In the Skin of a Lion

In the Skin of a Lion Essay Questions

  1. 1

    How does Patrick, and the reader, come to know that Alice Gull is the nun who fell off the bridge?

    The one mark is the scar on her nose mentioned by the other nuns when she fell off the bridge -- the scar indicates that she is clumsy and always running into things. Patrick notices the scar when he gazes at her face. Also there is half a rosary in a keepsake box that Patrick finds, as well as a picture of Nicholas Temelcoff years ago when he was a bridge builder.

  2. 2

    Characters’ dreams are interwoven into the narrative. Give an example of this and what effect is has on the story.

    One example is Patrick’s letters to Clara. He writes of his dreams in these letters as if they are events that happened to him in real life. It has the effect of bringing us deeply into Patrick’s inner world where images and feelings inside of him are more important to him than his outside life. He pays more attention to his dreams than the small apartment and his isolation. It is an inner drama rather than an external drama.

  3. 3

    What historical figure is Caravaggio named after and why is this relevant to his character in this novel?

    Michelangelo Amerighi da Caravaggio was an Italian painter (1569 – 1609) who painted the poor and the disenfranchised and symbolically used light and dark, a method known as chiaroscuro. The fact that he painted the poor was unique in his time. Caravaggio in the novel is a thief who is poor and lives among the poor laborers and immigrants, and who steals from the rich. Caravaggio's demarcation strategy, as when he paints himself blue or Patrick black, also harkens to his namesake.

  4. 4

    Why do you think Patrick did not blow up the Waterworks after the broke in with the intent to do so?

    Harris spoke with Patrick and told him of his own journey to where he has gotten. Patrick realizes that Harris was a dreamer too. Harris also doesn't make him feel small or inferior. He listens to Patrick and doesn't argue but agrees with all the unfairness between rich and poor.

  5. 5

    Why is Nicholas Temelcoff willing to take Hana in after Alice dies?

    Because Alice is the nun whose life he saved and to whom he makes a promise to look after for the rest of his life. Hana, as Alice's daughter, is Nicholas' responsibility in his mind. Hana also loves to go to his bakery and has a great relationship with him before Alice dies.

  6. 6

    On pages 184-186, the scene shifts without transition or warning from Caravaggio almost drowning in a river to his throat being cut in prison. What are the signals of the scene shift? What is the effect of the rapid scene shifting?

    The signals of a scene shift are images and sensory detail. The effect is to bring both events into comparison and even metaphoric similarity, without making an overt comparison or making metaphors or similes between the two. A simile would be, "He couldn't breathe with the injury as if he were drowning." This does not even have to be stated because the direct juxtaposition causes the comparison and likeness.

  7. 7

    Find examples of blindness/sight in the book and discuss what significance it might have to an overarching theme in the novel.

    Three examples would be: when Patrick blindfolds himself and runs around the room and jumps over furniture, asking Clara to sit still; the Garden of the Blind where Patrick rests right after he has set the hotel on fire; the men who build the tunnel under Lake Ontario in the blinding dark. An overarching theme of blindness indicates how the disempowered laborers work on the plans of the rich without knowing the overall picture; they are pawns in someone else's game.

  8. 8

    What are some similarities between the women Caravaggio meets, Anne and Gianetta, and how do they help characterize Caravaggio?

    Both Anne and Gianetta meet Caravaggio after he has finished a break-in theft. Both women are not afraid of him and this characterizes Caravaggio as a gentle man who does not exude danger, or is not dangerous. Both women also laugh at Caravaggio and his stories of his mistakes during his break-ins, which show he is friendly, funny, and humble, willing to laugh at himself.

  9. 9

    How is it significant that Patrick ends up in the Garden of the Blind after he bombs the hotel?

    Parick could have rowed to another island, but the island he ends up on after he leaves the site of the bombing is the one that has the Garden of the Blind on it. The fact that no one can see him means that he himself must use his other senses, must expand his reach, to interpret life. This indicates that symbolically as well, he is expanding his vision that caused him to do something so short-sighted as bomb a hotel out of his misdirected anger over Alice's death.

  10. 10

    Why do you think it is the square dance calls that Patrick choses to shout out when he watches Caravaggio getting his throat cut in prison?

    The square dance calls make an appearance one earlier time in the novel, spoken by Patrick's father. As a child, Patrick used to imitate his father's calls as he worked, because it was the most his father ever said. Patrick's father is a nonverbal man, and before Patrick sees Caravaggio getting his throat cut in jail, Patrick has not spoken at all during the time of his imprisonmnet. To him, those square dance calls represent his connection to his father, who was his lifeline as a child, and so, to bring Caravaggio back to consciousness, and to break his own silence, Patrick chooses to use those words.