Looking Into the Eyes of the Lion

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Everyone is blind until they experience something or meet someone that changes the way they see things. For some, meeting someone is enough to change their perspective on life. However for others, it may take an experience like falling in love or experiencing a death of a loved one in order for the individual to be enlightened to a new way of looking at things. In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje shows Patrick as he goes from being blind to the realities of life to being enlightened to many things after he finds unconditional love. In many ways Patrick was like the blind iguana given to him by Clara. An iguana is best known for their excellent vision but ironically the iguana mentioned in the novel is blind. This parallels the fact that Patrick is an observer yet he is still blind to the things going on around him. Even as a little child he watched people from his window, but he seems so blind. Coming from a small town he does not know how to fit in. He is blind to the tragic ways that the rich are exploiting the new immigrants around him. He is blind to the fact that Clara will never be with him and that Ambrose will always be the one in her heart. He is unwilling to see the truth. Then he meets Alice and finds a more mature and unconditional love with her. It is not only this love that changes him but it is the love and commitment that he has with Alice specifically that gives him insight and a view of the world in a whole different light that he can take on with him for the rest of his life.

Clara is possibly the first girl that Patrick is attracted to. He first finds her when he is looking for Ambrose and she intrigues him. Their relationship is impulsive and immature. “Love was like childhood for him. It opened him up, he was silly and relaxed.” (66) Only after a few days of knowing Clara, he admits that he loves her. Patrick is comparing his love for Clara to a childhood. Childhood represents a stage of innocence and blindness to the rest of the world. This accurately describes his love for Clara. He is blind to the rest of the world and he does not care for anyone but Clara. It shows that he has found a young love, infatuation. Infatuation is like an addictive love. A selfish love. A love that completely blinds Patrick with passion. “But sometime after that I’ll leave you. For Ambrose.” (72) Clara constantly talks about Ambrose and how she will leave Patrick for Ambrose yet Patrick still stays with her. He is willing to let Clara walk all over him and use him for her sexual pleasures. Patrick is possibly staying with her in attempt to try to change her mind. He is choosing not to see the reality behind the future of their relationship. He is choosing blindness. This also confirms the state of their relationship being immature and childish. “He offers to perform his trick for her, draws her long silk shawl from the sleeve of her coat, doubles it, and ties it around his eyes.” (79). In his last attempt at keep Clara to himself, he blinds himself, something he does as a child alone in his room. The absurdity and the childishness of this blindfold scene shows how blind he is to the fact that Clara will never stay with him. He voluntarily blinds himself to this fact and refuses the insight that Clara tries to throw at him. But not all hope is gone. Clara does introduce Alice to Patrick. “She holds his arm at the door. He kisses her accidentally too close to the eye.” (77). As Patrick leaves in the morning he tells gives Alice to give Clara a kiss. Ondaatje chooses to have Patrick accidentally kiss Alice too close to the eye. As mentioned before, Patrick is stuck in a relationship where he is blind. The eye is a representation of sight and love. Kissing Alice too close to the eye could be a symbolic plea for help for insight. It foreshadows the relationship he will have with Alice and the insight that she will give Patrick. Alice shows Patrick a new world that he was...
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