In the Skin of a lion by Michael Ondaajte is a true classic. It deals with the past, rewriting the history of Toronto. It is open to a variety of readings, postmodernist, post-colonial, marxist to name a few. The history of the unacknowledged is retold. Nature of life and art are also examined. The universal themes of love, relationships, communication and storytelling are beautifully combined into this novel.
The role of storytelling, its nature is explored. The narrative allows for multiple views, we gain varois perspectives from the characters. The non-linear nature of the book, its lack of chronological order, are attributes of a postmodern text. The oral nature of storytelling is examined, as the text employs filmic techniques such as flashbacks, jump cuts, regressing. The story is brought to us as a girl 'gathers' it in a car. The car signifying language as the vehicle transporting the story. The circular nature of the book is shown through the words 'lights' at the end emohasising the nature of stories.
The story of the marginalised is brought to the centre in Ondaatje's story. He values the story of those who laboured, died and eventually survived in the building of the city of Toronto. Language is portrayed as the key to liberate the workers from their exploitation. In the didactic performance with Alice the human puppet, language is the barrier for the migrants. The imagery and reoccuring motifs provide links throughout the non-linear text. The moths represent the workers just as the moths are attracted to the light, so too are the to Canada, a land of oppostunities, where they will be exploited, and killed. However just as the moths are beautiful so too are the lives of the workers. Their work is described in detail, revealing the dangerous work they endure.
The harsh working conditions of the workers, reveal the past of Toronto's society, that was unrecorded. The great men are reduced to the size of ordinary men.