Introduction to In The Skin of a Lion #
The Title comes from the Epic of Gilgamesh: “I will let my hair grow long for your sake, and I will wander through the wilderness in the skin of a lion”. Ondaatje writes from the perspective of the unacknowledged drones of society, the voiceless manual labourers who are scarcely regarded by society, the rich or history. This derisory attitude is reinforced many times and Ondaatje successfully counters this by having their stories told. Ondaatje, a Sri Lankan emigrant to Canada, sets his story in the pioneering past.
We know that a democratic society needs people who have the linguistic abilities which enable them to discuss, evaluate and make sense of what they are told, as well as to take effective action on the basis of their understanding…. Otherwise there can be no genuine participation, but only the imposition of ideas of those who are linguistically capable. Kingman (1988)
In the Skin of a Lion can be read from a variety of perspectives and have meaning for responders in a variety of ways. You are not expected to respond according to any prescribed ideology, rather read and discuss widely and then form your own opinions after a close reading of the text. Above all enjoy the book.