dynamics.
Inserting himself perfectly in this social circle, Caravaggio dances with women and jokes with men, before finally finding the couple he is looking for: a flirtatious wife and a domineering husband. He tells the wife that he learned Italian during a vacation in Tuscany and, after flirting with the wife, she invites him to their yacht. When Caravaggio points to Giannetta, explaining that she is his sister, the wife invites her too. Earlier in the evening, before they arrived at the Yacht Club, Caravaggio had made a comment about the rich’s laugh and their obsession with their possessions that reminded Patrick of Alice.
The fact that Caravaggio can appear so comfortable among the rich is ironic, given his hatred of their behaviors and their lifestyle. However, he shows that he understands them, since he is capable of manipulating them so easily. The fact that Caravaggio cannot openly say that he is Italian is also ironic. Paradoxically, while Italy is considered an exotic, upper-class destination, Italian immigrants are looked down upon in Canada.
When the group steps onto the couple’s yacht, Caravaggio, already drunk, searches for more bottles of alcohol. After they begin sailing, the wife asks Caravaggio if he is hungry and leads him downstairs, both of them sexually aroused. Beneath the deck, the woman half takes off her dress. The music then stops abruptly and Caravaggio, recognizing the signal, puts a handkerchief with chloroform on the lady’s mouth, at the same time as Patrick chloroforms the husband upstairs. Caravaggio holds the wife and wonders what she is dreaming of before he puts a blanket over her and heads upstairs. While the husband lies unconscious in the ropes, Patrick, Giannetta, and Caravaggio laugh and head toward the waterworks. Enjoying the atmosphere, not yet thinking of what is to come, Patrick feels relaxed.
As he does in most aspects of his life, Caravaggio uses his charm to get himself through difficult situations. The wife’s willingness to cheat on her husband while he is on the same boat as she reveals how little her marriage means to her, in stark contrast to the partnership that exists between Caravaggio and his wife. In this particular situation at least, it seems that lower-class life can be characterized by stronger relationships. The boat’s direction toward the waterworks suggests that the three protagonists are taking part in a political expedition, reminiscent of Patrick’s trip to the Muskoka Hotel.
After meticulously studying the plans of the waterworks that Caravaggio stole, Patrick knows the specific size of each part of the waterworks. Taking off his shirt, he rubs grease all over his body and Caravaggio helps him attach the dynamite. They have calculated that one tank should be sufficient for Patrick to succeed, although they are not completely certain about this. In addition, Patrick carries a blasting-box small enough for him to pass through the iron bars at the entrance of the intake pipe. He also carries wire-cutters to get through a metal screen, after a second series of iron bars. Finally, Caravaggio wishes Patrick good luck and Patrick dives, holding the mouthpiece in his mouth.
Patrick’s intention to dynamite the waterworks becomes clearer, even as a variety of obstacles emerge. The aspects of Patrick and Caravaggio’s plan that remain uncertain suggest that Patrick is putting his life at risk for this project. As with the episode at the Muskoka Hotel, it remains ambiguous what Patrick’s exact motives might be. He is clearly moved by strong passions and anger, likely bred by his own experience of working at the waterworks, where he saw how badly the workers were treated.
On this night of July 7, 1938, Patrick crawls through the iron bars, but the difficulty of swimming with a heavy tank makes him discard his lamp, to carry less weight. He thus swims in darkness, meanwhile fearing that his tank will run out of air. When Patrick reaches the second row of metal bars, his tank is empty. After crawling through, he finally reaches the metal screen and begins to panic because he does not know what to do without any air in his tank. However, he then realizes that he is actually breathing pure air, as there is space between the water and the screen.
The danger that Patrick exposes himself to is reminiscent of the dangerous actions workers have taken part in, on construction projects such as the bridge and the waterworks. Patrick proves that, like economic necessity, political resolve can be sufficient to make one forget about one’s own well-being and put one’s life at risk for a greater cause, as a matter of personal and collective necessity.
Having lost his wire cutters, hanging onto the screen with one arm, Patrick decides to use a small explosion to break through it, although he is not sure how small it will actually be. After placing the explosive and diving as far as he can, he does not hear the sound of the explosion but feels its effect, as it peels the skin on his chest and back, and he tastes blood in his mouth. Patrick then exits the well and finds himself surrounded by machines. He takes off his dynamite and strips naked, lying down to rest.
Patrick’s decision to put his life at risk suggests that he might not believe he has much to lose, since Alice’s death has left him forlorn, and also that he believes he is taking part in a project greater than him. The fact that he inherited his skills from his father makes it seem as though he were destined to use his talents for a greater purpose—in this case, as a form of political protest.
When Harris hears a sound that he does not recognize as the machine’s ordinary noise, he walks around the building but does not see anything suspicious. In the meantime, Patrick prepares himself to walk through the puppet-filled hallway where he saw Alice years ago. He knows that he has broken something because his face is in deep pain. After a while, he stands up, dresses, and attaches the blasting caps onto the dynamite, imagining the effect of the explosion as it will make the water burst in the air and will destroy the building entirely. He begins to sing softly to himself as he places charges on the machine, his singing drowned by the sound of the machines.
Patrick’s association of the waterworks with Alice’s memory makes his project clearer, as he might be simultaneously protesting against the condition of the working class and against the injustice of Alice’s death. His composed attitude shows how habitual it is for him to use dynamite. This suggests that political protest might be just as natural to him as manual labor—an extension of his identity as an oppressed member of the working class, who believes in his own dignity.
When Patrick enters Harris’s office some time later, the Commissioner sees him walk in, though Patrick is unrecognizable, covered in black grease as well as in scratches and blood, with a limp arm hanging down his side, while carrying the blasting-box. Patrick then explains that he worked for Harris and, when he runs his finger over Harris’s desk, recognizes the material as feldspar.
Patrick’s identification of the desk’s material ask feldspar gives greater meaning to his actions, since his father was killed when asked to go too deep in a feldspar mine. Patrick is thus protesting against the death of innocent workers such as his father, defending their dignity by destroying the works that exploited them.
After thinking for a while, Harris begins to speak, explaining that he has worked hard to arrive at his current position, Patrick says that Harris has forgotten them. He tells the Commissioner that the tiles he has chosen for the waterworks cost more than half of the men’s salaries and asks if Harris feels ashamed, but Harris replies that he has been building a grandiose work of architecture that will be admired in the years to come. However, Patrick asks him if he knows how many workers have died to achieve this, and Harris replies that “There was no record kept.”
Harris immediately understands that Patrick’s motives are probably economic and political, and he tries to convince Patrick that they are not necessarily enemies. However, Harris’s indifference to the workers’ plights—even, for their very life and death—makes him seem callous, focused only on his selfish dreams and ambitions. Harris does not seem bothered by the deep class inequality that exists in society.
Patrick then asks Harris to turn the light off, because the darkness makes him feel more awake. Harris tells Patrick that he does not understand power and is simply looking for a villain. In order to distract Patrick until morning, when Harris will be able to use the light to grab his gun, he tells Patrick about his dreams for Toronto. He explains that workers are part of these beautiful constructions, but that their marginal role makes them reject power, leaving other people to take responsibility for telling a historical narrative.
Paradoxically, Harris places responsibility for the workers’ lack of power onto the workers themselves, thus refusing to accept that he plays any role in their political and economic marginalization. However, he correctly identifies historical narratives as artificial stories that leave out key actors—an aspect of history that In the Skin of a Lion aims to counter by focusing specifically on individuals’ lives.
Patrick interrupts Harris’s speech to tell him about Alice Gull’s death. When Harris mentions that she was killed by an anarchist, Patrick explains that she was killed because she grabbed the wrong bag: a bag that contained a clock bomb. In a low voice, Patrick says that he does not want to talk about this anymore. However, he explains that people at the tannery told him about the bag and that he ran out to search for Alice, accompanied by Nicholas Temelcoff. When he heard the explosion nearby, he ran to Alice and took her in his arms, where she died from a wound in her side.
Alice’s death, as Patrick narrates it, appears to be no one’s fault, since it was a simple mistake. However, Alice’s death made the faults of the system—a system in which workers are forced to protest by using violent means, since they are denied any space in the political arena—evident. His decision to use violence to protest against it, though, remains paradoxical, since he is opposed to the idea of sacrificing human lives for political ideals.
When Patrick goes quiet, Harris calls out to him. In the darkness, Harris realizes that Patrick swam all the way here, and wonders what dream kept Patrick going. For an hour, Harris waits for dawn. When some light finally arrives, he sees Patrick, all bloody, sitting silently, in a strange position, and thinks he is dead before realizing he is only sleeping. After reflecting on why Patrick chose him, Harris concluded that it is because Harris has concrete monuments that prove his power, whereas richer, more powerful people are more discrete, because their wealth is more invisible. When an officer walks into Harris’s office at six in the morning, Harris tells him to take the blasting-box away and to find a nurse for Patrick, who is hurt.
Harris’s incredulity at Patrick’s physical achievement reflects his inability to understand political passion, and workers’ desire to make their voices heard. However, the fact that Patrick fell asleep suggests that he was perhaps more interested in sharing his story with Harris, and trying to make Harris show compassion for workers, than actually following his desire for violence and revenge. Harris’s protective attitude toward Patrick proves that he is not vengeful either, and understands that Patrick might have simply wanted for someone to hear his complaints.
After making some coffee, Hana wakes Patrick up from his nap, telling him they have to go 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 story and asks her if she wants to drive, while he handles the gears for a while. While Hana adjusts the rear-view mirror, he makes himself comfortable in the passenger seat, exaggerating the luxury of it, and tells her to turn on the lights.
Patrick’s decision to tell Hana about Clara reveals that he is finally ready to consider himself involved in the stories of the people around him—instead of considering himself lonely and detached from other humans, as he has in the past. Storytelling thus reveals his embrace of his position in human society, an interconnected network of relationships.