In the Skin of a Lion


Michael Ondaatje

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Themes and Colors
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
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in In the Skin of a Lion, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Working Class vs. the Rich

In the Skin of a Lion depicts the cultural and political context of early 20th-century Canada, a period in which European immigrants played an important role in the Canadian economy. Protagonist Patrick Lewis and his fellow working-class colleagues, such as Macedonian immigrant Nicholas Temelcoff, put their lives and health at risk every day as they take part in arduous manual labor on dangerous bridges, underground tunnels, and tanneries. By contrast, the rich—people such as…

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Community and Immigrant Culture

Patrick Lewis, who grew up with a reclusive father in the harsh countryside of Eastern Ontario, is used to experiencing life on his own. Although moving to Toronto and becoming accustomed to the monotony of urban lower-class life initially reinforces these solitary habits, Patrick soon feels attracted to the vibrant community of European immigrants around him. As he takes part in local Macedonian social life, he realizes that, despite being Canadian, he is the…

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Love and Family

Patrick Lewis’s early experiences of love with the actress Clara Dickens are marked by bitterness and disappointment. Although Patrick dreams of long-term commitment with Clara, Clara is more inclined to pursue pleasure alone and she ultimately decides to return to her former lover, the millionaire Ambrose Small. The failure of his relationship leads Patrick to withdraw into himself, accepting that he will never be able to fully connect with the human beings around…

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Literature, Imagination, and Creativity

Patrick Lewis, who enjoys reading, believes that literature can provide comfort in difficult times, bringing order to a confusing present and preserving the past. However, when Patrick realizes that literature does not necessarily alter his life (for example, it fails to give him guidelines on how to renew his relationship with Clara or to bring his beloved Alice back), he realizes that literature belongs to a separate realm from the real world. Therefore, instead…

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