1. Write about the title of the novel. What epic text does this reference? What power does the skin of a lion give? Why do you think Ondaatje chose this title? (Note that in his CBC interview, he speaks about the title.) Note: A complete answer would identify the epic text, and the power that the skin of a lion gives, and the answer would identify where it comes into the novel and therefore why Ondaatje has chosen it as the title.
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The title references The Epic of Gilgamesh. The skin of a lion alludes to self-preservation.
The title of the novel is the biggest indication that this novel will deal with disguise and masking. The title is from "The Epic of Gilgamesh,” the first recorded myth. The excerpt of Gilgamesh says that after a beloved has died, “I will let my hair grow long for your sake, I will wander through the wilderness in the skin of a lion.” This happens in the last half of the novel after Alice dies and Patrick transforms into a person who commits crimes against the rich. Even Alice and Patrick’s coming together is fraught with masks and disguise: "He saw something [in Alice] he would never fully reach – the way Clara dissolved and suddenly disappeared from him, or the way Alice came to him it seemed in a series of masks or painted faces..." At the puppet show put on among immigrants, "[e]ach person had their moment when they assumed the skins of wild animals, when they took responsibility for the story." This is a metaphor for the immigrants as masked or disguised, as being seen and interpreted as something different than they are by the bigger community they are trying to join. Caravaggio says the trick to all theft is “demarcation.” He is referring to when he escapes from prison by being painted blue, a disguise that makes him unable to be demarcated from the dark blue night, so that he can scale down the wall right in front of the guard unnoticed. Then Patrick is “painted” black with grease when he invades the Waterworks.