The Meaningful English Patient Quotation

As your final writing assignment before the final exam, I want you to think about Ondaatje’s novel, The English Patient, particularly with respect to the quotations that we’ve been discussing in class.  Your task is to choose ONE of the quotations that I have given you and show how it relates thematically to the novel as a whole.  Your blog must be between seven hundred and nine hundred words, have several paragraphs that contain specific, supporting detail, several quotations, and a clear, specific thesis statement.  (Refer to the rubric given out in class for specifics.)  Deadline for this final writing task is Sunday June 12th at midnight.  Late penalties will apply to all posts entered after midnight, so plan your time wisely this week.  Good luck!


~ by Ms. Cox on June 5, 2011.

47 Responses to “The Meaningful English Patient Quotation”

  1. One of the significant themes in “The English Patient” is ownership, and the idea of being owned by something or not being owned by anything. In the book, the English patient and Katharine are talking about the things they hate most, and his answer is “’Ownership,’ he says. ‘When you leave me, forget me.’” (Ondaatje 152). This type of ownership plays a big part in the lives of, not only the English Patient, but also in the lives of Kip, Hana, and Caravaggio.
    Kip is a wanderer; coming and going as he pleases. He defuses bombs and hooks up with Hana, and that is his life. His relationship with Hana is defined by the fact that there is no real relationship. They need the physical human contact, but with no strings attached. If only a relationship could be that easy. Hana will say that “He never allowed himself to be beholden to her, or her to him” (Ondaatje 128). One could say that this is not true. At the end of the book, despite the fact that he left Hana, he still thinks about her all the time and sees her (figuratively) everywhere he goes. She owns him, whether she knows it or not.
    Hana is a little more complex. She goes out of her way to make sure that she can not be connected to anything, or owned by any one. There are a few times that it is evident that she is making sure not to be owned by or connected to anything. In chapter two Ondaatje says, “She picked up a pair of scissors out of the porcelain bowl, leaned over and began to cut her hair,…She would have nothing to link her, to lock her, to death” (Ondaatje 49-50). She did not want death to be linked to her in any way. Did not want it to own her. The only person that has ever owned her is the English patient. Caravaggio says, “’I’m terrified for you. I want to kill the englishman, because that is the only thing that will save you, get you out of here…Desert your past” (Ondaatje 122). Caravaggio realizes how much the English patient owns her. The whole reason that she stayed behind was because she felt that she needed to take care of him. Just like Hana does not realize she owns Kip, she also does not realize she is owned by the English patient.
    Caravaggio is, in a way, owned by the war he fought in. At one point in the novel he is talking to the English patient, when the English patient says, “’David Caravaggio – an absurd name for you, of course”(Ondaatje 116). Caravaggio follows up this statement by saying “’At least I have a name” (Ondaatje 116). This seems contradictory to what had happened in chapter two, when instead of telling Hana his name, he just writes down his serial number so that she knows that he is with the Allies. It is as if he no longer truly has a name. Because he was a thief, and then he lost his thumbs doing war work, it is as if he is no longer human. The war has taken his name, his identity, and way of life. It has consumed him wholly, and now he is nothing but a man who was once named Caravaggio and was once a thief.
    The English patient is a hypocritical person. In chapter four he says, “ Gradually we became nationless. I came to hate nations. We are deformed by nation-states…After ten years in the desert, it was easy for me to slip across borders, not to belong to anyone, to any nation” (Ondaatje 138-139). Even while he is in the villa, he is nameless. He does not want to be owned by anything, and believes that nations are the reason behind the war that comes, and yet, he travels the desert making maps. He also later says, “’All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps” (Ondaatje 261), but that would be an impossible dream since he is one of the people who make the maps. He claims that the desert can not be owned by any one man, but it seems that he is implying that it can not be owned by any one but himself. The man who wants nothing to do with ownership, owns something and gives it a name.
    In their own ways, each of the lives of the the four characters are influenced by ownership. Hana’s ownership of Kip, the English patient’s ownership of Hana, the wars ownership of Caravaggio, and the English patients ownership over the desert. Whether the ownership is subconscious, or known, it still had great influence over how that person lives their life and the path that they take.

  2. Everything in the year 1945 is consumed by death. The smell of death fills the air and the souls of thousands. This death also takes control of the four major characters of “The English Patient”. During the novel, Kip states, “Let the dead bury the dead” (Ondaatje 286). This simple statement from the bible contains a thematic description of the characters and the story as a whole. Each character is dead. They suffer from past experiences which have left them with nothing inside. Each of these abandoned souls is responsible for burying another victim of death who is significant in their life. The English patient, on his death bed, accounts for once burying his lover and his nation. Kip, whom lost the life inside of him, struggles to bury his family traditions and doubts of the English. Hana, who is dying in her own unique way, must bury the English patient and the social norms which are expected of her. All of these three characters are struggling internally as well as with the events which take place in their shared villa. The English patient, Kip and Hana are all deserted souls with responsibilities to bury the dead which they once held close to their heart.

    The English patient stares death in the eyes each day as he lies in the villa, pondering all which he has buried during his life. The Englishman is the character which embodies death in the most literal form. He is dying as his body deteriorates from severe burns which he will never recover from. The English patient lies on his death bed and thinks of his dead lover, Katharine, who he was forced to bury. As the Englishman recalls the loss of Katharine he states, “I walked with her towards the buried plane, carrying her body as if it was the armour of a knight” (Ondaatje 174). The hidden romance that was once shared by the couple causes great pain in the Englishman as he is forced to bury the women who he once caressed and loved. This loss in the English patient’s life causes part of his heart to be buried with Katharine. The dying buries the dead. Another aspect of life which the Englishman buries is nations. He rejects the idea of cultural labels and therefore chooses to discard of them along with all details of his past. As pondering such labels, the Englishman thinks “Ain, Bir, Wadi, Foggara, Khottara, Shaduf. I didn’t want my name against such beautiful names. Erase the family name! Erase nations! I was taught such things by the desert” (Ondaatje 139). The desert is a place of demise. Many are unable to survive in the extreme climate and conditions; however, this place of death is the exact fixation which helps the English patient bury his past and his nation. The Englishman is wavering on the line of death and yet he himself is forced to bury all which has passed in his world.

    Kip is a man that escapes death daily for his profession; however, his inner passion and fight is already dead as he saves the lives of others. Kip experiences a large amount of loss and pain in the war. He stands helpless as his mentors and companions are slaughtered by bombs and mines. This causes an alteration within Kip. He experiences little emotion and craves no personal attachments. When dealing with dangerous bombs he feels anger instead of fear. When he is romantically involved with Hana he seeks physical attraction but no love. He is no longer alive inside. When Kip enrols in the war he is burying the upheld traditions of his family. Kip is the second brother in his family and he recalls, “The oldest son would go into the army, the next would be a doctor, a brother after that would be a business man. An old tradition in his family. But all that changed with the war. He joined a Sikh regiment and was shipped to England” (Ondaatje 182). When Kip’s older brother refuses to offer his services for the war Kip steps in, disobeying the tradition which governed his kin for ages. This leads him to not only bury his family’s expectations but also to bury his heritage. Along with refusing family traditions, Kip also buries his doubts regarding the English. Kip’s elder brother was sent to jail for his outspoken reluctance to support England in the war, so Kip hid his doubts and put his full trust in the powerful nation. He is forced to bury his insecurities and fears. When his hidden doubts reach the surface Kip angrily states, “My brother told me. Never turn your back on Europe. The deal makers. The contract makers. The map drawers. Never trust Europe, he said. Never shake hands with them. But we, oh, we were easily impressed- by speeches and medals and your ceremonies.” (Ondaatje 284). Kip put his faith in the English, yet they betrayed him. This trust made all life that was left in his soul die the day that Japan was bombed. He buries his doubt only to be emotionally drained by the country he left his home to protect. Kip is an emotionally dead man who concealed his beliefs only to have his heart further broken.

    Hana is also an emotionally drained character of “The English Patient”. The difference regarding Hana is that she has caused the death of her own soul. Due to the tragedies which engulf her past, she has left her heart and emotions behind to overcome her unbearable pain. She has lost her significant other, her father and even the child she was once pregnant with. She cuts off her long hair to break her connection to death; however, along with her hair, her hunger for life is cut away from her body. Hana attempts to avoid this inner struggle by giving care to the English patient. She understands that she will soon have to bury the dying man, but she continues to preoccupy herself with attempts to heal the charcoaled man. When reflecting on her past Hana states, “After that I stepped so far back no one could get near me. Not with talk of snobs. Not with anyone’s death. Then I met him, the man burned black” (Ondaatje 85). Hana is utilising her patient as an outlet to hide her emptiness. She understands that she does not have to confront her past when she is preoccupied with a man that is dying just as she is. She knows that her dead soul will eventually bury this dead man. Hana also buries another aspect of life which once controlled her, social expectations. When Hana first begins working as a nurse she acts as she is suppose to act and converses with the patients as she is expected to. As time progresses and her depression strengthens she begins to go against what she is thought to have to do. When a nurse describes Hana’s situation to Carvaggio she explains, “It was an old nunnery, taken over by the Germans, then converted into a hospital after the Allies had laid siege to it. In the hills north of Florence. Most of it torn apart by bombing. Unsafe. It had been just a temporary field hospital. But the nurse and the patient had refused to leave” (Ondaatje 28). When Hana makes her final decision to remain at the villa with the Englishman she buries social norms entirely. It is unorthodox for a nurse to remain in such an unsafe building, but Hana knows that it is the only way for her to avoid any true emotions or thoughts. Hana has killed her passion for life by burying others as well as their expectations.

    “The English Patient” can be easily summarized by the quote, “Let the dead bury the dead” (Ondaatje 286). All of the characters are dying in their own unique way, each burying aspects of their lives which have brought forth their death. The English patient is experiencing his drawn out death. He recalls how he was forced to bury his lover and how he wishes that all nations could be buried as well. Kip’s soul has been killed by the dark memories of his past. He must bury the traditions which govern his family and his doubts about the English nation. Hana is the least alive of all the characters. She has committed her own emotional suicide. To preoccupy her own death she prepares to bury the English patient and buries her social expectations. The English patient, Kip and Hana are all dying souls, responsible for burying all which surrounds them.

  3. The “English Patient” written by Michael Ondaatje in 1992 is a novel based on the histories of three main characters. The story follows the accounts of each of these characters and explores their “wounded souls”. The result is an intriguing plot and fascinating characters. The quote “we are all wounded souls” (Cox) relates to how the characters in the novel are wounded both physically and emotionally from previous life events. These wounds from the characters past make the reader aware of the reasoning behind their actions. The English Patient both longs for his deceased lover Katharine and has endured extensive burns from an airplane accident,. Caravaggio’s thumbs are cut off making him lose his humanity. Also, he longs for a bond similar to the one between Hana and the English Patient. Finally, Hana, a Canadian nurse, cuts her hair with the intention of preventing any link to death from her patients. In addition, the amount of people she has seen die has left her emotionally crippled. This paper will explore the wounds the characters possess and how these scars dramatically influence their actions throughout the novel. Specifically, how the quote “we are all wounded souls” represents each character in different situations will be discussed.
    The English Patient’s body was disfigured beyond recognition from burns due to an airplane crash. Also, his mind is scarred from death of the love of his life, Katharine. The English Patient was flying an airplane with his deceased lover when a Bedouin tribe fired at him; he crashed and ignited on fire: “the leather helmet on my head in flames”(Ondaatje, 5). From the fire, his entire body is burned and he can only use his hands. His body is described as black and “ above the shins the burns are worst. Beyond purple. Bone” (Ondaatje, 1) He will soon die due to his physical wounds. The English Patient is also emotionally wounded as he longs to see his dead lover Katharine once again. “ It was her beauty he did not want to lose, the grace of her, these limbs. He knew he already had her nature tight in his fist”(Ondaatje, 248) The bond maid during their affair was an ever lasting love; without her he is emotionally detached from the world. Although tragic, the English Patient’s wounded soul adds depth to his flash backs and gives reason for his presence in the story.
    Caravaggio’s physical wounds are due to his profession in the war, a spy left behind deliberately by British Intelligence to spy on the Germans. The Germans caught Caravaggio and as punishment his thumbs were removed. “He turns one hand over as if to reveal that it is no trick, that what looks like a gill is where the thumbs has been cut away” (Ondaatje, 54). Caravaggio’s physical wounds diminish his humanity and he relieves his physical pain with morphine stolen from the English Patient. Throughout the novel Caravaggio longs for the relationship that Hana has with the English Patient. His jealousy and obsession can be interpreted when he proclaims “ ‘You think I am angry at you don’t you? Because you have fallen in love. Don’t you? A jealous uncle. I’m terrified for you. I want to kill the Englishman’”(Ondaatje.123) This proclamation by Caravaggio illustrates how he is emotionally affected by the relationship between the English Patient and Hana.
    Hana has been physically and emotionally destroyed by the war. When Caravaggio had first seen Hana he thought, “ Her body had been in a war and, as in love, it had used every part of itself”(Ondaatje, 81). Caravaggio remembers Hana’s appearance in Canada and notices how she is both physiologically and physically fatigued. During the war Hana cuts off her hair: “she picked up a pair of scissors out of the porcelain bowl, leaned over and began to cut her hair, not concerned with shape or length, just cutting it away”(Ondaatje, 49). Hana is not concerned about her physical appearance, rather she only cares about not being linked to death by touching the patients in any way. This shows how Hana is both emotionally and physically wounded.
    The “English Patient” characters are all scarred from the previous events in their life. The damage that the English Patient went through both physically and emotionally are shown through flashbacks and present situation. Caravaggio’s loss of his thumbs and jealousy towards The English Patient drastically affects his actions in the novel. The death of others Hana has endured throughout the war affects her both physically and emotionally. The disasters previously experienced by the three main characters in the villa adds depth in the novel and helps the reader understand them to a greater degree. As it can be seen, the quote “We are all wounded souls” applies to each individual character equally and uniquely as all are scarred in different ways from his or her own unique life experiences

  4. The characters in Ondaatje’s “The English Patient” possess many diverse characteristics and personality traits which allow for the readers to create their own opinions and thoughts towards each unique individual. The main characters have been created based on their previous life experiences, which help them to move forward and transition through the events which occur in the novel. The reader is constantly asking questions in regards to each characters actions and behaviors. Ondaatje gives subtle pieces of crucial history about main characters which can be easily skimmed while reading. Each character displays elements of their past in different ways. Either mentally, or physically, these traits are visible and have a large impact on the character, which aids in answering the question “why?”

    A quotation which is important to the novel is “So history enters us” (Ondaatje 18). This quotation helps to understand each character and the choices they have made in their lives. Their experiences, and the people these characters have met have impacted them in different ways. Many characters cannot allow themselves to let go of the past, their motives for living are shaped from their previous unfortunate and/or gratifying experiences. This novel has a constant theme of revisiting history. Hana and the English patient are two characters who are stuck in the past. They choose not to move forward in their lives, their stories and experiences must be shared, and are used help to explain where and why they are situated in the present time.

    Hana has seen many tragic events being a nurse in the war, she is becoming desensitized to death. She taught herself how to care for her patients without becoming emotionally attached to them; she cut her hair so she could no longer feel such responsibility for her patients . When she cares for the English patient, her barrier is broken as she feels fully responsible for the severely burned man. Taking care of the man takes patience and devotion, something she had learned to distance herself from. There was something about the burned man that she could not let go of. As a young girl, her father ,Peter, had passed away. The reader can perceive the English patient as an emotional replacement of her father. He was full of knowledge and conversation, the English patient’s happiness depended on Hana; if she was unable to care for him, he would become uncomfortable and weak. Hana was, and feels as if she is in constant need. Having the connection of her father in this burned man is enough for her to create such a deep connection that will never be broken with a total stranger. Ondaatje states that “this was the time in her life that she fell upon books as the only door out of her cell” (Ondaatje 7). Her life is being describe as a prison. Once again, the question “why” rises to the surface. Hana had the opportunity to leave with the rest of the nurses when the war ended, but instead decides to “tie herself to a corpse for some reason” (Ondaatje 45) right after she cuts her hair to represent “nothing to link her to, to lock her, to death. “ (Ondaatje 50). Her past experiences as a nurse, along with her kind heart made her stay, the English patient was in such terminal condition, she couldn’t bare to see him suffer alone. The English patient has such significance in her life that she has contradicted herself, and gone against her own word. Having the sense of being needed, and being relied on gives Hana total satisfaction in the lonely, dangerous setting of the Tuscan villa.

    Another character who is tied to his past is the English patient. His constant stories and previous life events reveal that he has not let go of what has happened, including the tragedies and the successes. The desert is where he has spent most of his life. “For some years I lived in the desert, I learned everything I knew there. Everything that ever happened to me that was important happened in the desert” (Ondaatje 177). This quotation helps the reader to understand why the desert is such an important subject in the novel; the majority of major, life-changing events for the English patient have happened there. These memories have never left him, nor does he choose to forget about them. His experiences have had an enormous impact on him, he has lived through the death of his lover, of his best friend, and of his wing man. The English patient’s knowledge on cartography and of the desert is unbelievable. His book of clippings, drawings and thoughts, the Herodotus, has been created from his past memories and experiences while in the desert, and during the war. The book is a large component in helping to understand the burned man and his stories. He refers to certain areas, people and excerpts from other works of art when telling his stories from his days in the desert. History definitely remains with the English patient, his whole purpose of living is to now share his stories with others. His history and story telling allows the English patient to escape his pain for a short while as all of his emotions have been forgotten.

    These character’s past experiences and events which have taken place in their lives have shaped and determined their behaviors and personalities. Outside influences, people and actions which have occurred, greatly effect how and why each character is unique emotionally, and physically. This novel proves that our history will remain part of us until we die. Negative, positive, exciting or fatal, our experiences cannot be forgotten but can be celebrated and remembered if we choose to identify our past identities.

  5. In his book “The English Patient,” Michael Ondaatje presents to readers the idea of impermanence and fragility of nature and existence through a multitude of facets including scarring, relationship, and war. The idea holds particular relevance to the real world; conveying the idea through a vast spectrum of examples, Ondaatje indicates that the world and all it encompasses is ever changing and thus fragile, impermanent. A quotation relating to Caravaggio captures the essence of the fragility of the world and how everything is subject to change: “For months afterwards he found himself looking at only the thumbs of people, as if the incident had changed him just by producing envy. But the event had produced age, as if during one night when he was locked to that table they had poured a solution into him that slowed him” (Ondaatje 59). The quotation indicates that people are subject to change and are affected by change, just as Caravaggio feels older with his inability.

    Perhaps the most blatant examples of change in “The English Patient” are those of Caravaggio and the English patient. Both have gone through certain levels of damage, with Caravaggio’s loss of his thumbs and the English patient’s burned state. These changes exemplify the possibility of physical change and the fragility of the human body and the physical world. The examples indicate that physical change can be instantaneous. In contrast, Ondaatje indicates that physical change can also be gradual; he does this through Hana: “She wanted Kip to know her only in the present, a person perhaps more flawed or compassionate or harder or more obsessed than the girl or young women she had been then” (268). Change is not only limited to human beings; it occurs in geography, architecture and the like: “Seas move away, why not lovers? The harbours of Ephesus, the rivers of Heraclitus disappear and are replaced by estuaries of silt…Libraries burn” (Ondaatje 238). The state of the world and existence is ever changing, fragile.

    In addition to indicating to the reader the impermanence and fragility of the physical world, Ondaatje indicates that the situational world is constantly in flux — that is, circumstances and situations are always changed by events in life and peoples’ behaviour and outlook is subsequently changed; the state of existence is changed by events, is impermanent, fragile. He indicates the impermanence of situational existence through the relationship of the English patient and Katherine. Indeed, Katharine behaves a certain way before meeting the English patient but her attitudes and behaviour are changed once she falls in love with him. Ondaatje indicates, “After that month in Cairo, she was muted, read constantly, kept more to herself, as if something had occurred or she realized suddenly that wondrous thing about the human being, it can change. She did not have to remain a socialite who had married an adventurer. She was discovering herself…She was hungrier to change than I expected” (230). The quotation indicates how situations and events can change behaviour and attitudes.

    Ondaatje exemplifies how physical change and situational change can interlock. At the end of “The English Patient,” the bombing of Hiroshima causes physical changes to the state of Japan and situational changes to Japan, the war, and on a smaller scale, life at the Villa San Girolamo. The bombing causes death and affects many of the lives in the world. Kip is quick to leave the villa when he hears of the bombing — the event causes a situational change in his life. The bombing points to the fragility of life, how events can cause physical and situational changes. It indicates that the world is “quivering,” unable to be held down in permanence.

    In “The English Patient,” Michael Ondaatje brings to cognizance the state of the world and existence as impermanent — ever changing, doing so through facets of war, relationship, and scarring. As with Caravaggio’s prior state of youth and ability, the state of the world is impermanent. At one point in time, the English patient was full of life, exploring the desert, but during Kip’s stay with him, he reminds Kip of “a fir tree he saw in England, its one sick branch, too weighted down with age, held up by a crutch made out of another tree” (Ondaatje 218). Lives are subject to change; change is inevitable. Thus, life is fragile in its nature.

  6. The quotation that most relates to “The English Patient” as a whole is “We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves”(Ondaatje 261). This quotation embodies the novel as a whole so effectively because each part of the quotation reflects upon different aspects and themes in the novel. Each separate part depicts how our knowledge comes from that which surrounds us, how some characters tend to hide behind things to avoid their fears, and how each of the characters have gone through such significant role changes in their lives.
    The following fragment perfectly demonstrates the philosophy that we learn from our surroundings: “We die containing…tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom”(Ondaatje 261). This philosophy that we gather our knowledge from everyone we meet and from everywhere we go surfaces many times throughout the novel. The English patient tells us, “We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience”(Ondaatje 261). He believes that we learn from one another and that even our seemingly unique experiences, have been experienced by others. The English patient has taken something from everyone he has met, from every place he has been, and as a result, he is portrayed as a very wise character. He has so much knowledge about the desert because he has lived there for so long, he has learned form his surroundings, gathering the land’s secrets. However, the English patient is not the only one who believes in this philosophy. Kip explains to Hana “he knew he contained, more than any other sapper, the knowledge of Lord Suffolk”(Ondaatje 196). Kip shows us here that he too believes in the idea that we gather our knowledge from everyone we meet. He has taken every bit of wisdom Lord Suffolk passed on to him, so he can work to achieve the status and knowledge of his role model, Lord Suffolk. This fragment clearly embodies both the philosophy of two main characters and an ongoing theme in “The English Patient”.
    The segment “fears we have hidden in as if caves”(Ondaatje 261), symbolizes how the English patient and Hana have worked to avoid their fears. The English patient appears to hide behind his amnesia so he does not have to reveal his identity and appear a traitor to those he cares for. The English patient claims that after his plane crash, when the tribe that rescued him asked, “Who are you?”(Ondaatje 5), he could only respond “I don’t know”(Ondaatje 5). He says he doesn’t remember anything about his identity, not even his name – however it is made clear through his vivid storytelling, that he is Almasy, a Hungarian man who helped the German spies. The English patient does not want to share his identity and reveal himself as a traitor to Kip, Hana and Caravaggio, who are all somehow a part of the Allies’ movement. When Caravaggio finds out that the burned man is almost positively Almasy, he tells Hana, “I think you have the spy-helper Almasy upstairs”(Ondaatje 164). It is clear that the English patient knew that his role as a German “spy-helper” would not be seen in a positive light by his three friends who have sacrificed a large part of their lives in some way or other to fight for the Allies. Likewise, Hana hides within her role as the caretaker of the dying English patient so she will not have to go back to her role as a nurse in the war fields. Caravaggio notices this almost immediately after he arrives at the villa. First he speculates that “it seems she has chained herself to the dying man upstairs”(Ondaatje 40), then he goes so far as to caution Hana, “You’ve tied yourself to a corpse for some reason”(Ondaatje 45). She does not want to go back to having to lead soldiers to their deaths. Hana fears surrounding herself with death; she fears her adult life. She reflects to herself, “There was something about him she wanted to learn, grow into, and hide in, where she could turn away from being an adult”(Ondaatje 52). I think this quotation could not be a better proof that she hides within her role as a caretaker for the dying English patient so she will not have to return to her adult career of dealing with the dead. Both characters hide behind different facades to avoid facing their fears.
    The fragment of the quotation “characters we have climbed into as if trees”, represents how each of the main characters have morphed into so many different characters and roles in their lives. This little portion of the quotation embodies the whole plot of the book- reminding us how each character is constantly changing into something else. The English patient is at first a geographer, then a help to the German spies. He becomes both a lover and adulterer within his affair with Katharine. He also slips into the character of a truly anonymous burned patient. He is unrecognizable by anyone who would know him – he is mutilated. He is constantly evolving according to the events and the people that come up in his life. Kip is a Sikh – which sometimes isolates him in the European population he is surrounded by. He is a soldier, then a sapper for a European nation that will not grant independence to his own country. Then he drastically changes his opinion of the European nations that he served, so he moves back to India where “he is a doctor, has two children and a laughing wife”(Ondaatje 299). We see Kip evolve from being in a relationship with Hana-defined by the fact that “he never allowed himself to be beholden to her, or her to him”(Ondaatje128), to being married with kids – which comes with many obligations. At first he avoids being beholden to anything, but then he is beholden to his whole family in this traditional family he has made for himself. Kip undergoes huge transformations of character. Hana is just a young girl living in a large metropolitan city when she makes a huge change and becomes a field nurse in wartime. She suddenly becomes responsible for leading men to their deaths, for comforting soldiers missing limbs and for curing the sick. She then comes to fear death, even cutting her hair to separate herself from it. Next, she “crawls into” the character of caretaker for the burned patient. Hana also lost her baby and her parents, changing her outlook on life, death and fortune. She has already evolved so much in her short life. Caravaggio started his career as a good-humored thief, but soon he joins the war effort too, as a spy. Caravaggio eventually gets his hands mutilated and his role as a spy has to end, and as a result he must evolve. He is a good example of being forced to change when something happens to you or your surroundings. Michael Ondaatje has made his characters so true to life by making them evolve constantly – mimicking human nature.
    The quotation I chose demonstrates the diversity of themes in “The English Patient”. When divided, the fragments of the quotation show us different aspects in the novel that affect all of the main characters such as their life philosophies, the way they hide behind things to avoid facing what they fear, and the way that the characters are constantly evolving. Michael Ondaatje has had such success with “The English Patient” because his characters are so lifelike and believable. His characters have achieved this status because they imitate human nature itself- they learn as they go, they run from what they fear and they are always being forced to change themselves. They are never portrayed as too perfect, they never come off as superheroes – they are everyday people who make mistakes, and as a result, we see ourselves in them. Michael Ondaatje’s “The English Patient” is packed with significant quotes, but this quotation embodied the meaning of the novel.

  7. Ondaatje’s novel thrusts the reader into a sandstorm of philosophical genius, setting up a flurry of insightful passages. Each passage has the ability to represent the ever-changing interpretations of life. At one point, the English patient reveals a great insight on his life, one that reflects many prevalent themes in the novel: ‘“For some years I lived in the desert. I learned everything I knew there. Everything that ever happened to me that was important happened in the desert” (Ondaatje 177). In this the reader begins to understand his attraction to this majestic landscape, the mystique of the unknowable, the chaos of the unclaimed, and the desire for the unnameable, which are all concepts dispersed throughout Michael Ondaatje’s, The English Patient .
    The desert is the place where the English patient learned everything, which, while being bounteous, is equivalent to nothing in the end; this knowledge of life he has founded is unstable and unpredictable. This same theme drives the whole novel, reflecting on all the characters: the English patient’s identity changes throughout the book, once an Englishman, determined by Hana through listening to his stories, then accused as being a German, and finally revealed as a Hungarian by the name of Count Ladislaus de Almásy, though, because a general consensus is never truly reached, the conclusion becomes obsolete in ignorance; Hana is so emotionally distraught from her experiences as a nurse and from the death of her Father, which “she cannot bear to talk of or even acknowledge” (Ondaatje 92), that she constrains herself to a lonely life of healing the irreversible burns of a stranger, unable to confront the reality of truth, and comforting her pains using Caravaggio, who she could “hide in, where she could turn away from being an adult” (Ondaatje 52); and Kip is so lost in his war-wounded mentality that his trust in even the most present and simplistic ideas is construed as doubtful: “How could he trust even the circle of elastic on the sleeve of the girl’s frock that gripped her arm?” (Ondaatje 105). What better environment to seek out this parallel comfort of ambivalence than the desert? After beginning to doubt his relationship with Katharine, the narrator explains that, “Now [the English patient] began to trust nothing” (Ondaatje 172). There is nothing to trust in an entity that is never anything but what it is at that particular moment. Any gust of wind can change the landscape of sand; the particles are as easily dismantled as the surety of a thought.
    The English patient prides all the importance in his life on the desert, putting a strong reliance in chaotic randomness; this allows the structure and conformity of society to be conceived as undesirable in his mindset. This physically scarred man lives his last years by re-experiencing a random playlist of moments from his life as a cartographer and an explorer in the desert, who wishes to denounce any signs of nationalism. The English patient lives a paradoxical life, whereby he worked hard to label and name the desert, yet lives with the mindset whereby, “All [he] desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps” (Ondaatje, 261). This enigmatic and contradictive philosophy may be hypocritical, but it exposes his rejection of society’s most cherished metanarrative: one of the major fundamentals of his European society is the claiming and naming of everything, in order to set up a hierarchical system of statures. All throughout history, every founded piece of land or sea has been titled or controlled by one empire or another and this obsession’s prevalence is only magnified during this world war of territories. Though, the English patient cherishes an environment that may be claimed by means of names, but can never truly be captured or controlled; it is a relentlessly wild sea of sand. As “all of the burned man’s desire was in the brain” (Ondaatje 112), and his only desire remaining lay in the boundless confines of the desert, “a piece of cloth carried by winds, never held down by stones, and given a hundred shifting names” (Ondaatje 138), the English patient will forever be fanatically entranced in the desert’s majesty, in a desert as wild as his mind.
    The English patient’s identity is as indescribable as the contours of the face of the desert. His ideal of a nameless, faceless place parallels his desired life: “I wanted to erase my name and the place I had come from” (Ondaatje 139). This desire, a possible mix of frustration stemming from his regret for the loss of Katharine and his inability to embrace their relationship, is a production of his constant fixation with the past he cannot escape. He goes on to explain that ownership is what he hates the most (Ondaatje 152), a statement that intertwines with a previous declaration: “The desert could not be claimed or owned” (Ondaatje 138). His lifestyle which allowed him to have “erased the path he had emerged from” (Ondaatje 170) and his obsession with losing labels and names, ties into his need to confront and balance his empty heart. This love for Katharine, while occasionally questionable, is fortified once and for all when she is dead, as the English patient is still “wanting to undress her, still wanting to love her” (Ondaatje 170). With an undying love for something that no longer lives, that has left its tags and memories and names for death, he can only hope to attain the same level of boundless freedom; his burns conceal his identity just as the desert masks goals, purpose, and direction, clouding the psyche, and allowing for delusions to take over. This is why the desert carries so much tenor in his life.
    Like quicksand, The English Patient grabs hold of the reader, and slowly but surely, drags them down into an endless pit of quizzicality. The English patient prides his whole existence on his time spent in the desert; he lived, learned, and died in the bounteous sea of uncertainty, chaos, and namelessness. It is the fear of this unknown that allures this man, and propels the novel to its stature of poetic ingenuity.

    -Sean Parkinson

  8. The English Patient is a book surrounded by death and loss. It evokes within the reader feelings of hurt, abandonment and neglect. Among scorching deserts and within a holy Villa the journey of pain is revealed within each character. The book looms above the reader; taunting and endearing for we are both repelled and intrigued by death and loss. Thus so the book plays us like a broken violin by teaching us that nothing golden will ever stay. “Everything I have loved or valued has been taken away from me” (Ondaatje 257). Within each turning page, the reader sees how Hana loses her father, Caravaggio his hands, Kip his friends and the English patient loses the love of his life.
    “Your father died” (Ondaatje 82) are some of the hardest words one will ever have to live through. When Hana heard them, she had an emotional breakdown and the only way she kept going was to care for the English patient. Hana was very close to her father on a personal and spiritual level, when she found out he had passed Hana could not write home and tell the others. She decided to burrow down and hide her feelings deep inside, if she kept busy then she could keep his memory away and that would stop the unbearable pain for one more night. She felt a sense of pride when she took care of the English patient because she thought he was a holy man. She decided to take the idea and spirit of her father and place it within the English patient. After she made her patient a memory of her father, she was able to care for him and feel that she was, in a way, saving her father. Hana could not accept the death of her father and by placing him in the English patient she was able to convince herself that he was still alive. Her father had been essential to her and without recreating him, she would not have survived.
    Caravaggio’s tools for survival were his hands. He was a thief and a good one. He enjoyed his work and loved the houses that he robbed; often he fed the dogs and made friends with them. However in war, nothing that is loved stays, nothing that is needed is provided and so Caravaggio lost his hands. “They removed both thumbs, Hana. See” (Ondaatje 54). By removing his thumbs Caravaggio could no longer steal and this was a great sadness to him. Stealing had been his passion, almost strong enough to be his reason for living. The physical pain that stung within him was nothing compared to the emotional anger that bubbled under his skin. Caravaggio was on morphine as often as he could get it but had trouble even injecting it himself. Without thumbs, Caravaggio was reduced to an animal. One of the main differences between humans and animals is our thumbs and without them he was, at best, a grade behind everyone else in the Villa. Caravaggio did not take very well to being behind others and therefore adapted his way of stealing.
    Adaptation was very important to Kip because things were constantly changing and he needed to keep a calm, cool mind. While in the Villa, Kip was able to plug in to his music so he could escape from human connection while handling a bomb, however it was no always so easy for him. Kip started defusing bombs with the help of Lord Suffolk, who became Kip’s good friend. During his training days he would take a break halfway through the bomb to have tea with Miss Morden in order to clear his brain and start fresh. This behaviour was very different to the one he possessed in the Villa. The drastic change was due to adaptation, which was forced onto him by loss and death. “They were blown up, all three of them, in 1941” (Ondaatje 178). Kip lost his three friends in a bomb explosion and he was never the same again. He managed to keep himself at arms length from any human connection because when Lord Suffolk died Kip realized that war takes everything. Kip loved the English and enjoyed Lord Suffolk’s personality a great deal, he enjoyed the little random pieces of advice or knowledge that Lord Suffolk just threw out at random. When they died Kip refused to replace them or carry their spirit the way Hana did with her father. Kip went into an emotional coma and did not wish to ever come out.
    Finally, the English patient put all of his love and his body into his relationship with Katharine who, in the end, rejects him. “I left you because I knew I could never change you” (Ondaatje 173). The English patient had never loved the way he loved her and she destroyed everything in him. Katharine died and when she did, the English patient destroyed the only thing that was left of him; his physical body. His emotions and spiritual inners were evaporated when Katharine left his; he was merely a walking shell. When she died, he destroyed the shell and had no reason left to live. While Hana formed an emotional connection to the English patient, he remained very distant and within himself. He had no desire to feel, love or communication again which worked in well for Hana because she was able to play out the fantasy of her dad’s spirit in the English patient’s broken shell of a body.
    The English Patient is a portal which opens up the mind of the reader to their worst fear; losing the only thing they need. Hana lost her father, Caravaggio his hands, Kip his friends and the English patient lost the love of his life. The book intrigues within us the question, what would war take from you?

  9. “The English Patient” is a novel about the convergence of four damaged lives. These lives have been damaged by wartime experiences and are brought together temporarily in the equally damaged Italian villa. This brief intersection of individuals as well as past experiences marks each person differently. A quotation said by the English patient that captures the essence of the novel is, “We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes… I wish for all this to be marked on my body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography-to be marked by nature…We are communal histories, communal books” (Ondaatje 261).

    “The English Patient’’ is about connections between people. It is about how lives can cross and then uncross just as quickly. All four main characters in the novel have different personalities and internal struggles that they are going through. For certain characters these struggles have stemmed from the loss of loved ones from their past. They have been marked by these people. Hana, Kip, Caravaggio, and the English patient are also marked by one another in the short time they spend together, during the most vulnerable time of their lives. Marking can occur in both the figurative and physical manner. With respect to the English Patient, Katharine literally marked him. She took her anger out by physically abusing him, leaving him with visible marks on his body. Caravaggio has been marked by Kip in a different way. He views Kip as a very courageous and heroic person and will always remember him for these traits. Caravaggio thinks, “He could walk away, never see him again, and he would never forget him. Years from now on a Toronto street Caravaggio will get out of a taxi and hold the door open for an East Indian who is about to get into it, and he will think of Kip then” (Ondaatje 208). “The English Patient” follows the intersecting of lives, both past and present, and how one life can have a significant impact on another.

    Each character in the novel is damaged in some way as a result of the war that has dominated the past few years of their lives. They have been marked by their experiences. Once again this can occur figuratively and physically; most often simultaneously. Hana has been marked by her experience with death. She cut off her hair which is a physical marking but her mind has also been scarred. Hana recalls a past memory: “When she woke, she picked up a pair of scissors… and began to cut her hair…the irritation of its presence during the previous days still in her mind-when she had bent forward and her hair had touched blood in a wound. She would have nothing to link her, to lock her to death” (Ondaatje 50). This quotation is interesting because Hana does not want be marked by death but by cutting her hair she is doing just that. She will always be locked to death because it is an experience that has impacted her life so greatly. Caravaggio is another example of someone who has been marked by his experiences. His profession as a thief for British Intelligence during the war led him to the loss of his thumbs. Caravaggio recounts, “For months afterwards he found himself looking at only the thumbs of people, as if the incident had changed him just by producing envy. But the event had produced age, as if during one night when he was locked to that table they had poured a solution into him that slowed him” (Ondaatje 59). It is quite symbolic that his thumbs have been removed because a thief needs their hands to accomplish tasks. Caravaggio’s identity was taken away with his thumbs because stealing was something that defined him. Significant experiences mark these characters in a way that is both internal and external. They will be forever altered by the wartime hardships that they endured.

    The English patient believes that people are marked by one another as well as the experiences they encounter. We are all communal books because each one of us has a different story. Lives intersect and we meet people who change us, creating a plotline along the way. We are communal histories because we hold so much knowledge and experience. We are the ones who have shaped the past. Hana, Kip, Caravaggio, and the English patient create significant events in the plotlines of each other’s lives. The way they come together in the postwar safe haven changes each one of them forever.

  10. “The English Patient” is a book of philosophy and its author Michael Ondaatje presents many of his own philosophies using the characters of the novel. One theme that stands out is the theme of finding your own path in life. This theme was presented through a quote from Almasy, in Chapter 9 of the novel. “I believe in such cartography – to be marked by nature, not just label ourselves on a map… All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps” (261). With enough analysis one can see that the characters living in the villa with Almasy share one common characteristic. All three of them abandon the responsibilities that had been placed on them by society in order to find their own path. Hana who had once been a nurse serving the Allies, abandons that position and finds herself at the villa caring for a dying man who is long past saving. Caravaggio who had once been a thief and spy for the Allies, deserts his assignment in order to track down Hana, the daughter of his longtime friend. Lastly, Kip, who was a sapper for the English, finds himself in the villa while searching for mines and ends up in a love affair Hana which ultimately ends with him staying there. In this way, these three characters allow themselves to find their own paths and be marked by nature rather than be defined by the roles that their nations have presented to them.
    First off, there is Hana, the young Canadian nurse who stays with the English Patient in the hospital after her organization abandons it. She puts all of her time and energy into caring for this man knowing full well that he is going to die anyway. She has no obligation to continue caring for the English Patient but still continues to do so because she feels that she has a strong connection with him. She refuses to allow anyone or anything dictate her lifestyle and personal responsibilities, “Coming out of what had happened to her during the war, she drew her own few rules to herself. She would not be ordered again or carry out duties for the greater good. She would care only for the burned patient” (14). She had specifically been told that doing this would be the same as deserting the English, “The war is not over everywhere, she was told. The war is over. The war is over. The war here. She was told it would be like desertion. This is not desertion. I will stay here” (41). Even after being reminded of this, she still opts to stay in the abandoned hospital and in doing so she has abandoned her duties as a nurse for the English by remaining with the English Patient, therefore allowing herself to determine her own purpose.
    Michael Ondaatje uses Caravaggio as an indirect messenger of his own philosophy in this novel. Caravaggio is a Canadian who found himself working as a spy for the Allies. Eventually he is caught by the Germans, who torture him before removing his thumbs. Feeling betrayed by the Allies he travels to Italy in search of Hana, the daughter of his longtime friend, Patrick. This is a journey that Caravaggio takes of his own accord and has nothing to do with his obligations to the Allies. “I don’t need sheets. Is there a kitchen? Such a strange journey I took in order to find you” (31). Caravaggio has no real reason to search for Hana, other than the connection that the two have as friends. Once he knows that she is well, he opts to stay with her in the abandoned, rundown villa rather than go his own way. The actions and decisions that Caravaggio makes are his own and not the result of a responsibility to anyone else and in doing this he is allowing himself to choose his own purpose.
    In addition to Caravaggio, Ondaantje uses another character as a living example of his philosophy. Kip is a sapper who was trained to deactivate bombs under an Englishman named Lord Suffolk. Although his brother feels strong animosity towards the English, Kip develops a close friendship with Lord Suffolk. By choosing to join the army in the first place, Kip has gone against family tradition and is already on his way to finding his own path in life. “He was the second son. The oldest son would go into the army, the next brother would be a doctor, a brother after that would become a businessman. An old tradition in his family” (182). However once Lord Suffolk is killed in an explosion, Kip goes out on his own and eventually finds himself at the villa where Hana, Caravaggio and Almasy are staying. Throughout the book, Kip is a person who has never had problems choosing his own path. It could be possible that being a Sikh, letting nature have its influence on one’s life is something that was never a problem for Kip. Even so, Kip is a perfect example of an individual living by Ondaatje’s philosophy.
    In conclusion, Michael Ondaatje successfully and effectively presents the philosophy of allowing oneself to find their own path in life. The characters in this novel having previously allowed others to define what their role in life was experienced great tragedy and suffering because of it. However, it is thanks to this suffering that they were able to learn the important lesson of “being marked by nature” and not just “labelling themselves on a map”, (with the map being the world around them and the label being the duties that others place on them). Ondaatje’s novel provides interesting perspective and insight on to what the meaning of life really is.

  11. Everyone is born with a name. We’re born into this world, and we already mean something to at least one person. We already have a history, despite not doing anything yet. You are already the daughter to mommy and the granddaughter to nana. You are born with a name and identity, but you also die with a name and identity, whether it’s the same one or not. In Ondaatje’s novel, The English Patient, one of the themes that is reoccurring is identity. Each of the characters in the book is unique in their own way. They all have histories that define them, and make them who they are; though some try to be unmarked by the events in their lives. The quote that best describes this theme is, “ She would have hated to die without a name. For her there was a line to her ancestors that was tactile, whereas he had erased the path he had emerged from” (Ondaantje 170).

    The most obvious of all the characters that is plagued by a war between himself and his identity is the english patient. The english patient is introduced in the book as the english patient, and nothing more. There is a war going on around the characters, and the english patient gets rescued, and cared for. Because of his burns no one knows what side he is on. “There is still no clue to who he is, nameless, without rank or battalion or squadron” (Ondaantje 96). He is never fully judged by the other characters. They think they know who he is at one point, but because they aren’t sure he goes on to be a mystery. Him not having an identity in this case helps him. He is tended for until his dying day, and this is by strangers that know him only by the few stories he tells. The english patient’s relationship with Katharine in the novel also suggests the theme of identity. Like it says in the quote above, it’s like he doesn’t want to be remembered by who he was or what he did. He lives in the moment with Katharine, and never asks her to leave her husband for him. He doesn’t care about being her husband. He didn’t care about the label it would give them. Katharine would miss the english patient when they weren’t together, but she wouldn’t ever know who she is really missing. The english patient never wanted to be owned by anything; be it land, person or by his own self. To him, being owned meant having an identity that could be traced and remembered. He never talks about who raised his, as if they have nothing to do with his identity. He doesn’t want to be marked by his past; he makes up what his life means day-by-day. The english patient is his own person entirely, and no one can copy it.

    On the other hand, there’s his lover, Katharine. Where the english patient doesn’t have anything but memories Katharine is all about the status. She married Geoffrey Clifton. By doing so she received the Clifton name. His status was high, and known by many. The marriage was before she met the english patient, before she realized status isn’t everything. Katharine never leaves her husband for the english patient because she wouldn’t leave a somebody for a nobody. She wants to be remembered by people, but yet all the money in the world still ended her up in a cave, wounded, and as “a naked map where nothing is depicted” (Ondaantje 261). But, in fact if the english patient would have given the right name then Katharine would have been saved. “Hers. Her name. The name of her husband” (Ondaantje 250). Katharine made a name for herself by climbing the social ladder, and marrying into a new identity of wealth and remembrance. Katharine is torn between status and happiness. In the novel she gets the best of both worlds with both of the men. She knows that her heart is with the english patient, but she must keep her relationship with him nameless.

    Your identity is found through your name. You have a passport that tells everyone everything about you. This allows you to travel, and be free, but yet very much contained. Ondaantje uses the theme of identity in his novel and shows that a name means everything, and nothing. It could get you everything you want in life, but not remembered at all. The english patient lives without a real name or identity, but really who is to say what a ‘real name’ consists of.

    taylor hill

  12. The English Patient is a novel full of complex relationships which are created as a result of propinquity. The characters in the “English Patient” are disassembled and reassembled by one another; “A man not of your own blood can break upon your emotions more than someone of your own blood. As if falling into the arms of a stranger you discover the mirror of your choice”(Ondaatje 90). This quotation relates to all of the relationships in this complex novel. Hana and the English patient are complete strangers, yet they deeply effect each other’s emotions, finding familiarity within one another. Another complex relationship is between Hana and Kip. These are relationships that are defined by distance, an important aspect for the characters to be able to see the mirror of themselves. Hana’s words explain that a stranger can make an individual realize things about themselves that someone too close to them may not be able to do.
    Hana’s relationship with the English patient is much like Ondaatje’s explanation of distance, emotion, and mirrors. Although they are complete strangers, the English patient reminds Hana of her father, “so burned the buttons of his shirt were part of his skin, part of his dear chest”(Ondaatje 295). Hana’s father was killed in the war, and Hana now has to deal with the reality that if it hadn’t been for the distance between them, she could have saved her father. Hana is a very nomadic person because the many losses in her life, and the English patient is nomadic in the sense of not being owned and roaming the desert. The mirrors they share are that if they weren’t so ambulant, their lives probably would have been a lot easier. Hana also brings back the English patient’ emotions of Katharine Clifton and their affair in the desert. The secret love affair and the relationship the English patient and Katharine built are also defined by distance. The unfortunate truth is that Katharine and the English patient cannot be together because he doesn’t want to be owned by her, yet ironically he wants to own her. The relationship between Hana and the English patient is vital to both of the character’s fragile emotions. Hana sees her father in the English patient and clings onto the memories she holds of him through this burned, dying man. She takes care of the English patient because she could not take care of her father. The english patient in turn is intrigued by Hana because she reminds him of Katharine, and the emotions Katharine once made him feel return through Hana. This relationship shows the English patient and Hana their faults and the fact that they cannot truly be tied down to anything because of what has happened in their pasts.
    Kip and Hana’s relationship is also important in the character’s understanding about themselves. During the month that Hana and Kip simply sleep beside each other without having sex, Kip is reminded of the comfort he tried to find in his mother before she died. Hana is now showing Kip this comfort by scratching his back as his mother used to do. Both Hana and Kip have been plagued by loss throughout their lives, losing everyone who has ever been dear to them. Hana describes Kip as “the most unverbal of men”(Ondaatje 296), having little interest in speaking of his family. Hana also keeps the memories of her father to herself. Ondaatje describes Hana and Kip’s relationship of “containing the turbulent river of space between them”(Ondaatje 301). Although Hana and Kip were exclusively intimate during their time together in the villa, they kept a lot of their lives separate from one another. These two people simply stumbled upon each other in a time of death and war; however, their time shared together teaches each of them that they have yet to find peace both within their lives and within themselves.
    The complexity of the relationships throughout Ondaatje’s novel are what keep the reader intrigued. Ondaatje purposely leaves things out so his readers can fill in the blanks on their own. The reoccurring theme of mirrors and emotion are evident within the relationships between the English patient, Hana, and Kip. Although all of the characters are thousands of miles from home and familiarity, ‘here, they were shedding skins. They could imitate nothing but what they were. There was no defense but to look for the truth in others”(Ondaatje 117). Each relationship in the novel is important in the characters finding out more about themselves, seeing the mirrors of themselves in the eyes of other people.

  13. In the novel “The English Patient” Michael Ondaatje explores the effects of war on landscape. The destruction and metamorphosis of physical environments, such as the desert and the villa, are clear. Even more interesting; however, are the changes in landscape between people: relationships. War breaks one of the most sacred bonds in society, that of family, and leaves instead the complicated and often conditional love between strangers. Hana, Kip and the English patient are all out of place in Italy. With their family removed by distance or death all three of these characters must find comfort somewhere else. Kip and Hana rely on each other while the English patient is kept alive by his memories of Katharine. It is through Kip, while he is reminiscing about his ayah, that the author leaves the readers with this powerful quotation: “All through his life, he would realize later, he was drawn outside the family to find such love. The platonic intimacy, or at times the sexual intimacy, of a stranger” (Ondaatje 226).

    Hana is physically and emotionally exhausted from being a war nurse. She has spent many years caring for young men who can no longer do anything for themselves and for that reason she welcomes Kip’s independence and distant personality as if he is “some kind of loose star on the edge of their system” (Ondaatje 75). The beginning of their physical relationship lacks any sexual intentions. Instead it stems from Hana’s need for a solid and reliable body and she tells Kip “Don’t shake, you have to be a still bed for me, let me curl up as if you were a good grandfather I could hug” (Ondaatje 103). This moment seems to create an unspoken bond between the two and Kip describes her breath as “intimate” (Ondaatje 105) while she is asleep. Although Kip and Hana do end up having a sexual relationship, they are comforted simply by laying next to each other: “There is the one month in their lives when Hana and Kip sleep beside each other. A formal celibacy between them…The boy’s desire completed itself only in his deepest sleep while in the arms of Hana” (Ondaatje 225). Even after sharing their life stories and developing a deep emotional connection their bond still seems to hold the same lack of interdependence; their relationship remains spontaneous and “they are never sure what will occur…whether touch will be anonymous and silent in their darkness. The intimacy of her body or the body of her language in his ear” (Ondaatje 270). Their relationship ends in silence. Kip leaves without saying goodbye, looking right past her, and years later when he thinks about Hana the thing he misses most about their love is the distance: “Now there are these urges to…return to that stage they were most intimate at in the tent or in the English patient’s room, both of which contained the turbulent river of space between them” (Ondaatje 301). Kip and Hana are two characters who came from very different cultures and societies, only brought together by the tragedy of war.

    Years after Katharine has died the English patient remembers their relationship in great detail, focusing on its animalistic physicality. He holds onto and values his memories more than anything else. When Caravaggio says that “Birds prefer trees with dead branches” (Ondaatje 120) Hana points out the English patient’s obsession with the past by replying “I’m not a bird. The real bird is the man upstairs” (Ondaatje 120). The English patient does not speak very much to Katharine when she first arrives in the desert and the first time he acknowledges his love for her, they are still strangers. After she reads a poem he admits “That night I feel in love with a voice” (Ondaatje 144). A few months later, as they are waltzing together the English patient feels an intimacy with her although their romantic relationship has not yet developed: “I believe that most revealed her was the one she had that time when we were both half drunk, not lovers” (Ondaatje 144). Their relationship is passionate and unstable. Even in the midst of their romance the English patient does not have any long term expectations and he reveals that he doesn’t “believe in permanence, in relationships that span ages” (Ondaatje 130). Katharine also searches for intimacy outside of the family she has created with her husband. Her early fantasies about the English patient revolve around a lack of emotional connection and she dreams that “They had been bent over like animals, and he had yoked her neck back so she been unable to breathe within her arousal” (Ondaatje 149). The English patient holds onto his memories of Katharine but the space that developed in their relationship does not surprise him and he seems to find it natural, stating “Seas move away, why not lovers” (Ondaatje 238).

    The idea of intimacy between strangers is a reoccurring theme in several relationships which develop in “The English Patient”. The landscape of this kind of relationship is very fragile and is centred on the idea of space. “But between them lay a treacherous and complex journey. It was a very wide world” (Ondaatje 113). Kip, Hana and the English patient each find comfort in impermanence and fluidity of such relationships, the ever present space that allows them to leave whenever they wish.

  14. “Kip and I are both international bastards- born in one place and choosing to live somewhere else” (Ondaajte 191). This quotation plays a significant role in the lives of the characters in The English Patient as well as relating most to the story. The quotation embodies that the novel is not about four people in a secluded Villa in Florence but rather how nationality and identity have created their reality in the Villa. The major theme of national identity and ones desire to escape its restrictions are represented through the above quotation and through the English Patient’s obsession with the desert and Kip’s attachment to the English.
    To the English patient, the desert is not only a place, it is an entity with qualities and characteristics all on its own which can erase identity. The desert plays an important function in the novel, not only as a backdrop for action but also as a significant entity in itself. Open, barren, and empty, the blank geography of the desert highlights the stupidity of war between nations. In the desert, the English Patient notes, “all of us…wished to remove the clothing of our countries” (Ondaajte 43). When men are up against such a harsh enemy as the vast nature of the desert, the different ethnicities among them become meaningless. Living in the desert helps the English patient to realize this, and thus shape his own view of the world. This view being “Gradually we became nationless. I came to hate nations. We are deformed by nation-states” (Ondaajte 138). The English patient wants to create an identity that is completely separate from nationality. Working in the desert with a team of people from different countries, nationality doesn’t get in the way of friendship. To him, his family and his nationality become completely irrelevant. In the desert, the English patient finds an oasis where he can connect to others without his family’s identity and his nationality getting in the way.
    Kip further explores the idea of nationality and the quality of being nationless. Kip embraces the western world, and especially the English. He sings Western music, wears Western clothing and makes it his job to defuse bombs in order to save English lives. Kip is far from being nationless, strongly attaching himself to the English nation. Kip has found it possible to get along in English society when he finds the right people; people who judge him for want he can do rather than judging him on the color of his skin. It becomes evident that Kip feels closer to his English family than to his Indian one. He talks sadly about his mentor Lord Suffolk’s death but he seems relatively nonchalant about the fate of his Indian family. When Hana asks if Kip’s father is still alive, he replies as if it is not much concern to him: “Oh, yes. I think. I’ve not had letters for some time. And it is likely that my brother is still in jail”(Ondaajte 53). Kip’s experience highlights the false belief of being nationless. Though he is born of a different nation, Kip finds a nation to which he attaches himself both in nature and in action. Such an understanding of Kip’s connection to a nation sheds light on the English patient’s connection to his own nation. The patient has left his European home and joined the nation that is the desert. There, like Kip, he finds his skills were most useful, and feels able to erase his past so that he may be known and valued for what he has to offer the people of his new nation, the desert. Escaping one’s nation, then, becomes a larger metaphor for escaping one’s past, and creating a new identity: one that is based on your true character.
    Ultimately, however, the characters cannot escape from the outside reality that, in wartime, national identity is prized above all else. This reality invades the English patient’s life in the desert and Kip’s life in the villa. The English patient was kept from saving Katharine because, by virtue of his name, the English assumed he was allied with the Germans. He is thought to be an enemy by the British because of his name. This being the root of the English patient’s refusal to identify himself or align himself with any nation when he sates “All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps” (Ondaajte 67). For Kip, the patient’s idealized “international” identity is shattered by the American bombing of Hiroshima. The act of violence destroys Kip’s previous idealization of the English when he exclaims, “They would never have dropped such a bomb on a white nation” (Ondaajte 286). His pain comes not only from the shattered lives of the Japanese people, but from the shattering of his own ideals. Despite his older brother’s anti-western warnings, Kip had put his faith in the west, adjusting to their culture and doing all he could to save it from destruction. He denies, in his own mind, that the west could be as corruptive to Asia as his brother had claimed. The explosion of the atomic bomb symbolizes the destruction of Kip’s entire belief system and the belief of being nationless.
    Nationality and identity are interconnected in The English Patient; the characters are tied to certain places and times despite their best efforts to escape them. The English patient desperately tries to escape the force of nationality, living in the desert where he creates for himself an alternate identity, one in which family and nation are irrelevant. Kip, who becomes tangled in the idea of Western society and the welcoming community of the villa’s inhabitants, even dismisses his constant awareness of his own racial identity for a time. Ultimately, however, the characters cannot escape from the outside reality that, in wartime, national identity is valued above all else. This reality invades Almásy’s life in the desert and Kip’s life in the villa. National identity is an escapable part of the characters lives in the novel, The English Patient.

  15. In 1992, Michael Ondaatje wrote the novel, The “English Patient” which is a tragedy love story. Love is challenged in the lives of all of the characters throughout the book. Everybody either loses someone they love or something they cherish. Therefore a significant quote that is in the novel, which relates to many aspects of it is, “Everything I have loved or valued has been taken away from me”(Ondaatje, 257). This quote is a true reflection of the unfortunate circumstances that each character in this book has experienced.
    The English patient is having a conversation with Caravaggio about his history with the love of his life that he has lost, when he says the previous passage. He is a man that has never even felt alone in the desert, yet he cannot stand living without Katharine. Ondaatje writes, “He wants only her stalking beauty, her theatre of expressions. He wants the minute and secret reflection between them, the depth of field minimal, their foreignness intimate like two pages of a closed book”(155). He shows how much the patient wants her and nothing else. The reason that Katharine can no longer be with him is because she finally decided to not continue this behind Clifton’s back. The love affair was so confusing and drove the patient mad plenty of times but he knew he’ll go crazy without her, therefore toughing it out and doing everything he can do to be with her. Since then, he has had to suffer without her and continue living his life.
    Hana, the young Canadian Army nurse, has lost two very important people in her life; her Father and her baby. Her Father, Patrick, got killed in the war, and when he passed away she got a letter sent to her around the same time she lost the child. She felt the need to lose it since it’s father died as well and everything was just getting too busy. Hana felt that she could be shot at anytime when she was in Urbino. She told Caravaggio that she constantly would talk to the baby in her head, even while she would bath and nurse patients. She told him, “Soldiers were coming in with just bits of their bodies, falling in love with me for an hour and then dying”(Ondaatje, 83). After all of this happened she refused to have any relationships with the soldiers and removed herself emotionally and went right back into work mode. This relates back to losing everything she has ever loved, and having the both of them being taken away from her. Hana also lost her passion for having relationships with people, when she realized how well she knows death and is tired of losing anyone that has made an impact in her life. As her and Caravaggio are talking once again, she explains to him what she has gone through. “I know death now, David. I know all the smells, I know how to divert them from agony”(Ondaatje, 84). Hana stepped so far back from everyone so nobody could get close with her, she has not thought of anything to do with a man for numerous years, until Kip came a long.
    The character Caravaggio does not apply too much for losing a loved one, but he does lose something he values. He is a war hero with bandaged hands. In the beginning when he first reunites with Hana, she reminds him of his wife. But he knows he cannot be romantically interested as he does feel that way. Caravaggio is a thief and had a passion for stealing. One night the Allies sent him to steal documents from a German party. After leaving the woman’s room he had snuck into to take her camera, the Germans ended up catching him as he was jumping from the window. They then tortured him. He got handcuffed to a table and then his thumbs were cut off. He told Hana, “They thought it was more trenchant” (Ondaatje, 55). Having the Germans make it more of a joke by having a woman cut off his thumbs changed the way Caravaggio thought about it. He just accepted the punishment as it was, and accepted the fact that his thumbs were gone forever. Caravaggio loved being a thief and revolved his life around it. Losing his thumbs was a big adjustment for him and led him on a different path instead of continuing to steal.
    It is quite evident that the quotation, “Everything I have loved or valued has been taken away from me”(Ondaatje, 257) is very significant and can summarize the novel of “The English Patient”. All of the characters are challenged by love at some point in their lives and end up having to face the results whether they like it or not. This passage is the most important because it relates to everyone in the text in one-way or another. The English patient, Hana, and Caravaggio all end up parting ways from someone or something that meant a lot to them, but in the end it all worked out for the better.

  16. Michael Ondaatje’s, “The English Patient” is a novel that focuses on four main characters, as well as their struggles, stories, and romances near the end of the Second World War. A quotation that best describes this novel, as well as this group of individuals, as a whole is “we are all wounded souls” (Cox). This quotation can be related to all four of the main characters, as they all suffer from either, physical or emotional wounds. During the time they spend together in the villa, Hana, Caravaggio, Kip, and the English patient all open up, and share their stories and experiences with other members of the group. We learn that Caravaggio was caught stealing important documents, Kip is insecure about his race, Hana has a difficult time coping with her father’s death, and the English patient, along with being brutally burned, is still in love with a woman named Katharine.
    Upon receiving news of her father’s death, Hana broke down, and a short time thereafter, she decided to take responsibility of the English patient, and be his sole care giver. It is clear that Hana misses her father, and has been emotionally hurt by his death. After receiving the news of her father’s death, the English patient happens to ask Hana, “what does your father do?” (Ondaatje 42), and Hana replies by saying, “He is… he is in the war” (Ondaatje 42). Hana has a hard time talking about her father, and rather than telling the English patient the truth and bringing up his death, she avoids it and gives him an easy answer. Along with avoiding the topic, Hana also questions his death when she is alone. She asks to herself, “did he struggle into his death or die calm? Was he nursed by a stranger?”(Ondaatje 91). Hana’s questioning of her father’s death, and the fact that she avoids the subject, shows that she has been emotionally wounded by the event.
    As well as Hana, Kip has been wounded on an emotional level, in relation to his race. Kip has become accustomed to the fact that he is at a disadvantage due to his race, which causes him to become insecure and unsure of himself. Upon completion of Lord Suffolk’s exam, “he sensed he would be admitted easily if it were not for his race” (Ondaatje 188). It is because of past experiences in England, that Kip feels insecure about his race, and feels as though he might not be admitted to the unit because of it. It is shortly after the challenge when we learn that “he was accustomed to his invisibility. In England he was ignored in the various barracks” (Ondaatje 196). Kip should not have been ignored because of his race, and because he was, he now feels as though it serves him as nothing more than a disadvantage. As well as being concerned about Suffolk’s unit, he also feels as though his race is the only thing keeping Hana from loving him.
    When hearing the word “wound”, one usually refers to a physical injury. Caravaggio’s wound depicts this more literal interpretation. He served as a thief for many years, and was extremely good at what he did, except for one tiny slip-up. He was sent to a party to steal some important documents, where he was photographed, which is a thief’s worst nightmare. He then had to sneak into the photographer’s room to steal the camera. His punishment, for stealing the documents, and the camera was the amputation of his thumbs. He describes the situation to Hana by saying “They found a woman to do it. My wrists handcuffed to the table legs. When they cut off my thumbs my hands slipped out of them without any power” (Ondaatje 55). The fact that he had his thumbs cut off, shows that along with the others in the villa, Caravaggio suffers from painful wounds.
    When reading this novel, the reader can see that the English patient is the most physically and emotionally wounded character in the entire story, his most apparent wounds, being those that came from the plane crash. “Every four days she washes his black body, beginning at the destroyed feet. Above the shins the burns are worst. Beyond purple. Bone” (Ondaatje 3). He is described as being burned beyond recognition, his body covered from head to toe in burns. The English patient is also scarred emotionally, due to the death of Katharine. When the plane crashes, he takes her to a cave, and leaves her there, planning on returning soon. He is then arrested, and cannot make it back to her with help. The English patient returns to the cave three years later, to find the love of his life dead. “ I approached her naked as I would have done in our South Cairo room, wanting to undress her, still wanting to love her” (Ondaatje 170). It is clear that the English patient is wounded emotionally by Katharine’s death, because he still loves her, and he probably feels some sort of remorse for having left her in the cave alone.
    The quotation “we are all wounded souls” (Cox), best relates to “The English Patient” as a whole, as it can be directly linked to the insecurities, losses, questions, and accidents of the four main characters in the novel.

  17. The English Patient is enriched with a variety of themes. Among the most important, “wounds” are really significant. The World War II, not only did it change the lives of all the characters in the novel but also inflicted them with deep physical and psychological wounds. The suffering that came with war was inevitable, yet painful. The wounds created painful memories, which creates the whole plot of the novel.
    The whole novel revolves around the flashbacks of Almasy. The World War II had came between his relationship with Katharine Cliftton, and had ended their relationship. He was left with this wound till he died and could not let go of it. Almasy at one point in the novel tells Katharine that “When you leave me, forget me” (Ondaatje 152). This is ironic as Almasy could not leave her even after their breakup. When Katharine says “from this point on, we will either find or lose our souls” (Ondaatje 238), this not only foreshadowed the upcoming tragedy but also linked their relationship to an everlasting pain and scar. Although this quotation appears towards the end of the novel, it is one of his painful memories which he cannot forget and tells us. Geoffrey Clifton found out about the relationship after their relationship had ended, and had planned a suicidal attack. In the outcome of the incident we can see both physical and psychological wounds. Where Katharine is terribly wounded physically, Almasy lives with the fear of losing her which later becomes reality and horrific psychological wound. Almasy lives with the wound that he could not save Katherine due to the war, as no one trusted any one and when he went for help he was imprisoned. According to what Katharine had said, she lost her soul physically but Almasy had also lost his soul after her death because his soul was marked with this painful memory till he died. Almasy was physically injured. In the second plane crash he was severely injured and he dies after a couple of days
    Kip another character of the novel is scarred in many ways. He had left his family and country to serve in the army .Since he was a Sikh he faced a lot of racism which he knew would happen as he says, “The English! They expect you to fight for them but won’t talk to you” (Ondaatje 188). He deals with so much racism and piles it all up in himself that when he hears the news of the American bombing on Japan he completely breaks out. At that he says, “They would never have dropped such a bomb on a white nation” (Ondaatje 286). He feels that all his life’s effort has gone to waste. He, all his life has been defusing bomb and the Americans just go and destroy a whole nation. He was deeply wounded by this incident. Although the white friends he was living with in the villa had nothing to do with the bombing, he was enraged at them and particularly at Almasy and leaves, creating another scar. He was in a relationship with Hana but after that bombing he simply leaves the villa without giving any reason or saying good bye to Hana. We find out that after Kip leaves he becomes a doctor and is happily married with two children, though he constantly thinks of Hana. Kip was also scarred by the death of his best friend Hardy and his English family which Lord Suffolk had given him, it says in the novel that, “Kirpal Singh had been befriended, and he would never forget it” (Ondaatje 187).
    Just as Kip was scarred psychologically many times, Hana the main female character was also marked by grief and pain. Hana had suffered the loss of her child, her husband and her father. While talking to Caravaggio she revealed her deep wounds to him as she said, “I lost the child, I mean I had to lose it. The father was already dead” (Ondaatje 84). Hana feels terrible that she could not save her burnt father as she was a nurse who was trained to treat such patients. Hana too was scarred by her relationship with Kip. When Kip left her she became ever more serious. Kip says at the end of the novel regarding her that, “She will always have a serious face. She has moved from being a young woman into having the angular face of a queen” (Ondaatje 300). She was never wounded physically but was left with dreadful inner wounds.
    Caravaggio, an old friend of Hana’s father and a thief had lost his wife and his thumbs. He was scarred both physically and mentally. He was caught stealing and as a punishment his thumbs were cut off and without thumbs it is quite impossible to do anything. While talking to Hana he told her how and who cut of his thumbs and how he lost grip of everything. He said, “They found a woman to do it. They thought it was more trenchant… when they cut off my thumbs my hands slipped out of them without power. Like a wish in a dream. But the man who called her in, he was really in charge- he was the one” (Ondaatje 55). He lived a life without grip. He was marked by this act for the rest of his life.
    This novel is about wounds. It proves to us that “we are all wounded souls” (Cox), whether we hide our scars or surrender to them. There will always be something which will be full of sorrow in our life; just as every major and minor character was scarred, making this the most important theme of the novel. All the internal and outer wounds of each character combine together to unite this novel.

  18. An important theme in “The English Patient” by Ondaatje are relationships and how they affect one another. A significant quotation pertaining to this theme comes from Caravaggio while speaking to Hana “If you take in someone else’s poison – thinking you can cure them by sharing it – you will instead store it within you” (Ondaatje45). This idea is shown in each of the characters lives that they share together.

    One of the most complicated relationships is portrayed between Katharine and the English patient. From the first day he saw her their troublesome relationship began. “So her bony knees emerged from the plane that day. That was the burden of our story” (Ondaatje 230). Right away the readers are aware that their love affair is a sharing of one another’s poison. The way each of these characters stories end is a direct result of carrying the blight of their affair and hatred. Their unhealthy relationship makes it impossible for these characters to go about their lives without having some sort of feelings for each other. After they broke up they ran into each other on the street ‘“What are you doing?’ She said running into me on the street. ‘Can’t you see you are driving us all mad’” (Ondaatje 239). Not only does their rocky relationship affect each other but their friends and Katharine’s husband. Their relationship is what drove each of them into their deaths. Once Geoffrey Clifton found out about the affair he committed a suicide mission in hopes to kill all three of them. Maybe at one point in time Geoffrey thought that he could cure Katharine from the poison of the affair with his love, only in turn to become poisoned with madness. Not only did the relationship lead to their literal death, but to the metaphorical death of these three characters as well. “I went mad before he did, you killed everything in me” (Ondaatje 173). The English patient thought that Geoffrey was the first to lose his mind, but Katharine claimed that she had lost hers long before.

    The English patient and Hana share poison maybe without being knowledgeable about it. Hana takes this upon herself to take care of the English patient, instead only sharing in his burden of pain. There is a clear weight upon Hana that she carries for the English patient, and it becomes evident when Caravaggio points it out. “You’ve tied yourself to a corpse for some reason” (Ondaatje 45). Hana refuses to accept this only wanting to be left alone to her simple life in the Villa. She found reasoning enough to share in the life of the English patient when the other nurses returned to the Pisa hospital. The danger living there could bring her did not keep her from staying and nursing the English patient. Hana has her own troubles and emotions to deal with and perhaps she believes she can cure her own poison by taking on someone else’s.

    The most disconnected character in the novel is Kip. He sets up walls between himself and the others to protect himself and the others from becoming emotionally close. With his job of a sapper he faces the risk of losing his life at any given moment. Being from India working for the British, he realizes he is tolerated, but not liked for his colour. Even though he tries to distance himself from others and the war, near the end of the novel the “poison” of the war gets to him. No matter how much he tries to stay out of the emotions of war, he is apart of it and cannot deny it. This slow poisoning almost leads to Kip killing the English patient. “You and then the Americans converted us. With your missionary rules. And Indian soldiers wasted their lives as heroes so they could be pukkah. You had wars like cricket” (Ondaatje 283). He comes to the realization that he has put a great amount of effort to fight for the Western world, when all the West wants is to be superior then everyone else. The bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki puts Kip on edge and brings him to the realization that the white people will do anything to have power over anyone they can. This understanding affects his relationships with the others and causes him to leave the Villa and move onto a new life.

    Each of the characters in “The English Patient” share in the English patient’s poison. Caravaggio is the only character that does not keep the poison within himself because he had already learned that you will carry someone else’s poison with you if you attempt to share it. Caravaggio is poisoned by the war and is obsessed with discovering the past of the English patient. The English patient’s poison comes from his past and Caravaggio shares in this when he willingly dives into that poison, opening himself up to the English patient’s stories of his past. Despite Hana telling Caravaggio doesn’t matter whether he is English or not, Caravaggio pursues the truth of who he believes the English patient to be. Caravaggio releases the poison when he discovers the English patient is who he thought he was, and realizes it no longer matters what side he was on.

    The relationships in “The English Patient” are what shapes the novel. Each one of them have an indirect or direct effect on one another sometimes for the better, and other times for the worse. Although the novel may not have an expected type of ending, the lesson from this quotation is what ties the characters lives together and allows for there to be closure.

  19. What is death? Is death just a threshold to another life, should there fear be involved, is it a joyous juncture or a terrifying one? Throughout “The English Patient” the concept of death is very apparent; each character has their separate feelings of death, and each one interpreting it to their own self. Most profound and beautiful is what Kip says on page 280: “Beyond his feet the angel. Soon one of the sappers will turn on the city’s electricity, and if he is going to explode he will do so in the company of these two. They will die or be secure. There is nothing he can do, anyway”. The attitude and air of a carefree individual, who has worries but chooses not to let those drag him down. After all, the guy just decided to take a nap on the floor of a church beside some statue angels, waiting for whatever will happen, to happen. Kips attitude to death is that it will happen; it is a part of life, something we all must do at some time or another, which is fascinating, whether this is from his own teachings from his culture or from his voracious reading of the Bible, because that is what it teaches, death is like waking up from a dream only to discover something more real. Hana on the other hand, seems to fear death at a certain degree. “She finally lay down on the floor beside a mattress where someone lay dead, and slept for twelve hours, closing her eyes against the world around her” (49). The world from her point of view is a place full hate, and fear, with no possibility of love and peace. “Hana is quiet. He knows the depth of darkness in her, her lack of a child and of faith. He is always coaxing her from the edge of her fields of sadness. A child lost. A father lost” (271). Kip holds onto his beliefs with a tight grip, having already found the advantage of being able to “switch allegiances, can replace loss” (271), Kip “is a survivor of his fears” (73). For Hana death seems something that she must face with reckless abandon, referring to the incident where she just sauntered over to Kip when he was defusing a bomb. There is a difference between not being afraid of death and being reckless with death, but not fully understanding the consequences of it. To not be afraid of death takes understanding of what it is and on the whole, both of them are well aquatinted with death. The English patient, as Hana says “her eternally dying man” (115), he of all people seem to grasp what death is. Throughout the book we understand that the English patient is going to die and that all his memories are thoughts of a dying man. Quoting from a song (“Thoughts of a Dying Atheist” by Muse) “Eerie whispers trapped beneath my pillow, Won’t let me sleep, your memories, I know you’re in this room, I’m sure I heard you sigh, Floating in-between where our worlds collide”, seems to perfectly describe the English patients feelings; when you know that your last breath could come any moment, memories of what you hold most close and dear, come crowding in thick and fast, with such fervor and power it seems almost too real. For him the death is the obvious next step, he probably realized it a while back “He lifts his legs out of the oil, but they are so heavy. There is no way he can lift them again. He is old. Suddenly. Tired of living without her. He cannot lie back in her arms and trust her to stand guard all day all night while he sleeps. He has no one” (175). This describes the perfect fragility of the English patient’s heart, even his life before he ever met eyes with Katharine. It is hard not to talk about life while talking about death, for they are interchangeable. Because life is meaningless without death, and death serves no purpose if there is no life. The last character, Caravaggio his feelings on death or a bit obscured, he seems to eagerly soak up others words and thoughts, ideals and wisdom, and although he does have much credit to give to himself he remains an interesting character almost narrator like – almost. In a nutshell Ondaatje makes it clear (the setting is recent postwar) death is there and there are many ways of dealing with it. But death itself may be more of a comforting thing than upsetting thing.

  20. “We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience. All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps”(Ondaatje 261).

    The English patient’s entire philosophy revolves around the idea that no person or thing can be truly owned. This idea is what fuels his disdain for nations, borders and names as they all imply some form of ownership. This is why he chooses to live in the desert; it is a place that cannot sustain anything permanently, where ownership becomes impossible. Almasy states “The desert could not be claimed or owned—it was a piece of cloth carried by winds, never held down by stones…All of us, even those with European homes and children in the distance, wished to remove the clothing of our countries”(Ondaatje 138). He abandons his comfortable European lifestyle for the hot, dry and inhospitable desert all because he is drawn to the anonymity that it grants him. In the desert, it does not matter who you are or where you are from.

    It is clear that Almasy is free of all obligation and ownership by the time he arrives at the villa. For the majority of the plot, the reader is unaware of his true identity. His anonymity and mystique are rooted in his rejection of identity, and the horrible burns all over his body symbolically erase the figurative map that is his identity. At this point in the novel, he is essentially liberated from both his nationality and his name. He truly belongs to no one, and has been utterly cut off from the outside world. The unravelling of his past is what drives the novel, and if the identity of Almasy were already known there would be no plot whatsoever. Over the course of the novel, we read the communal book of his life.

    This quotation means more than simply rejecting names, nationalities and borders; it is about recognizing one’s past, while focusing on the present as things are ever changing. Hana struggles with this idea in the villa as she has conflicting views on returning home. In the novel, it is written, “She wanted Kip to know her only in the present, a person perhaps more flawed or more compassionate…than the girl or young woman she had been then”(Ondaatje 268). A large part of Hana’s character comes from her desire to forget the awful memories and scarring images that she carries from the war. If one were to examine the relationship between Hana and Kip, they would find that there is no commitment or obligation between the two. As Ondaatje states, “she will realize he never allowed himself to be beholden to her, or her to him”(Ondaatje 128). Both characters accept the fact that their time together could end suddenly and that they would have to move on. For that reason, they remain detached and lay no claim to one another. Kip is especially gifted with the ability to separate himself from everyone else and to move on when it is needed. This is one of the reasons that the English patient respects him so much, and this a large part of why Hana is drawn to him. Kip’s readiness to leave the villa at the end of the novel demonstrates yet again his ability to remove himself from everything around him.

    All of this relates to the Katharine affair. Katharine is a married woman, and carries her husband’s name. The English patient does not care about the fact that she is married because he denies all kinds of ownership. This allows him to justify his love affair with her. He believes that he can share her with Clifton, as an experience that he cannot claim for himself. If he could erase her name and her background they would be free to have an open relationship without having to shroud everything in lies. However, she does not feel the same way and ends their affair on the grounds that she cannot hurt her husband. This infuriates the English patient, and exacerbates his hatred of ownership. He begins to envy all men that she associates with, which is quite hypocritical when his own views of ownership are taken into consideration. His behaviour ultimately results in Katharine’s demise.

    This beautiful quotation encapsulates the mind of the English patient as well as multiple thematic concepts within the novel. The reasoning behind it is what fuels Almasy’s love affair with Katharine as well as the affair between Hana and Kip. It offers fresh insight to our ideas of ownership and territory and some very interesting social commentary. Since the characters in the villa live by this quotation and it constantly recurs as an idea throughout the book, it is a defining and important passage.

  21. In a letter to her stepmother, Clara, Hana recounts her adventures as a nurse and caregiver during World War II and updates her on the death of her father, Patrick. While describing her devastation of Patrick’s final situation, she asks Clara, “Do you understand the sadness of geography?” (Ondaatje 296). In this instance, Hana is referring to the location of her father at the time of his death and how if she had physically been there she might have been able to save him. This quotation is very much applicable to many situations in “The English Patient” and relates to the themes of geography, propinquity, and physical location and how they affect history and the course of events in the novel. There are times, like the one Hana is referring to, when geography and location cause distress and unhappiness but there are also times when they are the cause of happiness and positive results that might not have occurred if certain people had not been at a specific place at a specific time. Throughout “The English Patient” geography plays a key role in love and in war.
    One thing that geography affects throughout “The English Patient” is love. Most of the characters that are in love are held back by their place of origin. The successful relationships are always between people who live close to one another. The time period is before cell phones, texting, and e-mail and physical closeness is the simplest way to bridge the gap between two people. If Almàsy had been from England, or had travelled there instead of to Egypt, he might have met Katharine and she might have fallen for him instead of Geoffrey Clifton. The English patient explains that the Cliftons got married in a hurry: “A young man named Geoffrey Clifton had met a friend at Oxford who had mentioned what we were doing. He contacted me, got married the next day, and two weeks later flew with his wife to Cairo” (Ondaatje 229). She was a socialite, probably from a wealthy English family, who fell in love with a handsome young adventurer like the girls in the movies fall for Indiana Jones. They married so that they could travel Africa together because propinquity is necessary especially for young couples. The sadness lies in the affair between the English patient and Katharine, which is not only caused but also destroyed by geography. Propinquity brought them together in Egypt but only after it separated them forever by allowing Katharine to be married by someone from her own country.
    Hana and Kip have their own issues with propinquity and love. Kip is very proud of his country, his culture, and his religion while Hana longs to return to her own place of origin. Unfortunately for these young lovers, India and Canada are not only opposite in culture and religion, but they are located on opposite sides of the world. Kip, the more nation-obsessed of the two emphasizes their main difference: “He watches Hana, her hair longer, in her own country.” They know from the beginning that they can never really be together unless one of them decides to leave home. At first this seams like a complication, but to them it is an explanation for their distant relationship at the Villa. Their different races add another complication to the complexity already caused by geography. On the other hand, since neither of them is willing to convert or adapt to the others culture or religion their proximity at the Villa is an opportunity for a lighthearted romance because they both know it will have to end eventually. This passage describes the nature of their relationship: “Sometimes she leaves it burning and ducks under it and enters through the open flaps, to crawl in against his body, the arm she wants, her tongue instead of a swab, her tooth instead of a needle, her mouth instead of the mask with the codeine drops to make him sleep, to make his immortal ticking brain slow into sleepiness” (Ondaatje 125). Hana and Kip use each other while they are at the Villa because they know their relationship would not survive in normal circumstances. In both cases, Hana and Kip’s as well as the English patient and Katharine’s, geography makes everything bittersweet. The circumstances are sweet because they are given an opportunity to love, but they are bitter because their love cannot last.
    The sadness of geography is most noticeable during times of war. War forces people to leave their homes or even their home countries and relocate to foreign lands and new situations. As much as it causes damage, there are certain beauties brought on by war. One of these beauties is the Villa San Girolamo and the formation of a family that would not have been formed in the absence of war. War brings about a special closeness that our generation can only read about and imagine what it felt like. Years later, Kip still remembers: “It is this garden, this square patch of dry cut grass that triggers him back to the months he spent with Hana and Caravaggio and the English patient north of Florence in the Villa San Girolamo” (Ondaatje 299). The landscape of his home in India reminds him of the garden in Italy and of the fonder memories of war and family.
    A lot people were widowed during the war, like Clara, but others also found love because of it, like Almàsy. People made friends with people they met during the war, like Kip and his “family” in England. But Kip soon realized that his “friends” were fighting against him and his people. In his rampage over Hiroshima and Nagasaki he states: “When you start bombing the brown races of the world, you’re an Englishman” (Ondaatje 286). Bombs do not necessarily destroy a specific race or even a specific type of person. They devastate a location that may not even be specific. The bomb destroys whoever happens to be there. As much as location is affected by war, war is affected by location and where people are located. Countries that are close together tend to team up and fight against countries that are far away. Because the Allied countries were situated far from Asian countries, it was easy for them to consider them as “they” and their fellow allies as “we.” The geographical and therefore cultural separation causes people to forget that we are all human beings sharing one planet.
    Throughout “The English Patient,” geography is the root of sadness, but it also provides grounds for joy. Ondaatje presents these ideas to the reader with themes of love and war. Love is created and destroyed by propinquity just as war is started and ended by proximity. Just like the characters in the novel are affected, in real life, our lives are all an effect of geography. Over the years, I have met friends because we attended the same school, were in the same class, joined the same club, or went on the same school trip. Propinquity brought us together, and soon it will lead us all our separate ways. We will be sad for a while, but again geography will bring us new friends and new adventures and will lead us to happiness in the end.

  22. Of all the quotes used to describe Ondaatje’s The English Patient, I believe the most relevant quote is “we are all wounded souls”. As this quote has no discernable origin and appears in the ideologies of many progressive church groups and even in the public diary of President Sadat of Egypt, I shall consider the speaker anonymous. This quote relates on many levels to The English Patient because of the many different types of wounds described in the novel. There are physical and mental wounds, past and present. All of the characters in the villa are wounded in a multitude of different ways: Caravaggio has physical and emotional wounds, Hana has mental wounds, and the English Patient has physical and mental wounds. The English Patient is not the only scarred person in the villa. Caravaggio and Hana are scarred as well.
    Caravaggio is a middle-aged man, who appears to be mostly normal, except for his hands. ”I was caught. They nearly chopped off my fucking hands” ( Ondaatje 34). His thumbs were amputated during his interrogation by the Gestapo. The stumps were his thumbs once had been are his physical wounds. They are the loss of his profession, his normality, and his humanity. He is constantly compared to an animal, implying that a man without thumbs is no longer a man. He has lost the ability to blend as he would like, meaning he can no longer be an effective thief, because he no longer appears normal. Caravaggio also bears further emotional scars because of his torture. He takes leave in quiet solitude. “That was how he felt safest. Revealing nothing” (Ondaatje 27). Caravaggio has been wounded into silence. The fear and emotional trauma of his interrogation are part of what keeps him so quiet. “The rest is silence” (Shakespeare). Caravaggio is wounded both mentally and physically through the loss of his thumbs.
    Hana appears, on the surface, to be just another ordinary girl. In reality, she bears severe emotional scars because of her experiences as a nurse. Some these experiences are very traumatic. “I leaned forward to close a dead soldier’s and he opened them and sneered, ‘Can’t wait to have me dead? You bitch!’”(Ondaatje 83) As a result, Hana becomes cold and distant with her patients shying away from real contact to prevent feelings when they died “Caring was brief. There was a contract only until death. Nothing in her nature had taught her to be a nurse” (Ondaatje 51). Hana treats people near the start of the novel with this same distancing, not really becoming involved for fear of being hurt in some way. Also, after she helps Kip defuse the bomb she says “I thought I was going to die. I wanted to die…with you” (Ondaatje 103). Hana’s desire for death illustrates the severity of Hana’s scarring. This is why she is arguably the most damaged of the 3 main characters in The English Patient. Neither of the others, not even the English Patient shows an express desire for death like Hana does. When she met Kip, she wanted to die with him shortly after to escape the death that has surrounded her. Hana is the most emotionally scarred person in the villa.
    The English Patient is the blackened man in the bed in the villa. His body is burned beyond recognition, his skin is black or no longer present and in some places “Beyond purple. Bone” (Ondaatje 3). He is so severely physically scarred that he barely even seems human. His physical wounds have taken away his ability to explore, to live as he would like in the desert. He is also mentally scarred, wounded by his experiences throughout his life. His relationship with Katharine is the source of most of his mental scars. They share an aggressive, abusive, almost masochistic relationship. Yet through all the physical wounds they give each other, “Nothing can keep him from her” (Ondaatje 153). He believes their love is greater than the pain they inflict on each other, but when she leaves him, he compares her to the missing heart of the plant near El Taj. “The plant continues to flourish for a year before it dies from some lack or other” (Ondaatje 155). The English Patient is mentally scarred because he believed that this abusive person was his “missing heart”. He is physically scarred from the relationship and the crash.
    All three of them are scarred: Caravaggio, Hana, and the English Patient. They all bear physical and or emotional scars. Caravaggio is scarred by his amputation and his torture. Hana is scarred by the death with which she had to deal on a daily basis. The English Patient is scarred from his relationship with Katharine and also his crash. They are all wounded souls. We are all wounded souls. We all encounter abuse, injury and hardship, and we are forever changed by them. Not all of us become as pessimistic as Hana or as dehumanized as Caravaggio, but we all lose parts of ourselves as we lives our lives. Such is human nature.

  23. War is a machine, conceived, designed, and spawned by death itself. Regardless of season, be it religion, territory, or a desired resource, the crop remains constant; human life is harvested in epic proportions to fulfill the needs of politicians and their respective factions. Those who find themselves lucky enough to be overlooked by death, during a time of war, soon come to realize that, packaged within the blessing of a living body, a poisoned and wounded mind spins a web of pain and guilt. The mind, however, is an elusive target. Much more easily wounded, are the living tissues of the physical human form. Death attempts to reap human lives with elongated fingers of lead, shrapnel, and gun powder. Such wounds of the mind and body modify the very nature of their victims. Ondaatje’s novel, “The English Patient”, portrays the theme that “we are all wounded souls” (Cox), and how wounds can influence one’s personality. This theme is represented through many of the novel’s characters, such as Hana, the English patient, and Caravaggio.
    The novel takes place in Italy approaching the end of the Second World War. Hana is an army nurse that is stationed in Italy during the Allies’ invasion. Due to her role in the war effort, Hana is exposed to the horrific reality of battle. She is charged with the task of guiding young men to their premature deaths. Her encounters with these men wound her mind and rearrange her personality. After her experiences during the war Hana decides that, “she would not be ordered again or carry out duties for the greater good” (Ondaatje 14). As well, the constant duties of being a nurse conjure a burning desire within Hana. She says, she“[wants] air that [smells] of nothing human” (Ondaatje 51). The mental wounds Hana sustains during the war have corrupted her sense of purpose, optimism, and sociality. Hana’s perception of the world now emphasizes the futility of the greater good. Without a goal that accomplishes something good, by someone’s standards, all actions are truly meaningless. This bleak and pessimistic outlook on life, that Hana now embodies, is the result of mental injuries she endured throughout the war. Of course Hana did not escape the war with just wounds of the mind. Her body is also marred by the situations that are brought about by war. She became involved with a young soldier during her service as a nurse. In fact, the soldier she associated herself with gave her a child. In her situation, it was impossible for her to keep the child. While speaking with Caravaggio Hana says, “I courted one man and he died and the child died…the child didn’t just die, I was the one who destroyed it. After that I stepped so far back no one could get near me” (Ondaatje 85). Hana divulges her, self-orchestrated, abortion to Caravaggio. In Hana’s case, physically wounding her own body induced a secondary mental stress. Abandoning her pregnancy forced a mental shift within Hana that positioned her on the outskirts of social behavior. Hana became willingly removed from the lives of other people as a way to avoid such afflictions again. These changes in Hana’s character are the direct result of mental and physical wounds caused by life experiences.
    As time progresses within the novel, Hana’s own turmoil leads her to care for the next character whose life also portrays the theme of everyone being, in their own way, a wounded soul. The English patient, whom Hana attends too, has sustained primarily physical wounds; although, these wounds do wreak havoc on his psyche. The English patient has been severely burned in a plane crash. In fact, “parts of his burned body and face had been sprayed with tannic acid…the area around his eyes was coated with a thick layer of gentian violet. There was nothing to recognize in him” (Ondaatje 48). Since the English patient’s physical wounds have left his face, and body, unrecognizable, his character has become reduced to his memories alone. The English patient’s state of being, as the result of his physical injuries, diminishes his will to live. Only at the end of the novel does the English patient reveal that he is plagued by such a lack of motivation. As Kip, a sapper, aims his rifle at the English patient’s throat, the English Patient tells kip to “do it” (Ondaatje 285). In this short statement by the English patient a lot is being said about the effects of his wounds. Since he has been burned so badly, the English patient no longer wishes to live. He tells kip to shoot, and kill him. This request made by the English patient carries with it a merciful connotation. The English patient appears to be asking to be put out of his misery. The English patient is truly a wounded man, both physically and mentally as well.
    Once again, Ondaatje uses one of the characters within his novel “The English Patient” to convey the theme that “we are all wounded souls” (Cox) by introducing Caravaggio. Caravaggio also receives physical wounds during the war that cause him to experience mental side effects. While attempting to infiltrate a German party, Caravaggio is caught by German officials and interrogated. During his interrogations his thumbs are forcibly removed. As Caravaggio and Hana are discussing his bandaged hands Caravaggio says, “they nearly chopped off my fucking hands” (Ondaatje 34). Later on, Hana asks Caravaggio if he would help to steal some chickens and other supplies, but Caravaggio replies, “you don’t understand. I lost my nerve” (Ondaatje 33). From Caravaggio’s statement and reluctance to participate in stealing, which used to be his way of life, it can be argued that the loss of his thumbs has had a deep impact on his confidence. He no longer sees himself as invincible, or as an undefeated thief. Without the nerve to steal Caravaggio’s life has turned in a new direction; a direction determined by the removal of his thumbs.
    Overall, Ondaatje’s novel, “The English Patient”,conveys the theme that “we are all wounded souls” (Cox) and how such wounds can have an impact on one’s personality. He accomplishes this through the use of characters within the novel. Hana is deeply impacted mentally by the war and her experiences as an army nurse. The English patient and Caravaggio, on the other hand, are influenced mainly by physical wounds, that have negative mental side effects. It is hard to find a character within “The English Patient” who is not wounded in one way or another. Perhaps the same can be said for the real world?

  24. Through out the novel “The English Patient” many different characters are introduced. Characters varying in race, gender and nationality. Despite their differences in appearances Hana, the English patient, Kip and Caravaggio share the similarity of a wounded soul. The quotation “we are all wounded souls”(Cox) relates to the novel as a whole and links the four characters together as they all suffer from emotional, physical and identity wounds.
    Emotionally all four characters are wounded. The book links the characters together by allowing them to share the feeling of loss. Hana experiences the shock of her fathers death, the English patient lost the girl he loves, Kip mourns the death of a good friend and Caravaggio deals with having lost his wife. The four characters join together and bond over these wounds allowing themselves to accept each other and form a type of family. They form bonds so strong Caravaggio says to Kip as he leaves, “I shall have to learn how to miss you” (Ondaatje 289). Their wounds allow them to converse, relate to one another and get to know the people who have entered their life.
    The most noticeable physical wounds are those of Caravaggio and the English patient. Caravaggio’s wounds are where his thumbs should be. Caravaggio’s wounds let him connect easily with Hana as she wrote “He is in a time of darkness, has no confidence. For some reason I am cared for by this friend of my father”(Ondaatje 61). Hana realizes Caravaggio’s struggle with accepting the loss of his thumbs, losing a part of his humanity and a constant reminder of how different everyone is. The English patient suffers from the most evident physical wounds, drawing others closer to him-trying to figure him out. His unrecognizable figure draws questions and discussions of his true identity. Hana excepts him for who she wants him to be, “He is her despairing saint” (Ondaatje 3), while others question his name and nationality. The blackened body of the English patient is why the four of them are there together. The English patient’s wounds make it too painful for him to be moved, his wounds bring Hana, Caravaggio and Kip together to the house he rests in.
    Identity could be a name, a race, nationality or other distinguishing factors of who you are. Hana hides who she wants to be by aiding the english patient. Avoiding mirrors and reflections she refused to see herself, hiding from who she has become until she finally sees her self, “She peered into her look, trying to recognize herself” (Ondaatje 52). She is both a young girl and a woman. The English patient claims to not know who he is, where he is from or what he looks like. Kip is an Indian working with the English, breaking his family traditions of being a doctor but questions who he is loyal to. Because of the uncertainty of identity all characters are able to accept one another despite their gender and the racial boundaries. Their identities are wounded, they’re unsure of who they are and who they want to be.
    Wounds are an opening to who you are, they allow you to relate, to feel and to evaluate life. The quotation “we are all wounded souls”(Cox) relates to the novel as a whole and links these unique characters together using emotional, physical and identity wounds. With out wounds who would they be?

  25. “When we are young we do not look into mirrors. It is when we are old, concerned with our name, our legend, what our lives mean to the future. We become vain with the names we own” (Ondaatje 141).
    As the quotation explains as people age they begin to worry about the way they will leave their lives behind. People become concerned with how they will be judged and remembered when they are gone. How their lives will impact the future. This quotation represents the important theme of identity and names throughout The English Patient.

    When Ondaatje brings in new characters he introduces them by describing their nature and personality before he reveals their name. From Ondaatje’s method of introduction, it is clear that names are not as important as they seem. Names do not make the person and people should not be judged from their name or from their nationality. At first the English patient is just called the burned patient; eventually he is called the English patient. Once an old family friend enters the Villa, Hana’s name is finally announced. Even her old family friend, Caravaggio, is described before his name is released. And finally Ondaatje uses the same technique on the fourth main character, Kip. Each of the four main characters are first described before they are named. The other, minor characters in the novel are introduced with their name right away. It is significant that the English patient, Hana, Caravaggio, and Kip are introduced this way. They cannot be judged at first because their name and identity is not released. The names of these charcters are not as important as their history. The novel focuses on the characters past and the past does not rely on a name, but actions.

    The English patient specifically hides his name and identity from everyone once he becomes this burned patient. He does not rely on names to describe him. He wants the nurses to take care of him as the wounded man he is now and not dwell on the life he has had; his affair with Katharine, his nationality, and how he worked for Germans helping spies across the desert. In his past when he was trying to save Katharine, he told an English soldier what had happened to her but they locked him. Almásy was a foreign sounding-name so the British took him away as a spy. The English Patient tells Caravaggio, “The war was just beginning already. They were just pulling spies in out of the desert. Everyone with a foreign name who drifted into these small oasis towns was suspect” (Ondaatje 251). Because of what has happened in his past and because of his name he did not want to risk his life again when he first entered the hospital, so he hid his name.

    Names can be changed so easily because people can use nicknames. In the beginning of the novel the English patient is sometime referred to as the Englishman. Caravaggio is called by his first name David a few times in the novel. Kip has many names, his full name is Kirpal Singh, and he is also called the young sapper, young Sikh, and Singh. “Within a week his real name, Kirpal Singh had been forgotten” (Ondaatje 87). It is significant that first it took awhile to know these characters name, and once they are introduced their name is always changing. It is clear that names are not that important if they are not consistent and can be changed or forgotten so easily.

    Since the events of the novel occur during the war and the end of the war has brought them all together, identity and nationality is an important aspect. The English patient, Hana, Caravaggio, and Kip all come from different nationalities. The difference of nationality does not bother them. The English patient, Hana, and Kip are not concerned about each individual’s identity, whereas Caravaggio is focused on determining if the English patient is really Almásy. Hana says to Caravaggio, “No David. You’re too obsessed. It doesn’t matter who he is. The war is over” (Ondaatje 166). Kip feels the same as Hana, even when Caravaggio is referring to the English patient as Almásy, Kip still thinks he is English. Even when it is certain that he is Almásy, Hana and Kip do not care; they accept that the English patient wants to be called by this name.

    The English Patient focuses on the idea that names do not describe who people are or their history. The identity and nationality of a character should not affect how we view that person. The quotation I chose helps describes how names can influence our lives. People become concerned with their name and how they will leave a mark on the world once they are gone. The fact that the English Patient recites this quotation makes it more significant and backs up my idea that, he is concerned that he will be judged by his name like he has in his past. Instead of taking the chance of his name being destroyed by the views of other, he protects himself by hiding his name.

    Ondaatje writes the whole novel based upon the idea that a name does not describe the person. The concept is not a unique one; Shakespeare proposes the concept in Romeo and Juliet when Juliet says, “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose/ By any other name would smell as sweet” (Shakespeare). Ondaatje takes this idea one step further by utilising the concept as a writing method. The whole theory of the novel is that a name does not define us.

  26. “The English Patient” is a novel in which the desert plays an essential role. Throughout the story, many references are made that relate back to the theme of the desert. In a conversation with Kip, the English patient tells him, “for some years I lived in the desert. I learned everything I knew there. Everything that ever happened to me that was important happened in the desert” (Ondaatje 177). Almásy believes the desert is a place that allows him to discover fundamental aspects of himself that are crucial to his growth. In “The English Patient,” the desert is a sacred place which represents self-discovery through change, knowledge, and understanding of identity.

    The ideas of change and impermanence are established through the English patient’s reminiscence of his past time spent in the desert. In the abandoned villa, the four characters develop a strong friendship with each other. One evening, they have a party during which they celebrate together “their own simple adventures—Hana her sleep, Caravaggio his finding of the gramophone, and Kip a difficult defusing” (Ondaatje 112). However, this bond is only temporary and does not surpass the time the four spend in the villa. Although Hana later writes letters to Kip, after a year of no replies, she gives up seeking the contact which Kip does not desire (Ondaatje 300). The impermanence of their friendship is similar to that of the desert’s surface, whose appearance constantly shifts due to the high winds to which it is subjected. Almásy explains that you have to keep moving during a sandstorm, otherwise you will be buried (Ondaatje 137). He also discusses his book “The Histories” by Herodotus, describing how “the sand leaps in little spurts and whirls. Inch by inch the disturbance rises as the wind increases its force” (Ondaatje 137). There is a clear parallel between the desert’s changing physical appearance and the transience of the characters’ companionship in the villa. Through change and new experiences, such as those of the desert and the villa, opportunities arise in which one can learn more about one’s self.

    Living in the desert for a number of years, Almásy acquires significant knowledge, as he later relates to Kip (Ondatjee 137). The desert forces him to learn survival skills, especially when he must find help for Katharine after the first plane crash occurs. His knowledge of the land allows him to determine his location without relying on man-made directional instruments. The English patient discusses the men of the Geographical Society and how as they “travel by local trains from the suburbs towards Knightsbridge on their way to Society meetings, they are often lost, tickets misplaced, clinging only to their old maps and carrying their lecture notes” (Ondatjee 133). Unlike these men, the English patient possesses the skills needed to locate himself and find his way to the buried plane in Uweinat (Ondaatje 164). While working as a spy for the Germans, he guides Eppler through a stretch of desert that was thought to be impassable (Ondaatje 163-4). In order to cross the desert, “they raided British petrol dumps to fill their tanks. In the Kharga Oasis they switched into British uniforms and hung British army number plates on their vehicles” (Ondaatje 165). The experience of living in the desert teaches Almásy to be resourceful and survive using only what he has or can find, instead of relying on trains and maps like the Geographical Society men. Through his unique experiences in the desert, the English patient discovers a resourceful and crafty side to himself that he otherwise would not have found if he had worked with the Geographical Society men.

    Identity is not concrete, and can be construed in different ways. The English patient loses his identity when he falls from a blazing plane and is “burned beyond recognition” (Ondaatje 165). Throughout the novel, Caravaggio, Hana, and Kip question his identity and are in a continuous debate as to whether he is an Englishman or a Hungarian spy. They are able to make assumptions based on the stories Almásy tells them about his past, but cannot come to a conclusion as to his identity because he controls what they know about him by providing only what information he is willing to share. Since none of the characters besides Hana and Caravaggio know each other, they are all able to recreate their identities and histories prior to their lives at the villa. The desert parallels the idea of altering one’s identity in that its constantly changing surface allows it to disguise its true features. The English patient explains how “in the emptiness of deserts you are always surrounded by lost history” (Ondaatje 135). The desert is a vast open space whose outward appearance is deceptively blank until one uncovers the history hidden below the wind-blown layers of sand. To the others, the blackness of the English patient’s burned body presents them with the lost history of his past. He is an anonymous face to them and they do not confidently know he is the Hungarian spy since they cannot see his face to determine his nationality. Given the opportunity to selectively uncover different aspects from their pasts, the inhabitants of the villa are able to explore and gain a better understanding their identity because they become aware of whom they are in comparison to how they want to be perceived.

    The desert winds transform the external appearance of its land, creating new challenges for its explorers. Deserts force knowledge onto travelers by presenting them with difficulties that must be faced in order to survive the new way of life. Furthermore, they conceal the past and propose a chance to dig and discover the truth of their identity. Through these points, “The English Patient” shows that experiences in the desert lead to self discovery. Learning about one’s self during constant changes, such as those of the desert, directs a path to a stronger perception of one’s identity. This strengthened perception permits said individual to submit to further character growth which in turn provides them with better self awareness and fulfillment.

  27. A central theme in the novel The English Patient is change. The quotation “I left you because I knew I could never change you” (Ondaatje 173) is important to this theme because of its irony. In the process of saying this, Katharine is actually causing change in the English patient and in their relationship. In the novel, the reader learns about the characters and their pasts, and sees the changes that have occurred to those characters. Change is a constant companion in life, and Ondaatje uses the changes of his characters Hana, Caravaggio and the English patient to demonstrate change in his novel. Nothing remains static, and Ondaatje’s characters are changed by their experiences and the people they meet.

    Hana is a character who is changed by her experiences in the war. Caravaggio comments on how Hana has changed, saying “the wonderful stranger he could love more deeply because she was made up of nothing he had provided” (Ondaatje 223). Caravaggio, who has known Hana since she was a child, can see how she much she is changed by her experiences in the war. We know from the novel that Hana lost her father, a lover and a baby during the war, and this has changed her. Caravaggio, talking about Hana’s singing compared to when she was sixteen, says “It had been altered by the five years leading to this night” (Ondaatje 269). The most prominent thing Caravaggio notices about Hana after meeting her again is how much she has changed since the war began. Hana’s changes because of the war and Caravaggio’s fixation on these changes show how change is one of the central themes of The English Patient, and that everyone can change.

    Another character that exemplifies Ondaatje’s theme of change is Caravaggio. Caravaggio is another character who is changed by his experiences. Hana notices one change in Caravaggio, and that is his attention to his appearance. She says “his stubble like sand against her skin. She loved that about him now; in the past he had always been meticulous” (Ondaatje 266). Caravaggio is changed by the torture he endures because of the war. He tells Hana of it, saying “They removed both thumbs, Hana” (Ondaatje 54). Caravaggio is changed from a meticulous thief to an aged man by his experiences in the war, especially the torture he has to endure. His experiences have changed him, and by showing the reader how Caravaggio is changed Ondaatje illustrates that change is important and that everyone changes, even the people we expect to stay the same forever, as Hana once thought of Caravaggio.

    The most dramatically changed character in Ondaatje’s novel is the English patient. The story that the reader knows the best at the end of the novel is the story of the English patient. Throughout his story, the reader can see the English patient change because of his experiences and because of the people around him. One major factor that causes change in the English patient is the desert. The English patient tells Kip “Everything that ever happened to me that was important happened in the desert” (Ondaatje 177). By saying this, the English patient admits that the most important experiences in his life occurred in the desert, and that they have effectively changed him. The other way the English patient is changed is by Katharine, his married lover. It is Katharine who says the most explicit line about change in the novel, “I left you because I knew I could never change you” (Ondaatje 173). Katharine utters these words to the English patient in his past, and not realizing their irony. The English patient is actually changed quite a bit by Katharine. When they first become lovers, Katharine asks the English patient what he hates the most, and he answers with “Ownership” (Ondaatje 152). By the time the war starts, Katharine has changed the English patient so much that he is hypocritical and desires the same thing he hates: ownership. After they break up, the English patient is driven mad by Katharine, saying “He suspected she had replaced him with another lover…he did not trust his last endearments to him anymore. She was with him or against him. She was against him” (Ondaatje 172). The English patient, after breaking up with Katharine, can only think about owning her. This shows how much she has changed the English patient, and Ondaatje uses this to show that people change, and nothing stays the same, even what people think will always stay the same.

    The quotation “I left you because I knew I could never change you” (Ondaatje 173) is important to the novel because of the irony it introduces to one of the novel’s main themes, change. Ondaatje uses his characters to show how people change, and are changed by their experiences and the people around them. The quotation’s irony lends substance to the theme, demonstrating that even the belief of immutability causes change.

  28. The English Patient is a novel that snakes through the events, experiences, and memories of Hana, Carvaggio, Kip and the English patient. Cleverly wound into those scenes are many reoccurring themes about identity, ownership and love. Throughout the novel, relationships are unwound from the past and the present and the role of words is often integrated to create one important theme about words in relationships: “That night I fell in love with a voice. Only a voice. I wanted to hear nothing more” (Ondaatje 144). Words play a very important role in the relationships that each of the characters have in the novel, and they often reveal much about identity.

    Words and relationships are evident throughout the novel with respect to each of the characters. Most apparent is the relationship that the English patient has with Katharine Clifton. The quotation above is an example of what their relationship was like. It all started with words; words that Katharine chose to speak or recite, which seemed to particularly affect the English patient. On the other hand, it was the words they spoke to each other that also impacted their relationship most; “When he talked like that she hated him” (Ondaatje 150). The English patient’s words are what provoke Katharine to physically wound him, and words, which Katharine uses to further humiliate him.

    As the English patient recounts his past with Katharine, a relationship between Kip and Hana starts unfolding. Kip and Hana have a very unusual relationship; very little words are spoken between them, and those that are exchanged have a special significance. During their time together, Kip trusts Hana with words about his travels, his family, and about the sacredness he found in statues, and just like the English patient, “in the evenings …[Kip] loves her voice” (Ondaatje 128). When the time comes for Kip to leave, he cannot bear to say a simple goodbye. His decision not to say anything shows how much he fears losing her, and at the same time, how much he cares for Hana. However, it does not mean he will stop thinking of her and her words specifically: “If there were to be words they would not be hers; they would be the names on this map of Italy he was riding through” (Ondaatje 294). At one point in the novel, Kip admits that appearance never really meant anything to him. It is the mouth, which truly reveals a person’s character, not the eyes (Ondaatje 219). When Kip is alone, it is the words which came out of Hana’s mouth that stick with him. They are what comfort him, and what drive him into sadness at the same time. In addition, another connection can be made from the quotation; the “names on this map” (Ondaatje 294) are also words that remind him of Hana: “ There was a time when mapmakers named the places they travelled through with the names of lovers rather than their own” (Ondaatje 140). As Kip travels through Italy he chooses to wander like a cartographer. Subconsciously, he is naming the places after Hana, and this use of words enables him to escape what was said in the past.

    Carvaggio’s relationship with the English patient is also unique. It is unique because words are the motivation: “I’d like to talk with him some more…Talking it out. Both of us” (Ondaatje 166). Before Carvaggio suspects the English patient to be Almásy, he is enraged at Hana’s insistence to remain at the Villa San Girolamo for the patient. He is obsessed with Hana’s well being, and understands that her obsession with the English patient is because of words: “it is easier to fall in love with him that with you…Because we want to know things…talkers seduce, words direct us into corners” (121). As Carvaggio’s curiosity gets the best of him, he learns to gain a similar appreciation for the English patient. The relationship that they develop is based solely on the words that they exchange, and whatever they reveal of the truth.

    As the reader travels through the events in The English Patient, many truths are revealed. “That night I fell in love with a voice. Only a voice. I wanted to hear nothing more” (Ondaatje 144), perfectly portrays the significance of words within relationships. Words are the cause and end of the relationship that the English patient and Katharine have. For Kip and Hana, words represent trust and thoughts. To Carvaggio, words provide reason for a relationship with the English patient. Ultimately, the decision to speak or not to speak directly and indirectly influences the relationships that the characters have in the novel.

  29. What is most interesting about “The English Patient” is that it is filled with such complexity and depth that the reader has the opportunity to analyze certain quotations as he or she wants to. The novel gives the ability to let the reader create his or her own ideas. Ironically, ownership is one of the novels most notable themes. Through several quotations in the novel, one can see a debate on the theme of ownership; can things be owned? For example, can the readers of “The English Patient” really own the ideas or thoughts they have “created.” I think the quotation which sums up this ongoing debate is: “I believe in such cartography – to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience” (Ondaatje 261).
    The English Patient, the speaker of this quotation, is explaining that nothing can be owned. People, places and objects cannot be owned. Not even something as simple as a thought can be own. They can be labeled and named, but naming does not imply ownership. People do not own their ideas or their experiences, as history repeats itself and the past is shared.
    The desert can be used as a perfect example for the first part of this quotation. It is named and labeled; however, it is not owned. Nobody can stand in the desert and say “this is mine.” It belongs to nobody and everybody at the same time. Nobody can officially own it, but everyone has the ability to mark it. That works with that opposite as well; the desert has the ability to mark anyone. While mapping the desert in 1932, the English Patient learns that “The desert could not be claimed or owned—it was a piece of cloth carried by winds, never held down by stones, and given a hundred shifting names before Canterbury existed, long before battles and treaties quilted Europe and the East” (Ondaatje 138-139). This shows that names do not imply ownership. A battle for land is a battle for a place to sit, because land cannot be owned– only used. Land is something of its own.
    The villa is the same as the desert, and it can tie in with the second part of the quotation. None of the characters own the villa. The villa has been used for centuries, as a war hospital, a home and a meeting place. The English Patient explains, “There was the Villa Medici, where the generals lived. Just above it is the Villa San Girolamo, previously a nunnery, whose castlelike battlements had made it the last strong hold of the German army” (Ondaatje 12). This shows how important history is to a person or place, and how its past marks significantly. For example, a person may live in the villa, and not only with this person mark the villa, but the next person to live in the villa as well.
    A person is easily marked by simple events. A thought, an idea, or even having a short conversation is something that can mark a person. The English Patient says, “We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves” (261). Even the simplest things can mark us, and create who we are.
    A person cannot even own his or herself, for a person cannot predict the events that life will bring. We are marked by nature, the uncontrollable and the unpredictable. The English Patient recalls, “When we are young we do not look into mirrors. It is when we are old, concerned with our name, our legend, what our lives will mean to the future. We become vain with the names we own, our claims to have been the first eyes, the strongest army, the cleverest merchant” (Ondaatje 141-142 ). A name and a title is the only thing people are easily described by, and therefore, it begins to own them. People become too obsessed with leaving a “mark” on the world, that they do not take the time to appreciate the marks on themselves. The English Patient understands otherwise. Nothing is owned. Everything is shared. “The English Patient” proves that everything is communal. The English Patient say, “I carried Katharine Clifton into the desert, where there is the communal book of moonlight” (Ondaatje 261). The moonlight cannot be owned, much as anything else cannot be owned. We cannot own an idea, for an idea is derived from something: something shared.
    This quotation sums up the moral of “The English Patient.” It shows that any place, any person, any object, or even an idea cannot be owned, for everything is shared, and the only thing that can mark us is our experience with it.

  30. “How does this happen? To fall in love and be disassembled” (Ondaatje 158) is a beautiful quote that drives the story line of the entire book. The outside of the book is a group of people living in a small villa near Florence during the war but when you jump into the book, the true story telling is how love can consume a person. Kip, Hana and the English patient were all unsuspected lovers, but it was their love for another that ended up consuming them. Hana fell in love with the English patient and risked everything to stay with him. The English patient fell in love with a colleague’s wife and killed her. Kip and Hana fell in love with each other and were not easily forgotten.

    Hana’s love for the English patient is what leads her to contradict herself, it disassembles her. Hana was once working with a wounded soldier and her long hair had touched blood in a wound. That night she cut her hair to ensure “she would have nothing to link her, to lock her, to death” (Ondaantje 50). Hana has always been a free soul, but it was when she fell in love with the English patient she lost her senses, she risked her life to stay with him: “She and the Englishman had insisted on remaining behind when the other nurses and patients moved to a safer location in the south. During this time they were very cold, without electricity” (Ondaatje 13). Hana chose against her better judgement to stay with the English patient in a villa full of mines placed by the German army because she loved the Englishman. This strong love for, in Caravaggio’s mind, a corpse frustrates him: “I’m terrified for you. I want to kill the Englishman, because that is the only thing that will save you. Get out of here… Desert your post” (Ondaatje 122). It was that strong love for him that made her go against her true self. That strong love that can make one be disassembled or so changed they are no longer recognizable to themselves.

    The English patient fell in love with a colleague’s wife and was quickly consumed by their relationship. Every thought was about Katharine, his lover. The Englishman whom did not believe in ownership was quickly changed by Katharine. One sent the other a note. “Half my days I cannot bear not to touch you. The rest of the time I feel it doesn’t matter if I ever see you again. It isn’t the morality, it is how much you can bear” (Ondaatje 154). The most striking part of that note is how much they can bear. They have sacrificed so much of themselves for each other that it now comes down to how much more they can bear. They are longing to please the person they love so much, which can twist and alter your priorities. Englishman had been a man who hated ownership and had become a man who no longer cared about “her life with others… He wants only her stalking beauty, her theatre of expressions” (Ondaatje 155). The English patient was destroyed by this woman who can change his views values he believed so strongly in. He wants to be without a nation, have no ownership, yet he can think of no one else.

    Kip is a very independent sapper, but he becomes consumed by his love for Hana. He has always worked by himself; when he defuses bomb he listens to his crystal set to drown out the surrounding world. One day he was working in the garden and Hana came to help. Later that night, “He was still annoyed the girl had stayed with him when he defused the bomb, as if by that she had made him owe her something” (Ondaatje 104). Kip never wanted to owe or be attached to anyone. It was that night that they fell in love with each other. Even years later when Kip is back in India, when he is married with children, he still remembers Hana: “Her shoulder touches the edge of a cupboard and a glass dislodges. Kirpal’s left hand swoops down and catches the dropped fork an inch from the floor and gently passes it into the fingers of his daughter, a wrinkle at the edge of his eyes behind his spectacles”(Ondaatje 302). Hana was the love that consumed him; she was the person he hurt the most by leaving without saying goodbye. She is an image that never disappears from his mind, even long after they have left each other for the rest of their lives.

    Ondaatje’s novel The English Patient is about how powerful love is. Whether it is romantic love in the case of Kip and Hana or the English Patient and Katharine or platonic love like the love between Hana and the English patient, it is extremely powerful and can cause a person to give up what they hold near and dear to themselves. It can change a person beyond recognition. Ondaatje really makes it clear how powerful this love; it can destroy a person. There are no stronger lines in the book than “How does this happen? To fall in love and be disassembled” (Ondaatje 158). It ties in all the character’s own personal stories into the overall novel. There is no character that does not feel the effect of this powerful force called love.

  31. “We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes,… bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we in as if caves. I wish for all this to be marked on my body when I am dead I believe in such cartography- to be marked by nature, not just label ourselves on a map… All I desire was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps” (Ondaatje,261)
    This quotation is the quotation with the most relevance to a major theme throughout the novel. That major theme is the theme of mapping the unknown and constantly changing. We see this theme all throughout the novel as characters try to map other characters or as characters try to map the world they live in.
    The first and easiest example of mapping the unknown is the English patient himself. He and a group of other researchers are in the dessert trying to discover lost oasis and trying to map out the dessert. But the dessert is constantly changing its landscape is always being altered by the sand storms. One day you will see one way and the next it could be different because of the shifting sands. Another example of mapping the unknown is Caravaggio is try to map the unknown identity of the English patient. The English patient is burnt so bad that his identity is unable to be identified. However by the way he speaks and all his insight, Caravaggio believes he may know who he really is. So he decides that he want to figure out who he is. He does so by mapping out his life, because he gets all the background stories from the English patient as he reveals his memory when he is on morphine. As the EP speaks Caravaggio is “drawing a map and path” to what his real identity is.
    Mapping the constantly changing landscape is also very prevalent in this novel. As already mentioned the EP is mapping the constantly changing landscape of the dessert. There is also the mapping of the characters as their characters, landscapes, change. Caravaggio shows us how Hana’s landscape has changed since he first knew her. He had a map of who Hana was when he knew her as a little girl, “the product of her parents”(Ondaatje,222) but now her landscape has changed and he must make a new map of her. He says she has grown older, physically and mentally. She holds herself differently. She is wiser and more mature. Theses changes in her personality come from the fact that she has been working as a nurse in the war and has experience much. She has watched soldiers die in front of her, she has lost a child, she lost her father, and much more traumatizing things. Kip’s map is also changing; at first he is a sapper surrounded by a bubble of solitude, then he changes to a lover, with Hana, then he flips out and leaves the Villa and gets married and has a kid. The whole time Hana is mapping him out, always seeing what else she can discover about him.
    This passage from the book relates to this theme because it is talking about maps and landscape. It talks about how our spirits move with the landscape, thereby changing our maps. When it talks about swimming up the rivers of wisdom, it is relatable to Hana as she has swum up this river and grown into an adult as Caravaggio has noticed. It says “marked by nature” (Ondaatje, 261) and nature is all about the landscape, all the different kinds of landscape and that’s what these characters are; they are all different landscape that are in constant flux.
    The irony thought in this statement thought is that it was said by the English patient who was always trying to map out the dessert, but in the end of the quote he says that “All I desire was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps” (Ondaatje,261). This is very ironic because of the fact that he was an explorer and would always map out his day’s treks and would record them in his book. Thus creating a map. So it’s ironic that he was doing the opposite of what he desired, he was headed in the wrong direction the whole time.
    Therefore, this passage from the book relays the major theme from the book, The English Patient, of mapping the unknown and constantly changing landscapes. It does so with its careful details to the effect of landscape to each individual and by describing changed in terms of landscape.

  32. Throughout “The English Patient” there are many quotations which reflect thematic points; however, finding the truth in oneself and within others is a reoccurring and significant idea within the text. Ondaatje writes, “But they were shedding skins. They could imitate nothing but what they were”(Ondaatje 117). This is relevant to the novel as it represents all of the main characters and their situations. All of the character’s have secrets from their past which they wish to forget about. Despite the hope for ignorance the truth is eventually revealed and portrays each character for who they truly are. The English patient tries to “shed the skin” of his past and play the role of an Englishman in the remaining days of his life. Caravaggio describes himself as a thief until his past secrets are told to discover the truth. Hana is also hiding who she truly is; not in the context of who she was, but in her melancholy for the future as she tries to be the shoulder everyone needs to depend on. Truth and the depiction of oneself and others proves to be significant over the course of the novel as the characters’ obsolete identities are revealed.

    The English patient lives his final days in a high of morphine trying to regain the life he once prospered in, yet he hides the truth from the few people who cared for him. The novel begins with Hana aiding a burn victem in hopes of his survival. The readers all know the patient as a member of the English army, an allie, and an unnamed man, however, he remembers every detail from the past. In the introductory chapter the narrator summarizes his final days, “He whispers again, dragging the listening heart of the young nurse beside him to wherever his mind is, into that well of memory he kept plunging into during those months before he died”(Ondaatje 4). The English patient is depicted as an English man throughout the majority of the novel, sharing details from his memories, and telling anything except for his name. He lives dishonestly, either afraid for them to know his true self, ashamed of his past endeavors, or even fearful of forgiveness. Although the truth eventually surfaces when he speaks about his love for Katharine. His loss of control leads to the confession that he is the Hungarian, Almasy, since Caravaggio knew of Katharine and has traced Almasy’s life in the desert. Caravaggio tells the English patient, “The last person I expected to find here in this shelled nunnery was Count Ladislaus de Almasy…You were a mystery, a vacuum on their charts. Turning your knowledge of the desert into German hands”(Ondaatje 252-253). Ondaatje leaves it up for interpretation as to why the English Patient attempted to camouflage the truth, especially since their are no consequences once the truth is revealed. The English patient is alreading suffering a lonely death. The original plan to kill him would only allow him to escape his unsalvageable existance. Although his life was to be hunted for, it was actually the truth about Almasy’s lover and her husband which the British Intelligence seeked. Therefore, the truth was difficult to set free and opened all of the secrets which had intensified the English patient’s soul, but it allowed a progression of trust between the English patient and Caravaggio. The English patient’s truth led to the advancement of knowledge within the novel, and proves that unleashing the truth is not always harmful.

    Caravaggio’s confession of the truth is unexpected, and divulged to acquire more knowledge. He comes to reunite with Hana, an old friend’s daughter. All of his life Hana has known him as a thief and tries to benefit their survival “through his skills from the past” (Ondaatje 33). He even claims to be a simple human being, with one sole purpose saying, “Here I was, an Italian and a thief. They couldn’t believe their luck, they were falling over themselves to use me”(Ondaatje 35). As time progresses, and his idea’s of Almasy increase he becomes more desperate for the truth. He sacrifices the knowledge of himself to gain the facts regarding the last chapter of Almasy’s life. He announces his past to the English patient by saying, “Then some of us began to advise. We could read through the camouflage of deceit more naturally than official intelligence. We created double bluffs. Whole campaigns were run by the mixture of crooks and intellectuals”(Ondaatje 253). For Caravaggio, his secrecy was vital. Nobody knew he was a spy, and if they had it could jeopordize his chances of capturing the witty and sneaky Almasy. The British Intelligence had always wanted Almasy dead, however, with his unsalvageable health he was no longer a threat to the British, allowing the truth of the Clifton’s to be enough. Revealing one’s own identity is a peculiar thing; the relationship between the English patient and Caravaggio portrays that there is a time for truth to be necessary, and how powerful the truth can be, having an immense impact on a person’s future.

    Hana also hides behind her caring nurse-like nature preventing the other characters within “The English Patient” from discovering her true feelings. Throughout the novel Hana supports the other characters by trying to aid the English patient back to health, helping Kip to transition from Indian to American culture, and encouraging Caravaggio to love and express himself. All of her selfless deeds shield the other characters from discerning Hana’s depression and her disregard for life. The narrator reflects Hana and portrays her thoughts, “She survived by keeping a coldness hidden in her role as a nurse. I will survive this. I won’t fall apart at this. These were buried sentances all through her war”(Ondaatje 48). Ondaatje’s description allows the reader to step into Hana’s mind frame, and to feel her pain and suffering in the few moments when she releases her emotions. He also writes, “Hana was greatly distressed when I first met her…She would not talk about it. She was distant from everybody”(Ondaatje 253). Hana’s emotional disintegration has been inflicted by the loss of her father, her lover, and her baby. The multiple deaths she has witnessed as a nurse only adds to her tragic tale. Hana’s experiences and memories are the only things tying her to dishonesty, and keeping her from facing the truth. Although she seems to think that she is being strong, the characters in the novel, see through her facade. The pain caused from sharing and being released from her tie with death is not worth reliving the tragedies she has suffered. The cutting of her hair, the avoidance of writing Clara, and the extinction of mirrors are a few actions Hana executes to withstand death; However, by doing so, it lead to the distortion of how she is percieved, and how she percieves herself, encouraging the downward spiral to death. In every circumstance there is the option of honesty or dishonesty, and in Hana’s case, the option of dishonesty led to the contradiction of herself and the fragmentation of her world.

    Therefore, “The English Patient” is accurately portrayed by the quotation, “But they were shedding skins. They could imitate nothing but what they were”(Ondaatje 117). Thematically, truth is an important concept because of the situations the character’s embark on. The English patient initiates truth by revealing his past relationships and confessing to be Almasy. Caravaggio shed his dishonesty by admitting to be part of the British Intelligence, and through small hints Hana’s past is revealed allowing the readers and characters to ascertain that she is a tortured soul, despite her attempts to mask it. The English patient, Caravaggio, and Hana all imitate various forms of themselves within the novel. Therefore, each character continually disintegrates their “shedding skins” to eventually reveal their true selves.

  33. One of the many significant quotations found in “The English Patient” is, “So history enters us” (Ondaatje 18). Although it is a short quotation, it is filled with a lot meaning. The meaning taken from this quotation is that history is always going to be a part of who we are. The past is always a memory within us that contributes to our present characteristics and personality. Experiences are events that help define and shape us as a person. Through these experiences, we develop fears and desires and through these fears and desires, we develop characteristics. Throughout “The English Patient”, the past of multiple characters in the novel seem to be an important aspect to their lives and helps define who they are as an individual. In of the novel, Hana is portrayed as an independent, nurturing and strong nurse with a hidden need for playfulness. Her past is the main influence of these attributes to her character.

    Throughout the novel, Hana’s independent and nurturing actions are shown. She cares specifically for a burnt patient referred to as the English patient. “Every four days she washes his black body, beginning at the destroyed feet” (Ondaatje 1). She nurtures this patient by washing his burnt body. Hana gets the inspiration to care for this burnt patient because of the death of her father. In her letter written to Clara, she says, “He was a burned man and I was a nurse and I could have nursed him…I could have saved him or at least been with him till the end” (Ondaatje 296). She expresses that she wishes she had the chance to care for her father through his accident. As a replacement, she cares for another burnt patient known as Almasy. Both these main characters are living in an old villa in Italy that has been completely abandoned. Hana’s past is what influences her to act the way she does around the villa. She has completely isolated herself from the rest of civilization by remaining to live in this abandoned building. Due to the war, Hana has seen some very traumatic and gruesome events which makes her such an independent person. Through this chapter of her life she develops a fear, “She feared the day she would remove blood from a patient’s face and discover her father or someone who had served her food across a counter on Danforth Avenue” (Ondaatje 50). This fear causes her to isolate herself from everyone else. She is afraid of identity but because the English patient no longer has one, she is comfortable taking care of him. She learns to take care of herself and creates her own world that she feels secure in. It is difficult for Hana to accept the death of her father and the loss of her baby. In the library, Caravaggio says, “The trouble with all of us is we are where we shouldn’t be…We should all move out together” (Ondaatje 122). He tells Hana that they are all better off just leaving the villa together but she refuses and replies immediately with, “We can’t leave the Englishman” (Ondaatje 122). Her caring and nurturing side is shown when she gets defensive about the English patient. She doesn’t want to leave him. Hana refuses to take a step forward. She doesn’t want to leave her past. This restriction is what causes Hana to be so independent and nurturing.

    Hana can also be characterized as a strong person. She has taught herself during the war to keep an emotional distance from her patients. She had become a witness to death and through this experience she has learned to become stronger. “Hello Buddy, good-bye Buddy. Caring was brief. There was a contract only until death” (Ondaatje 51). She knew that it was better off not knowing her patients so that when they died, she would not feel as much pain. When she talks to Kip later on in the novel, she says, “I thought I was going to die. I wanted to die… young as I am, I saw so many dying near me in the last year. I didn’t feel scared” (Ondaatje 103). She has become completely desensitized to death. Death became such a small idea to her because of its reoccurrence everyday during the war. “I know death now, David. I know all the smells, I know how to divert them from agony” (Ondaatle 83). Hana shows how strong she is by living in isolation from her family at such a young age. She is capable of feeding and taking care of herself and the English patient. She walks around the villa with no fear that she can die any second from a mine if she steps on the wrong tile or walks into the wrong room. She approaches death fearlessly.

    Hana became a nurse at such a young age that she didn’t get to experience the fullness of a childhood. In the beginning chapters, we see the hidden need of playfulness from Hana. One night in the villa, she takes a piece of chalk and draws some rectangles on the ground and plays hopscotch, “ She drops the chalk into the pocket of her dress…She pulls from another pocket a piece of metal and flings it out in front of her so it falls just beyond the farthest square” (Ondaatje 15). This quotation shows the hidden playful side of Hana. She shows her desire to escape adulthood by enjoying an activity of a child. Hana refuses to let go of her past and move on. She revisits her past multiple times in the book and these memories of hers restricts her from taking a step forward.

    Our past, whether it is pleasant, unpleasant, sinful or regretful, is an experience we use to remind ourselves of what we want to be. Fears and desires are developed through these experiences and it is through these fears and desires that a person develops their distinctive characteristics. Hana’s past makes her an independent, nurturing, strong and playful being. Her history “enters” her and shapes her to be who she is. “So history enters us” (Ondaatje 18) is easily one of the most significant quotes within “The English Patient” that relates to the novel as a whole. Why? It is because this quotation is the reasoning as to why each character in the novel acts the way they do. It is because their history defines who they are as an individual. It answers the most important word in the english vocabulary, “why”.

  34. There are many quotations that relate to the novel, “The English Patient”, by Michael Ondaatje, however; the one that thematically relates the best is ‘We are all wounded souls” (Cox). In the novel, the characters of the English Patient, Hana, Caravaggio and Kip are all wounded souls in their own way. They demonstrate their wounded souls through the past, the present and the future.

    The quote “We are all wounded souls” (Cox), reminisces the pasts form the English Patient and Caravaggio. The English Patient grieves about the death of his lover Katharine. He relives the first moment he saw Katharine when she climbed out of the plane with her “Khaki shorts, bony knees” (Ondaatje 229), and says “This is a story of how I fell in love with a women, who read me a specific story from Herodotus” (Ondaatje 233). The English Patient relishes the memories from his past with Katharine. When Katharine died all he wanted was to be with her. These quotes show him emotionally wounded as he tries to remember Katharine’s presence and his love for her. In addition, Caravaggio is also physically and emotionally damaged about his past. During the end of the war he had his thumbs removed when he was tortured by the Germans. In the second chapter, Hana wishes to see Caravaggio’s hands and he hesitantly “turns one hand over as if to reveal that it is no trick, that what looks like a gill is where the thumb has been cut away” (Ondaatje 54). Caravaggio is agonized with the fact that his thumbs were cut off. He can no longer be a thief because it requires all of his fingers. He is also embarrassed because he does not feel whole anymore without his thumbs. Caravaggio feels as if he can no longer live independently. The memories of the pasts from the English Patient and Caravaggio exemplify that they are wounded souls.

    The characters of Hana and Kip demonstrate that they are wounded souls in the present time of the novel. Hana shows that she is emotionally wounded when her father dies. She says that her father “Patrick died in a comforting place” (Ondaatje 293). Her father being an influential figure in her life dies during the war. Hana is deeply saddened from this news and replaces her father with the English Patient. The English Patient having no identity is an easy replacement for her father. She takes care of the English Patient as a symbolic way of saying goodbye and helping her to have closure with her father. Along with Hana, Kip is also damaged emotionally. He has been dismantling bombs for years and he lost his friends Lord Suffolk and Miss Morden to a bomb. Then he hears that, “One bomb. Then another. Hiroshima. Nagasaki” (Ondaatje 284) killed lots of people. He goes crazy. Kip feels that all of his work to save citizens from bomb explosions has gone to waste. He is emotionally wounded and blames the English Patient and the English for killing all of those people. The experiences that Hana and Kip have in the present time of the novel make them emotionally damaged.

    Throughout Ondaatje’s novel he depicts the characters of being wounded souls in the past and present, however; Kip and Hana are also burdened in the future. Throughout the text Hana and Kip share a meticulous love for each other. They love one another and want to be around each other, but they also prefer to be distant. At the end of the novel, Kip leaves the villa and never returns. Both characters are emotionally burdened from this. They live completely different lives, yet they still have a passion for each other. Kip explains that, “He sees her always, her face and body, but he doesn’t know what her profession is or what her circumstances are” (Ondaatje 300). No matter where Kip is he will always remember his romance with Hana. He is a wounded soul from love. Hana is also afflicted as she sends letters to Kip but never receives any in return. Kip and Hana are impassioned with love that weakens their spirits because they will never see each other again.

    Ondaatje’s novel has many thematic quotations but the best is “We are all wounded souls” (Cox). Throughout the text he cleverly demonstrates the different characters as having wounded souls through the use of their past memories, their present experiences or their future indulgences.

  35. Words. “She had always wanted words, she loved them, grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape. Where as I thought words bent emotions like sticks in water” (Ondaatje 238). In Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, the emphasis on the importance of words is evident. Whether they are used to display love or to destroy others, words can be very powerful instruments. Throughout the novel, characters are able to show the importance of words as they attract others, make connections with different situations, and provide important information for characters and audience.
    Caravaggio and Kip are two characters in the novel that often mention the power of words. Caravaggio states that “words are tricky things” (Ondaatje 37). One morning, as he is speaking with Hana and Kip outside, he asks Kip whether it is possible for him to be in love with someone who is not any smarter than that person—in other words, intellectually inferior. He believes that Hana is in love with the English patient because he “knows” things. He then expresses his passion for words: “I had never thought words erotic. Sometimes I really do like to talk more than fuck. Sentences. Buckets of this buckets of that and then buckets of this again. The trouble with words is that you can really talk yourself into a corner…Talkers seduce, words direct us into corners” (Ondaatje 120). Caravaggio points out that even simple words have the power to attract, grow, and change people, even ourselves. In his opinion, the English patient is a talker who can seduce with words.
    During the party celebrating his successful journey, the English patient hears the voice of Katharine as she tells the famous story of Candaules and Gyges from Herodotus. After she finishes reading, the English patient realizes that he is in love with her: “She stopped reading and looked up. Out of the quicksand. She was evolving. So power changed hands. Meanwhile, with the help of an anecdote, I fell in love. Words, Caravaggio. They have power” (Ondaatje 234). The words from the story worked as a catalyst for their love affair and the following events that occur. She shares the story of King Candaules, who is so proud of his wife’s beauty that he forces his friend Gyges to see her naked. The queen finds out and tells him that he must die himself or kill the king for seeing what was not his. Gyges, kills Candaules and marries the queen, who Katharine clearly implies as herself. The close resemblance between the events in this ancient story and those in the novel is shown, as if the same stories are constantly being passed down from generation to generation. Parallels are drawn between the two closely intertwined texts, as characters in worlds thousands of years apart act out similar actions and display the same emotions. Words allow one narrative to interact and be responsible for the creation of another, just as the story from Herodotus influenced the relationship between Katharine and the English patient.
    Another situation where words play an essential role is in the passing of information and the communication between characters. It is through words that Katharine learns all she can about Cairo and the desert: “she was muted, read constantly, kept more to herself, as if something had occurred or she realized suddenly that wondrous thing about the human being, it can change…She was discovering herself…She read everything about the desert. She could talk about Uweinat and the lost oasis, had even hunted down marginal articles” (Ondaatje 230) and it is by the consistent reading Herodotus that the English patient can guide himself through his geographical mapping journeys. In the villa, the English patient expresses his passion for words as he shares his own story and displays his knowledge to Caravaggio. Unlike Kip, who listens to music to extinguish the outside world, Hana finds her own escape from reality in books. As she reads to the English patient, Hana is able to connect with him and try to interest him in the present life. In each situation, characters use the words from various books and from other people to inform themselves as well as relate to different places or times, which proves that words have the power to let people reach beyond themselves in connecting with people and objects outside of their current surroundings. Words can also be used to pass secret codes and messages, as in the German spy’s book Rebecca. These interactions between characters and words enable education and the construction of many relations between people and objects.
    The English Patient clearly depicts one of the strong, recurring themes of the novel—words. In the story, as well as in the modern day world, words prove to have a powerful effect ourselves and also on the people around us, whether it may be used to educate, to make connections to people, places and objects beyond our reach, or to attract others towards ourselves. It is by words that the readers are able to experience the same ideas that the characters go through, and understand the events that occur in the novel.

  36. In times of war everyone seems to struggle whether they are in it, near it, or just reading about it. Ondaatje demonstrates in his novel The English Patient the power war has on everyone. A very intelligent woman once said, “We are all wounded” (Cox); each of the four main characters find refuge in the Villa San Girolamo in an attempt to mend their wounds. This quotation relates to the entire plot from start to finish, from the characters meeting up in the Villa of the wounded, to the use of relationships to heal, and even to their instability and inability to be truly healed from their wounds.

    The formerly used war hospital Villa San Girolamo appears to be the house of the wounded, even though Ondaatje never gives it that title. All of the characters meet in the Villa by chance, not knowing that once they are together they begin to heal. Hana, the nurse, and the English patient decide to stay in the old war hospital as the other nurses continue following the war, “though there was no one else living there now, no one except the English patient and herself in the Villa” (Ondaatje 7). Caravaggio joins them in the Villa when he hears of the news that she is nursing the English patient, while Kip enters their lives when searching for a bomb in the metronome after hearing the piano. Although not formally known as a house of healing, this dilapidated structure torn apart during war becomes just that for these four people. Prior to being destroyed by bombs, leaving many rooms open to the world, it was “built to protect inhabitants from the flesh of the devil” (Ondaatje 43) where after the war has passed it shows “little demarcation between house and landscape” (Ondaatje 43). Although much more vulnerable in its damaged state, the house becomes intertwined with nature. This rebirth of the house can directly relate to the new growth of the four inhabitants of the villa. It helps the main characters physically heal, mentally recover from deaths of loved ones, and seek the importance in their job. Overall, the Villa is the principle setting in the novel where those who have been wounded in the war meet.

    All of the characters are wounded. The English patient suffers from severe burns, Hana is given a role in the war far too difficult for someone her age, and Caravaggio the thief has his thumbs removed, thereby making him useless at his craft. Kirpal Singh joins the group later on and struggles with prioritizing his family and his job. Each of them has their own problems, yet together they are able to temporarily mend their wounds. Separate from each other they are all wounded, but together the pain subsides. Hana especially heals by taking care of Almasy and by forming a relationship with Kip. The war times slowly eat Hana spirit away; the physical and mental strain on her body after nursing hundreds of dying soldiers becomes too much for her to bear. Hana uses the rest of her will to nurse the English patient, knowing that there is hope for his survival. She holds onto him because he is one of the few humans with whom she can form a long-term relationship. She states that “He is a saint… Our desire is to protect them” (Ondaatje 45) when she tries to justify her commitment to him to Caravaggio. The bond she creates with Kip also helps her be ignorant to her disturbing memories. Hana is able to think about Kip and focus all of her emotions on him, leaving no room for past occurrences. Their intimacy causes Hana’s wounds to be covered by Kip’s love. The relationships the main characters form play a huge role in their overall mood during the novel.

    Finally, the bonds the four of them create are strenuous due to their instability. When Kip is informed of the bombing in Japan by the United States he immediately blames it all on Hana. This comes off as out of place because Hana is English and even if she were American she would have no control over the event. Kip’s logic is that “When you start bombing the brown races in the world, you’re an Englishman… You all learned from the English” (Ondaatje 286). His view completely shifts from what he previously believed in, that “the Sikhs have been brutalized by the Japanese in Malaya. But my brother ignores that” (Ondaatje 217). Initially he believes that one should fight for what is right, and even though Japan is part of the same continent they should not be given respect after harming the Sikhs. By the end he sees the bombing as an attack on him, when it was targeted for only the Japanese. This angry rant by Kip creates a new wound for him and Hana, and destroys their relationship. His wound may have been superficially healed when with Hana, but internally it was always present. Regardless of how positive their lives appear, the smallest action is able to bring back their wounds.

    The quotation, “We are all wounded” (Cox) embodies this novel as a whole. The various wounds of the characters play a significant role in the entire novel. The progression of the plot is driven by how each of them deals with their wounds. It is these wounds that bring each of them together, and in the end what pulls them apart.

    Joe Cap

  37. “The English Patient” is a novel that is filled with stories that are told by each character. Every past experiences described from the characters are unforgettable and significant in understanding the novel. The quote “we are all wounded souls” (Cox) can best outline the novel. As this being said, the novel begins with a war. Obviously, people who take a role in war such as the soldiers and nurses are all wounded but this quote specifically relates to the characters in the villa. The four characters, the English patient, Hana, Kip and Caravaggio are all wounded souls whether emotionally, physically or both. This quote relates to the events within the novel; Kip’s emotion, Hana’s father’s death and Almasy’s lover. As the novel continues the readers discover their past experiences and start to understand their behavior and connect to their feelings.
    The past memories and experiences of Kip has built his emotional distance. He is portrayed as a brown man working for a white nation. Thus, he was able to come and go between two parts of his identities. And as working as a sapper, he has experienced many losses. One of past life event that was shared by Kip was a moment where he lost his mentor, Lord Suffolk; “When the reality of the death of Lord Suffolk came to him” (Ondaatje 195), this incident had made him strong in controlling his emotions. As he defuses bomb, it was impossible to trust everything. His thoughts on defusing bomb was quite obvious, it could kill anyone at any time. As this being said, his distrust increases at each of his duty until he arrived in the villa. The life in the villa for Kip was very unusual because it was the only place that he could trust that it is safe unlike the bombs that he disarms. Also he was able to emotionally connect with Hana. It created a small community on the ground where it was a disaster, bloody and full of conflicts, almost like a safe zone in a war. His memories of people’s death and his obligation have wounded him emotionally. Those wounds never healed as he was continuing his duty however the life in villa had helped him recover his wounded soul. Furthermore, Kip’s cynicism and distrust has weakened during the life in the villa until the bomb dropped in Japan. When Kip heard the news, “One bomb, then another, Hiroshima, Nagasaki” (284), he realizes the reality that are happening outside the villa and in less than a second his wounds and pain appears again.
    Hana’s father’s death is significant to her and to her duty. As Hana hears the news of her father’s death, “Patrick died in a dove-cot in France”, she has an emotional breakdown. She is wounded emotionally by her father’s death, thinking of the times where she could actually see her father. Thus, this becomes the reason that she chose not to be attached with her patient. Her painful memories of seeing patients that are injured by different kind of reasons had made her strong and grip her emotions. During the war she chose to cut off her hair and never to look herself in the mirror, “She never looked at herself in mirrors again” (Ondaatje 50), she did not want to link with death in anyways. Hana’s past life as a nurse and her father’s death left her an emotional scar that will carry throughout her life.
    Unlike the other two characters, Almasy is wounded both emotionally and physically. His body is damaged, “Every four days she washes his black body, beginning at the destroyed feet” (Ondaatje 3), as Hana takes care of his body the readers can easily identify his burned body. Almasy is also wounded emotionally due to his lover, Katharine. The image of Katherine is nailed strongly in Almasy’s mind. He is obsessed with her image. The plane crash that injured Katherine became the start of his scar, “She had been injured. In 1939 Her husband had crashed his plane” (Ondaatje 171), not only the plane crash, Almasy’s failure to return to Katherine before her death had made him emotionally affected.
    “The English Patient” is a novel lead by characters that carry heavy weights. Therefore, this novel can be summarized in a simple quote, “we are all wounded souls” (Cox). Some readers might say this book reflects on the result of a war however, the society is a war and each individual experiences many things. The readers discover the stories of the characters’ wounds which are; Kip’s emotion, Hana’s father’s death and Almasy’s lover. Every person carries some kind of scars in their life and those scars build up and make people invulnerable. The quote best describes this book as the characters are all wounded emotionally and physically.

  38. A novel that contains the story of a person could be described as the map of that person. A novel can tell you most of a person’s story but it could never express everything that the person experiences the exact same way the person experienced it. In the same way a map can tell you about a place but it can never reveal all of the details that will be experienced from the real thing. This relates to the quotation “The map is not the territory,” (Alfred Korzyloski). The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje is a map of the lives of four people who are living in a villa at the end of the Second World War. Like a map does not contain the complete territory, The English Patient does not contain the complete the experiences of the four people. Although the book is about them it is not them. In the novel the ideas that names cannot define people and that words cannot define emotions are similar to the idea that a map cannot define land.

    Hana and the English patient believe that names do not define people. Caravaggio thinks that the English patient is not actually English but actually a guy named Almásy who helped the Germans in the war. Hana says, “It does not matter who he is,” (Ondaatje 166). She knows that his name is just a name. Whether he is referred to as the English patient or Almásy does not change who he is to her. Her view on him comes from her experiences with him. Her experiences cannot be described with a name so it does not matter to her whether or not he is Almásy. The English patient also believes that people cannot be described by their name. He says, “ I believe in such cartography- to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings,” (Ondaatje 261). He is saying that he believes that we should be marked like a map instead of being a part of a map. He thinks that a name on a building will in no way represent a person. After a person dies their name on a building will have no way of telling people who they where; it will just be a name. Both of these people believe that a person could not be simply defined by a name just like how territory could not be defined by a map.

    The English patient believes that words cannot describe emotions. He says, “I thought words bent emotions like sticks in water” (Ondaatje 238). He does not think that his emotions can be defined by words. His emotions are more than just the words provided for the English language to describe them. Similarly, the land is much more then the map. The land contains sensory information that is not represented on the map such as scents and sounds. Emotions alter the atmosphere surrounding individuals to make the situation feel different. This change cannot be described with words. Hana and Kip’s relationship did not always use words to describe their emotions. Their relationship is once described, “In the tent there have been nights of no talk and nights full of talk. They are never sure what will occur, whose fraction of past will emerge, or whether touch will be anonymous and silent in their darkness. The intimacy of her body or the body of her language in her ear,” (Ondaatje 270). This shows that they value showing emotions without the use of words. Emotions are always present but because this quotation states that they had nights in the tent when they did not talk they must have displayed their emotions in other ways. Emotions go beyond words just like the territory is more than the map.

    In The English Patient the characters believe that things cannot be easy defined. A person cannot be defined by a name and an emotion cannot be defined by a word. People and emotions are such complex things that they cannot possibly be described by simply oral means; other senses are also needed. “The map is not the territory,” (Alfred Korzyloski) is the same idea but using a visual representation for place is impossible because the place is more than just what is seen. All of the senses are needed to experience things they way they were originally and that cannot be achieved through a name, word or map. People, emotion and territories also contain pasts, presents and futures that need to be expressed. The best way to understand something is to live through it.

  39. Michael Ondaatje is a master with words as he disguises poetry in a novel with his book “The English Patient”. Throughout his novel, Ondaatje attacks many issues as the story of Hana, Caravaggio, Kip, and the English patient is told. As past and present experiences of these characters are revealed, the reader understands more about each character’s motives and Ondaatje’s philosophy on life. At the end of chapter nine on page 261, the main philosophy of this novel is unearthed as the English patient speaks of how he wished to live on an “earth that had no maps” (Ondaatje 261). This quotation is a critical and meaningful part of this novel as it shows why all four characters stick together in this uncharted villa and it reveals Ondaatje’s philosophy on life and how one should lead their life.

    A great English teacher once stated how “we are all wounded souls” (Cox). In “The English Patient”, every character living in the Italian villa was wounded in some way. Whether it be the pawed animal Caravaggio, the war-weathered nurse Hana, the sapper Kip, or the black landscape of the English patient, every character has come to the villa seeking an escape from their past. In the quotation on page 261, the English patient says: “All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps” (Ondaatje 261). The significance of this quotation is not only relevant to the English patient, but it is equally relevant to everyone else in the book as they have all stationed themselves in this unfamiliar villa in order to hide away from their already “chartered” pasts. Ironically, the villa itself is escaping from a terrible mix with war as it was used as a German military base and was then transformed into an English hospital. In this villa, Caravaggio is escaping from his life as a spy and thief, Kip is finding safety from his job as a sapper as he is still mourning the loss of Lord Suffolk, Hana is fleeing from nursing as she is hurt from the loss of her baby and her inability to care for her father’s fatal burn wounds, and the English patient was escaping from his past with Katharine, his true love, that ended in two balls of fire. All four main characters needed the villa in order to live on their earth that had no maps as they were all running from their “mapped” pasts.

    Ondaatje has one of the most interesting views on how one should live their life and on life itself. In the same quotation, the English patient expresses Ondaatje’s philosophy when he says: “I believe in such cartography—to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings… We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience” (Ondaatje 261). As a reader, when you look at this quotation from a literal point of view you might think that this is prose from a poem, but in truth, this is Ondaatje’s poetic way of expressing his view on life. He believes that a man shouldn’t be judged or remembered by his labels, but rather, a man should be remembered through his experiences in life and through his accomplishments. Also, he believes that this man’s life and legacy should be shared as it is not his own life, but one that belongs to history. Ondaatje uses his philosophy in “The English Patient” with his description of the deserts: “There are always millions of tons of dust in the air” (Ondaatje 17). The desert is in constant movement with dust in sandstorms and whirlwinds, and every once in a while when the sand settles, its landscape changes dramatically. Because of this, there are no labels in the desert, and there is no ownership of the desert as it is just an entity in itself. Paralleling the desert is the English patient who doesn’t consider himself Almásy, the desert explorer who worked for the Germans, but he has no identity, no labels or any form national ties, simply a man from the desert.

    As the book nears its end, Ondaatje begins to question his own philosophy through Kip as Kip suddenly feels or sees the labels in the world through his headset: “American, French, I don’t care. When you start bombing the brown races of the world, you’re an Englishman” (Ondaatje 286). With Kips dramatic departure from the villa, the reader must decide whether Kip simply blew a fuse and left, or whether Ondaatje’s philosophy is practical in modern day. This full of meaning quotation on page 261 is embedded in a novel where you could find hundreds of interesting and meaningful poetic prose, but it is one that portrays the theme of the novel and shows why all four protagonists are attracted to the villa. This philosophy of one being remembered through their experiences rather than their labels is powerful as it encompasses the whole theme of the novel. Hana, Kip, the English patient and Caravaggio are all attracted to the villa where none of them had a past and they feel safe among the unchartered rooms. In the end, the irony of this book is that wherever human beings go, they mark their surroundings, whether it be by a simple stone or a bread crumb path that leads back home, it brings up questions that if Kip hadn’t blown up about the two nuclear bombs, then maybe, eventually someone in the villa was going to start to follow their bread crumbs back the their past and realize that there is a flaw in Ondaatje’s philosophy. Perhaps we will never shed our labels, no matter how far away from home.

  40. In the novel the English Patient, there is a reoccurring theme of characters being drawn to the unknown. They are all curious by the uncertainty of one another, and intrigue pulls them together. The following quotation is a narrative by Caravaggio about Hana: “She had grown older. And he loved her more now than he had loved her when he understood her better, when she was the product of her parents. What she was now was what she herself had decided to become” (Ondaatje, 65). Even though Caravaggio used to know Hana quite well when she was connected to her parents, he prefers the new character she has built because it is her own. Although it is not blatant, this statement can be connected to the quotation said by the English Patient, “All [he] desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps” (Ondaatje, 261). Similar to Caravaggio, the English Patient embraces uncertainty and even desires it. The English Patient in particular often dwells on his past relationship with a woman named Katharine. Even though they are no longer together, he often ponders what could have been and wastes a lot of time wondering what if. He is unable to explore the physical mysteries of the earth, which only sinks him into a deeper mental exhaustion regarding his past.
    Unlike the other characters, Hana seems reluctant to discover the unknown and even ties herself down to a sick man to avoid it. She does, however, probes her curiosity by reading to the English Patient: “She entered the story knowing she would emerge from it feeling she had been immersed in the lives of others, in plots that stretched back twenty years, her body full of sentences and moments, as if awaking from sleep with a heaviness caused by unremembered dreams” (Ondaatje, 80). By reading, Hana dives into another world filled with hope and possibilities.
    Watching Hana, a young woman, waste her life taking care of a man who is near death, hurts Caravaggio. He wants her to explore the world and grow as a person: ‘You think I am angry at you don’t you? Because you have fallen in love. Don’t you? A jealous uncle. I’m terrified for you. I want to kill the Englishman’”(Ondaatje,123). It is a little ironic how he does not believe in confinement, considering he is confining himself to Hana. Regardless of his hypocrisy, Caravaggio longs for mystery and wants everyone else to experience the same thing.
    Kip is a character who deals with the unfamiliar every single day of his life. While defusing bombs, he never knows which attempt could be his last and must take blind risks to reap rewards. His job requires a certain interest in being a daredevil.
    The relationship between Kip and Hana is not like an open book: “She wanted Kip to know her only in the present, a person perhaps more flawed or compassionate or harder or more obsessed than the girl or young women she had been then” (Ondaatje, 268). Hana has so many layers, which makes her character interesting. Kip is intrigued by her past and wants to know everything about her. By keeping a distance from her true character, Hana keeps him interested in her. Through jealousy, Caravaggio speaks to Kip about his relationship to Hana: “Could you fall in love with her if she wasn’t smarter than you? I mean, she may not be smarter than you. But isn’t it important for you to think she is smarter than you in order to fall in love? Think now.” (120, Ondaatje). Caravaggio puts Kip on the spot, insisting that he only admires Hana because he thinks she has things to teach him. This quotation is particularly interesting because it is an example of how humans are always inclined to learn and make themselves better. The relationship between Hana and Kip is strengthened by the disconnection with one another. This could even be an explanation as to why the flame in relationships die down when both partners know everything about each other. With every single character in the novel, nobody knows each other the extent that they know themselves. It is quite possible that mystery keeps them all together and without it, there would be no novel.

  41. A reoccurring theme that is seen throughout Ondaatje’s “The English Patient” is marking; a map or a person. “We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves” (Ondaatje 261). This quote holds allot of significance in the book because of how it relates to so many of the characters. Each of the characters have something about them that relates to marking or being marked. Characters are marked by their past, like books keeping histories, some characters more visibly then others. Ondaatje continues to say “I believe in such cartography– to be marked by nature” (Ondaatje 261).
    Every character has this common link. For example Caravaggio is physically marked by his past very visibly. In fact the first time Caravaggio is introduced he is referred to as “The man with the bandaged hands” (Ondaatje 27). Caravaggio’s German captors left their mark by cutting off his thumbs. This mark carries Caravaggio’s character, giving him animalistic traits, because it totally reshaped the way he is, giving him “paws” instead of hands. “For months afterwards he found himself looking at only the thumbs of people, as if the incident had changed him just by producing envy” (Ondaatje 59). His marks hold a story, the same as other characters, and the only thing left of the story is the impression his captors left on his body and his mind.
    Hana also is marked by her past, it seems for her more emotional than physical. Being only 20 years old she isn’t old enough to deal with things like death, which she was constantly around as a nurse. “I know death now, David. I know all the smells, I know how to divert them from agony” (Ondaatje 83). The reader sees how she is scarred when she retreats into things like playing kids games. It is impossible to not be scarred in one way or another because scars are what shape a person. Memories are a type of scar that we carry through our live. This is mirrored in a quote that Hana’s father tells her. “So-and-so’s garden, that field of grasses, a walk through cyclamen—a concentration of hints of all the paths the animal had taken during the day” (Ondaatje xx). The smells on the dogs feat are the same as any event that would happen to the dog or anyone. When someone or something experiences something they are marked and they carry that mark for a day or for their lives. The physical part of scarring doesn’t hold very strong with Hana although she is physically scared the same as others. “When she woke, she picked up a pair of scissors out of the porcelain bowl, leaned over and began to cut her hair” (Ondaatje 49).
    The character where this theme of marking is showed the most in is the English Patient. The English patient is scarred very visibly physically and mentally as well. The reason why the theme of marking is so special for the English patient is because of his job as a cartographer. He is literally paid to mark maps the same way his body is marked. The original quote is either the English patient talking or Ondaatje talking. The fact that it’s the English patient talking would make sense because he is known to share the views in the quote. The English patient is very obviously scarred physically by his past. “Above the shins the burns are the worst. Beyond purple. Bone” (Ondaatje 3). The English patient constantly mapped, on people like Katherine and on Objects. In his copy of Herodotus he places “Maps, diary entries, writings in many languages, paragraphs cut out of other books” (Ondaatje 96). He takes bits and pieces and uses them to form a sort of map. The English patients character is based entirely around markings. He worked as a cartographer, he was kept alive by the Bedouins because of his knowledge of maps. He even maps Katherine, “What is the name of that hollow at the base of a woman’s neck? At the front” (Ondaatje 162). The English patient is a very sad person, having lost Katherine, she left him emotionally scarred in a way that is worse then his physical burns.

  42. “The English Patient” by Michael Ondaatje is a novel with many themes that force the readers to question themselves when reading it. Ondaatje tells the story using beautifully crafted passages that explore the various themes. An important theme in the novel is that the characters have invested themselves completely in a person or a cause. A quotation that aids in expressing this theme is “A love story is not about those who lose their heart but about those who find that sullen inhabitant who, when it is stumbled upon, means the body can fool no one, can fool nothing – not the wisdom of sleep or the habit of social graces. It is a consuming of oneself and the past.” (Ondaatje 97). The mention of consumption in this quotation relates to the different situations for each character. Hana has invested herself both emotionally and physically in the English patient while the English patient has invested himself emotionally in Katharine. Though in different ways, both Hana and the English patient are bound to another life.

    While working as a nurse during World War II Hana is exposed to death and loss constantly. Nurses were left with the job of comforting men as they were dying and trying to help them die in peace. The nurses would “carry a severed arm down a hall, or swab at blood that never stopped, as if the wound were a well, and they began to believe in nothing, trusted nothing” (Ondaatje 41). This quotation explains just how emotionally scarring it was for these women. Hana is affected by this tremendously and to make matters worse, she then loses her father and the father of her unborn child. This emotional trauma caused Hana to distance herself from all of her patients, only calling them “Buddy”. Sometime after receiving the letter informing her of her father’s death, Hana comes across the English patient. He was “someone who looked like a burned animal, taut and dark, a pool for her” (Ondaatje 41). Hana believes the English patient is a saint who needs her to care for him so she decides to devote herself to keeping this man alive. She decides to stay in the Villa San Girolamo in Italy, distancing herself from the war which was still being fought elsewhere. Hana’s past experiences and events that have taken place create a hole which she fills with the English patient, as her love for him entails “a consuming of oneself and the past.” (Ondaatje 97)

    The English patient is in love with Katharine Clifton. Katherine was married to Geoffrey Clifton when she met the English patient and an affair began to blossom. After learning of the affair, Geoffrey attempts to kill Katherine and the English patient by crashing his plane. In his attempt to kill the two lovers, Geoffrey is killed on impact while Katherine suffers a broken wrist and broken ribs. The English patient carries her to the Cave of Swimmers and vows to come back for her. He walks through the desert for three days before being arrested by British soldiers suspecting he was a German spy. Three years later, the English patient finally returns to the cave. The length of time between the crash and his promise to Katherine and when he was able to return shows how much he loved her. Also, the fact that the English patient is recalling these events years later with such vivid memories and emotions shows his attachment to this woman. Katharine was almost the opposite of the English patient as “Her passion for the desert was temporary” (Ondaatje 170) and “She would have hated to die without a name” (Ondaatje 170), whereas the English patient loved the desert and felt strongly against any form of ownership. Their love relates back to the part of the quotation which says “A love story is not about those who lose their heart but about those who find that sullen inhabitant who, when it is stumbled upon, means the body can fool no one, can fool nothing – not the wisdom of sleep or the habit of social graces” (Ondaatje 97) with proof when he says that he “was amazed she had loved him in spite of such qualities of anonymity in himself” (Ondaatje 170). Though the two were different on many levels their differences were overcome by love.

    Love, in one form or another, and the power it has over a person is a major them in the novel. This quotation along with many others, such as “The new lovers enter the habits of the other. Things are smashed, revealed in a new light. This is done with nervous or tender sentences, although the heart is an organ of fire” (Ondaatje 97) prove the investment of oneself in another out of love. Ondaatje uses powerful words when speaking of love and passion like “the heart is an organ of fire” as he wishes to stress its importance. Love for her father and wanting to fill a hole, as well as what became a love for the English patient made Hana invest her mind and body the English patient. It also made the English patient invest himself in Katharine. Love is a powerful thing, as proven by the stories of these characters in “The English Patient” by Michael Ondaatje.

  43. “You have to protect yourself from sadness” (45). The actions of Kip, Hana, and Caravaggio towards each other result from from their individual histories. Kip wants to believe in the English as a good people, and he wants a companion in this new world that he is in. Hana wants someone who is independent of her, someone who does not rely on her for something. Caravaggio is seeking purpose again after the loss of his thumbs. In The English Patient, Kip, Hana, and Caravaggio connect with each other in order to fix something about themselves that they feel is missing, or not right. They connect with each other because they feel that they need to.

    Reading the base of a map prior to taking the entrance exam for sappers, Kip remarks to himself that he “was beginning to love the English” (190). At the time that The English Patient is set, Britain controls India, and so even though Kip is an Indian, the British are still his lords. What he is doing during his early time in England is trying to find a reason to justify their ruling over him. He finds this in Lord Suffolk, who is a kindly man, and in the English Patient, who has an extensive knowledge and can relate to Kip. Kip’s friendship with Lord Suffolk and the English Patient is because he believes that they embody the virtues of good people.

    Kip becomes close to Hana because he needs someone to be with. Kip believes that he is out of place. On page 182, he explains how he is a second son, and that his job would, according to family traditions, be that of a doctor. He is, however, a soldier. As an Indian, Kip is unique in his English unit, and accordingly he feels alone. His only friends in England, whom he especially liked, are dead, and his brother is unhappy with him for volunteering to fight for the English. Hana and the English Patient, whom he calls “Uncle” (283), are what Kip needs in order to feel like he has a place in the world he is living in.

    Hana has been nursing the English Patient for months (1), attending to his every need, both medical and socially. When Caravaggio arrives, he places another burden on her- that of taking care of him. Hana was trained as a nurse, and as such has a responsibility to look after his hands, which have been mangled by the enemy. She also has to handle the effects and requirements of his morphine addiction. She is then relieved to have Kip, who does not need her for anything. He pitches his tent outside and he only enters the house when he is invited, even bringing his own food and utensils to meals (127).

    Hana also needs the English Patient because of what happened to her father. Being trained as a nurse makes her feel as if she could have done something to help her father when he was dying, perhaps even saving him. During her time as a nurse she was constantly in contact with people during their last moments of life, and often there was nothing she could do to save them. Caring for the English Patient is way for her to make up for not being with her father when he died, and to actually save the life of, or just make it better, a patient.

    Caravaggio’s entire life before he was caught an tortured revolved around the use of his hands. As a thief he his thumbs were vital. These being removed has caused him to lose his purpose, he has lost his nerve (33). Also, while being interrogated he had no control over his situation. This is uncharacteristic of Caravaggio, who was able to talk himself out of situations where he had been caught red handed stealing from someone’s home (82). This lack of control is what Caravaggio is trying to fix. He tries to exert himself by telling Hana and Kip that they should leave the war, and that Hana should let go of the English Patient. Caravaggio shows that he doesn’t like not having control when he is mistakenly caught and restrained by Kip during his and Hana’s game (223).

    Need because of their situation and what has happened in their past is a reason that Kip, Hana, and Caravaggio interact with each other the way they do. Kip needs a reason to believe in the English, and he needs companionship. Hana needs a relief from the rigours of the English Patient and her job as a nurse, and Caravaggio needs to excercise control over his life after loosing it to his interrogators.

  44. “The map is not the territory” (Korzybski), is perhaps the most important quotation not in “The English Patient”, because it relates to the novel in that it describes every character. This citation describes that we are not defined by our outer appearances, nationalities and other external constructs, as in ‘the map’ (the external construct), is not ‘the territory’ (yourself.) This quotation describes every character in “The English Patient” because every character is not defined by the external constructs that falsely define them.

    The English patient wishes not to be defined by his nationality, as he repeatedly says things like: “Erase the family name! Erase nations!” (Ondaatje 139), “We became nationless. I came to hate nations. We are deformed by nation-states.” (Ondaatje 138), “You slide past everything with your fear and hate of ownership, of owning, of being owned, of being named.” (Ondaatje 238), and using the desert to erase his identity. The English patient is not defined by his nationality, and is defined more by the other characters as being intelligent.

    Hana as well, is not defined by her outer appearances and protective shell she uses to shield her emotions. During the war, it states that: “Nurses too, became shell-shocked from the dying around them” (Ondaatje 41) and Hana uses this and her caring for the English patient to shield her emotions, however this is not what defines her. She still feels like a child when she plays hopscotch and despite the shell, she still feels pain and emotions when it states that Kip “is always coaxing her from the edge of her fields of sadness. A child lost. A father lost.” (Ondaatje 271) and when she writes to Clara about her father’s death: “He was a burned man and I was a nurse and I could have nursed him. Do you understand the sadness of geography? I could have saved him or at least been with him till the end.” (Ondaatje 298). Therefore her protective shell is not what defines her because she still feels like a child and still feels emotions.

    Even Caravaggio, who is less of a major character, is not defined by his ‘map.’ Caravaggio, who is known for being a thief, is not defined by his external job. Hana states that: “Caravaggio was constantly diverted by the human element during burglaries” (Ondaatje 209), so that is to say, that stealing isn’t everything to him. Although is known for being a thief, that does not define him as a person.

    Finally, Kip is not defined by his external construct. He states that: “I grew up with traditions from my country, but later, more often, from your country.”(Ondaatje 283), that is, he ‘assumed’ and assimilated with many English traditions. But in the end, he is not known for them, nor is defined as a person by them because he rejects them. In anger, Kip states: “Listen to what you people have done” (Ondaatje 283), and “Never trust Europeans” (Ondaatje 284), not including himself, saying ‘you people’, instead.

    Therefore each character in “The English Patient” is not defined by external constructs: the English patient is not defined by his nationality, Hana is not defined by her protective shield, Caravaggio is not defined by his career and Kip is not defined by his assumed English traditions, so for each of them “the map is not the territory” (Korzybski)

  45. “The English Patient”, by Michael Ondaatje is a novel about people, far more than a novel about a place, object, or event, though it is also all of those. This order of importance makes the motivations, and drives of these characters utterly important to the reader’s understanding of the text. What defines the being of Almásy,
    Hana, Carvaggio, or Kirpal? These characters have been formed into what they are in the novel by a single event, place, or part of their life, far more than any other,
    whether it’s the desert, the death of a loved one, or the application of one’s talents. This central axis, which defines these characters is what makes the quotation
    “For some years I lived in the desert. I learned everything I knew there. Everything that ever happened to me that was important happened in the desert” (Ondaatje
    177), very relevant to the story. Every character in “The English Patient” is defined primarily by a singular occurance, time, or event.

    Hana, a scarred nurse by the end of WWII, is holed up in an Italian villa with her patient, Almásy, the “English patient”, referred to by Hana as “a desparing saint”
    (Ondaatje 45). Not only traumatized by the gruesome produce of a war consuming entire continents, Hana has to deal with aborting her child, and worst of all, the
    loss of her father, Patrick. Hana is a character defined by the traumatic experience that is the loss of the person who meant the most to her. The impact of this event
    can be seen in her actions. Hana’s mental fortitude has been broken down through a long taxing war, and her emotional stability was crushed by the loss of her
    father. She acts childish, as she “draws [rectangles on] the wood floor”, and “leaps forward, her legs smashing down”. Her “tennis shoes skidding on the numbers
    she has drawn into each rectangle” (Ondaatje 15). She is playing hopscotch. The reverence she levies upon Almásy is also indicative of this, when she considers
    him at the beginning of the novel: “She has nursed him for months and she knows the body well, the penis sleeping like a sea horse, the thin tight hips. Hipbones of
    Christ, she thinks” (Ondaatje 1). Hana has indentified the English patient as a father-figure of sorts, to fill the hole in her heart left by the death of Patrick, taking care of him, and revering him to a hyperbolic degree. All of the events in the novel concerning the character of Hana speak to the significance of her loss, and the effect it has had on her.

    David Caravaggio, a thief-turned-spy, who came to the Italian villa after hearing Hana, his close friend’s daughter, was taking care of a patient there. Caravaggio is a man defined by the traumatic infliction of irreversible injury to the objects which defined who he was. Caravaggio was enlisted to the Allies during WWII to serve as a

    spy against the Axis. During his spying he was caught, and during interrogation “‘they removed both thumbs'” (Ondaatje 54), to torture him. Thumbs, which, to
    Caravaggio, were more than just a portion of his being, but defined it. He was a thief, he stole, and acquired goods with the use of his hands. After that, he was a spy, a thief of a different sort. The importance of his hands is best expressed by Caravaggio when he informs Hana that “‘they nearly chopped off my fucking hands'”
    (Ondaatje 34).

    Count Ladislaus de Almásy, an explorer of the Sahara, suffered terrible fire-related injuries as a result of falling out of a flaming plane while soaked in oil. From this
    recounting of events, it might be assumed that Almásy was defined by this horrific accident, yet, that is not the case. While this experience was traumatic, and
    certainly redefined him as a person, it falls short of two other occurances in “The English Patient.” The former, and certainly mentionable experience, is Almásy’s
    relationship with Katharine Clifton, and the latter, the most important instance being the entirety of his desert exploration. In Almásy’s case, he is not defined by a
    person, even, or object, but by a place. Ladislaus de Almásy is defined by the Sahara Desert, and it’s cultures. He thrives in the desolation of the endless barren
    expanses of the Sahara, uncovering ancient secrets, and witnessing the fury of the self-destructive forces of one of nature’s great erasers which “could not be
    claimed or owned—it was a piece of cloth carried by winds, never held down by stones, and given a hundred shifting names” (Ondaatje 138). Almásy himself
    indentifies this when he says “everything that ever happened to me that was important happened in the desert” (Ondaatje 177), which is what makes that quotation from the text so descriptive of “The English Patient” as a whole.

    The English Patient is a novel driven by characters, whose story’s reveal the hierarchal nature of formative “nouns”. There is always a singular event which, more
    than any other, defines who a person is. Whether that event is negative, or positive, about a place, object, person, or event, there is always an affixed axis about
    which the character organizes their being. Hana lost her father. Caravaggio lost his purpose, through the loss of his hands. Almásy found himself in the desert. All of
    these characters are defined by a singular, and by this the importance of “I learned everything I knew there. Everything that ever happened to me that was important
    happened in the desert” (Ondaatje 177). To each there is something which defines them, whether it’s a loss, a gain, a person, or a place; we have all found ourselves
    in the desert.

    (CJ Thorne – Note: Please excuse any formatting issues. I copied it over from somewhere else, and it decided it didn’t like keeping it in paragraphs. I attempted to fix it, but can not be assured of what level of success I attained.)

  46. “For some years I lived in the desert. I learned everything I know there. Everything that ever happened to me that was important happened in the desert” (Ondaatje 177). “The English Patient” is a novel that is based around a central theme of love and identity, each main character has a different identity that separates themselves from the others. We see these different identities play out in certain situations, either dealing with stress, danger or love that can really show us who they truly are. That quotation is from the English patient and describing how he is a sapper and was working in Italy for 5 years before he came here.
    The English patient shares that he has learned everything he knows from living in the desert and that everything important happened there as well. This just shows how emotionally attached he is to the desert. This is all part of the English patients love; he doesn’t have a romance in the novel sexually, but has a deep attachment for the desert. It was his life and what he did for a living. It also shows how he separates him self from the others. Throughout the novel he says he doesn’t remember much from before the accident, making him much more mysterious to the others surrounding him. Him not revealing his identity right away help develop a charisma that prevented other characters from judging him but eventually lead to some making assumptions about his previous life, like in early chapter 6 when Caravaggio says; “I know you love the man, but he’s not an Englishman” (Ondaatje 164). This just shows how identities are always in question but very relevant in the novel. Also he tries to create an identity that has no nationality behind it. He believes that nationality and your past can prevent you from opening up and block your true identity.
    Nationality also intermeshes with identity. Almasy throughout the novel doesn’t want to be part of any nationality, he tells us his is one with the desert and doesn’t belong to a single nation, “ whereas he had erased the path he had emerged from” (Ondaatje 170). Almasy believes the world would be a better place because with nationality comes conflicts and wars. This might just be because of the time and place they are living in, that he believes so strongly for, but as we even see in today’s society, nationality is a main source of conflict. Nationality also almost prevents Kip from getting the job in the bomb-disposal unit because; he is worried about his race and where he came from. He believes because of his background he will not be able to make any friends as well feel like an outsider while working with the squad. Also a major part of the theme nationality is the setting of the novel, it is based during World War II which is a battle directly connected to nationality and religion. Ondaatje created the setting of this novel in this time to emphasize the importance of nationality and its positive and negative effects on a characters personality, identity and traits. Each character in the novel has its own base traits that all fall back on where they came from.
    Love is a key concept in the novel Ondaatje bases all the character relationships to each other based around the love to the other. Kip and Hana have a strange relationship throughout most of the novel they are very emotionally attached to each other. This is shown through their intimacy and time spent together. At the end of the novel though after Kip finds out about them bombing the enemies, he immediately leaves. This is a shock because as a reader we would tend to believe their would be some definite closure, but the only thing we get is the final chapter where Kip catches a fork after she knocks down a glass. This proves there is still some sort of emotional attatchment to the two, it might not be romantic but it is defiantly a type of love for each other. Also Hanas love for the English patient is a very strong connection “He is a saint. I think. A dispiriting saint. Are there such things? Our desire is to protect him” (Ondaatje 45). This just proves how much Hana is connected to the English patient, when referring to someone as a saint you have to be totally connected.
    Overall Ondaatje bases his novel off of identities, nationality and love. He develops characters that we can connect to and grow to love. But in a time of war things will always change and people will be affected by their surroundings changing how they act, and the way the think of these major themes. “We are all wounded souls”.

    Alex Cooper

  47. The quotation I have chosen to represent essentially the entire novel, “The English Patient” is “We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes,…bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden as if in caves. I wish or all this to be marked on my body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography–to be marked by nature, not just label ourselves on a map…All i desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps” (261), which was written by Michael Ondaatje. Each character in “The English Patient” is able to relate to this quotation in their own way.

    “The English Patient” is a novel containing many themes, one of which is finding oneself through individuality. This quotation explains one’s individuality by representation of cartography, as Ondaatje relates the creation of one’s individuality to nature. We are marked by individuality and by the scars of our pasts. The English patient’s past is evident by the burns all over his body, as Caravaggio’s past is evident by the stubs of his thumbs. Our external appearance does not make of who we are, although our appearance has the ability to tell stories of our past. Hana removes her hair so that she cannot be physically connected to her patients. “When she woke, she picked up a pair of scissors out of the porcelain bowl, leaned over and began to cut her hair…The irritation of it’s presence during the previous days still in her mind–when she has bent forward and her hair had touched blood in a wound. She would have nothing to link her to death” (Ondaatje 49). Kip’s appearance had affected his status in the war because the British were not used to his Indian skin tone. “He sensed he would be admitted easily if it were not for his race” (188). Fortunately for Kip, his teacher, Lord Suffolk, was not phased by his appearance and offered him a position on his closely-knit team. Kip “had come from a country where mathematics and mechanics were his natural traits” (188).

    Physical scars and appearances are not the only aspects that show individuality, but the internal scars affecting our character as well. Ondaatje explains our past as it can be written in a book when he says, “We are communal histories, communal books” (261). Hana has no external scars, but she is physically scarred by the loss of her father, and by the loss of many patients during the war. Her childish behaviour, for example playing hopscotch, represents her longing to stay young and be free of responsibilities. Kip has left his past back in India, although he reminisces about his family to Hana. He has taken his family’s position in the war, in place of his brother who is in jail. The English patient’s tragic past love affair have left him internally scarred as well. A postcard with no name or date best describes their relationship: “Half my days I cannot bear to touch you. The rest of the time I feel it doesn’t matter if I ever see you again. It isn’t the morality, it is how much you can bear” (154).

    Another common theme represented throughout “The English Patient” is ownership. When the English patient states that he wants to walk upon an earth with no maps, he is referring to his interest and love for cartography and how is has consumed his life. The English patient is so overly interested in maps, he misses other important aspects to Katharine’s life and this has frustrated Katharine. He physically tries to map out Katharine when he discusses the spot on her neck that he falls in love with, “What is the name of that hollow at the base of a woman’s neck? At the front” (Ondaatje 162).

    In conclusion, individuality represented through internal and external markings, scars and appearances, as well as ownership, are the two main themes in “The English Patient”. The quotation I stated earlier represents the two main themes, as well as the entire novel because it can relate to each character. “A stone of history skipping over the water bouncing up so she and he have aged before it touches the surface again and sinks” (299).

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