When studying a novel it sometimes helps to look at the language used in a specific passage. In the novel In The Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje, this approach is extremely helpful. It will help you better understand the characters and give you a clearer idea of what the author is trying to say. Within the novel, the passage entitled “The Skating Scene,'; where Patrick observes the loggers skating late at night, is stylistically interesting. By looking at metaphors, symbolism and diction, we can gain a better understanding of the characters and make connections within the scene and then to the novel as a whole.
In “The Skating Scene'; many metaphors are used throughout, making is very poetic. One very powerful metaphor seen in this passage is: “This was against the night'; (page 22). This emphasizes the light and dark imagery found in this passage. Ondaatje points out that for Patrick day is work and night is rest, however, he sees the loggers skating and having fun at night. They are going against what Patrick has been taught. In a way they are showing him a new side to life and he is transfixed. This sense of excitement is also shown in the pace of the passage. As the loggers are skating the pace gets faster, and then starts to slow down when he goes back home to his routine life. By going against the night, the loggers are essentially breaking the rules: “Their lanterns replaced them with new rushes which let them go further past boundaries'; (page 22). This idea of going past boundaries reminds us of a part later in the novel. Patrick goes past boundaries when he sets fire to the Muskoka Hotel on page 168. Instead of being an observer like he always is, he actually steps in and goes “against the night.'; By comparing Patrick in “The Skating Scene'; to when he goes to the Muskoka Hotel, we can see how he grows and changes throughout the course of the novel.
Another powerful metaphor in this particular scene is: “And a moon lost in the thickness of clouds so it did not shine a path for him towards the trees'; (page 20). This metaphor again emphasizes the light and dark imagery in the scene. Even though there is no path for Patrick to follow, he still finds his way to the skaters by travelling towards the light from their lanterns. He is attracted to the light much like a moth is. He is also like a moth in the way that he likes the darkness and in the way that his character seems to ‘come out’ at night. The fire he sets to the Muskoka Hotel and the attempted bombing of the waterworks both happen at night and are both examples of things that are unlike his character. Metaphorically speaking Patrick is a moth.
Symbolism is also something that is seen quite often in this passage. Skating is a symbol that represents freedom. When you are skating, you are in control...