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In the Skin of the Lion

Patrick Lewis is a lost soul, a searcher on a constant journey. In chapter three, ironically titled "The Searcher", Patrick is searching for Ambrose Small but I believe that this is merely a metaphor for his vocation. He is always looking for something and Ondaatje revels this to the reader "He searched out, things he collected things." (Ondaatje 157). The title of Ondaatje's novel, In the Skin of a Lion can also be used to illustrate Patrick's perpetual search. In the preface, Ondaatje's takes an excerpt from the Epic of Gilgamesh which says: "The joyful will stoop...I will wander through the wilderness in the skin of a lion." Patrick is wandering through the wilderness, searching. He has no purpose in life, he just searches. But what is Patrick searching for? Light. This ambiguous concept of light Ondaatje presents throughout the novel is not ordinary light but one that illuminates the void of darkness. Just like the moths that Patrick is intrigued by, only tend toward light at night, so does Patrick only seek light when there is none around him. Patrick's continues his eternal search for light because he has none of his own to emit. Northrop Frye said that the central theme behind every story is the loss and regaining of identity. Patrick has no identity of his own, his only way of gaining a temporary one is through light. "And he himself was nothing but a prism that refracted their lives." (Ondaatje, 157) A prism, by definition, refracts light into a spectrum of colors. Correspondingly, Patrick contorts other characters identities as his own. We are introduced to this concept of reflecting light even before the novel begins. "Driving the four hours to Marmora under six stars and a moon."(Ondaatje). Patrick is the moon, he can only reflect a stars light. When reflecting light from the six stars, the main characters in the novel, Patrick is able to gain a temporary identity. This is what Patrick searches for, an identity. Througho...

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