In the Skin of a Lion

Marxist and Post-Colonial Readings of In the Skin of a Lion 12th Grade

The postmodernist novel In the Skin of a Lion, by Michael Ondaatje, is a convincing exploration of the complex nature of power and the impact of ethnocentric domination on different cultural groups. Though lending itself to a wide variety of readings, the obvious Marxist and post-colonial themes consistently portrayed throughout the novel signify a strong relationship between those concepts and Ondaatje’s personal beliefs and values. Thus, these particular interpretations can be perceived as a mechanism by which Ondaatje’s intentions are revealed: capitalist exploitation of the working class, class struggle and the plight of the marginalised groups, and the resulting effect on the telling of history. Ondaatje’s purpose as the composer is effectively captured within three key scenes which both express and highlight the significance of the issues being explored.

The first of these scenes, detailing the (real life) official opening of the Bloor Street Viaduct, illustrates the dismissive attitude of the capitalist rich toward the contribution of the working class in building Toronto. “Christened ‘Prince Edward,’” the bridge was to be opened by a “show car containing officials,” supposedly representing those responsible for its...

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