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The English Patient



The eponymous protagonist, a man burned beyond recognition who speaks with an English accent, recalls his history in a series of flashbacks, revealing to the audience his true identity and the love affair he was involved in before the war. He does not admit his identity or reveal the entire story to the nurse who cares for him and the man who suspects him until the end of the film. This form of exposition is very different from the book, where, under the influence of morphine, the patient talks about his past. The film ends with a definitive onscreen statement that it is a highly fictionalized account of László Almásy (died 1951) and other historical figures and events.




the english patient



In October 1944 Italy, Hana is caring for a dying, scarred-from-burns English-accented patient who says he cannot remember his name. His only possession is a copy of Herodotus' Histories, with personal notes, pictures, and mementos stored inside. When a nurse friend is killed in front of her, Hana decides she is a curse to those who love her. She gains permission to settle in a bombed-out monastery with her patient, as he suffers extra during relocations of her hospital unit.


They are soon joined by Lt. Kip, a Sikh sapper in the British Indian Army posted with Sgt. Hardy to clear German mines and booby traps. David Caravaggio, a Canadian Intelligence Corps operative who was tortured during a German interrogation, also arrives at the monastery. Caravaggio questions the patient, who gradually reveals his past through a series of flashbacks. Over the days of the patient relating his story, Hana and Kip begin a shy love affair.


The patient reveals that in the late 1930s he was exploring a region of the Sahara. He is, in fact, Hungarian cartographer László Almásy, who was part of a Royal Geographical Society archeological and surveying expedition with a group including his good friend, Englishman Peter Madox, and British couple Geoffrey and Katharine Clifton, who own a plane and contribute with aerial surveys.


Caravaggio reveals that he has been seeking revenge for his injuries, and has killed the German interrogator who cut off his thumbs and the spy who identified him, but has been searching for the man who provided maps to the Germans, allowing them to infiltrate Cairo. He suspects the patient is Almásy, asking "Did you kill the Cliftons?", to which Almásy concedes "Maybe... I did".


The novel's historical backdrop is the North African and Italian Campaigns of the Second World War. The story is told out of sequence, moving back and forth between the severely burned "English" patient's memories from before his accident and current events at the bomb-damaged Villa San Girolamo (in Fiesole), an Italian monastery, where he is being cared for by Hana, a troubled young Canadian Army nurse. A few chapters are also devoted to Kip, an Indian Sikh, during his time in England training and working as a sapper on unexploded ordnance.


The English patient's only possession is a well-worn and heavily annotated copy of Herodotus's The Histories that has survived the fiery parachute drop.[5] Hearing the book constantly being read aloud to him brings about detailed recollections of his desert explorations, yet he is unable to recall his own name. Instead, he chooses to believe the assumption by others that he is an Englishman based on the sound of his voice. The patient is in fact László de Almásy, a Hungarian Count and desert explorer, one of many members of a British cartography group.


Caravaggio, an Italian-Canadian in the British foreign intelligence service since the late 1930s, is a friend of Hana and Patrick, her mother's lover. He had remained in North Africa to spy when the German forces gain control and then transfers to Italy. He is eventually caught, interrogated, and tortured, resulting in his thumbs being cut off.[6] He is prematurely released and is standing on the Ponte Santa Trinita bridge when it is destroyed. He recovers at a hospital for over four months before he accidentally overhears about the patient and Hana. Caravaggio bears physical and psychological scars from his painful war experience.


During a thunderstorm, Kip and another British soldier arrive at the villa while Hana is playing on the piano. Kip decides to stay at the villa to attempt to clear it of unexploded ordnance. Kip and the English patient become friends due to the latter's extensive knowledge on both Allied and enemy weaponry and a detailed topography of Tuscany. At one point, Hana risks her life while Kip is defusing a bomb telling him later that she had hoped both of them had died. Shortly after, Kip and Hana develop feelings for one another and begin a relationship.


The English patient, sedated by morphine, begins to reveal everything: he fell in love with the Englishwoman Katharine Clifton who, with her husband Geoffrey, accompanied Almásy's desert exploration team. Almásy was mesmerised by Katharine's voice as she read Herodotus' tale of Candaules aloud by the campfire.[7] They soon began a very intense affair, but she cut it short, claiming that Geoffrey would go mad if he were to discover them.


Towards the end of the novel, Kip learns through his headset that the US has bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki and a situation develops where he nearly shoots the English patient. Hana calms him down and Caravaggio reflects that they would not have dropped that kind of bomb on a white nation. Kip departs from the villa, estranged from his white companions, and returns to India. He marries and has two children though he still thinks of Hana.


Hana is a twenty-year-old Canadian Army nurse torn between her youth and her maturity. Being a good nurse, she quickly learns that she cannot become emotionally attached to her patients. She calls them all "buddy,"[8] and forgets them immediately once they die. Her lover, a Canadian officer, is killed and because of this, Hana comes to believe that she is cursed and that all those around her are doomed to die.


In contrast, upon hearing of her father's death Hana has an emotional breakdown. She then puts all of her energy into caring for the English Patient. She washes his wounds, reads to him and provides him with morphine. When the hospital is abandoned, Hana refuses to leave, staying with her patient. She sees Almásy as saint-like and falls in love with his pure nature.[9]


Hana seems to not be able to acknowledge or even come to terms with her father's death. As she almost sees no reason in returning home and her excuse to stay in the now abandoned hospital is to take proper care of the English patient, due to Almasy not being able to move because of how severe his burns are externally and internally as well. On top of this Hana fails to reply or write back her step-mother, whom she loves and is the only living family she has left. Clara writes to Hana for a year whilst she is in Italy; Hana keeps every letter, but fails to write back even with such woe and guilt filling her heart.


Hana seems to be putting off her life as a young adult and at times shows her immaturity throughout the novel. In ignoring Caravaggio's advice or suggestions or simply not facing the reality that awaits her back home. She seems as if escaping reality and being completely isolated from the rest of society is better than growing up. Hana escapes reality simply by stalling in taking care of the patient, rearranging her set up inside the defaulting villa, listening to what the Almasy has to say or the stories he tells, and by reading books to him over and over again.


A major symbol of the novel is the desert. It serves as a representation of the characters' war experiences and how they came to gather in the villa. A passage in the novel notes "The desert could not be claimed or owned."[22] Carravaggio had stepped away from the war for a brief time when he drifted into the villa and encountered an old flame, Hana. Kip elects to stay in the villa, a straggler from his unit, to continue searching for explosives. He also finds there is a serene sense of acceptance in the villa and that the people need him. Hana is devoted to her patients, to the very last. Thus, she stays behind in the villa hospital when numerous others abandon it. Almásy himself is forced into the villa, essentially because the desert took him when his plane was shot down.[citation needed]


A psychoanalytic analysis of "The English Patient" helps us to understand the meaning of Michael Ondaatje's emphasis on his characters' differences and appearances. He may have been thinking about how melting pot civilisations begin by different cultures working together in spite of each other's background. Note how each central character living in the reconstructed villa is almost as opposite of each other in appearance as they could be. Hana was young, healthy, and capable of caring for more than one person at a time, but she mainly attended to the English patient. In contrast to Hana, the English patient was handicapped and on his death bed. But little did Hana know, in the English patient's past, he had worked with the Germans on other desert expeditions way before their paths had crossed. However, his amnesia could not allow him to remember such things at the moment. In other words, Hana was caring for someone who was partly responsible for her village's demise. The moral of this is that Hana, the English patient, Kip and Caravaggio had fewer physical resemblances to each other than they had had of humanistic desires. Thus, Michael Ondaatje may have wanted us to see that what's on the outside does not matter as much as what's on the inside when rebuilding a village, city or country.[23][24]


All of this back-story (there is much more) is pieced togethergradually by the dying man in the bed, while the nurse tends to him, sometimeskisses him, bathes his rotting skin, and tries to heal her own wounds from thelong war. There are moments of great effect: One in which she plays hopscotchby herself. A scene involving the nurse, the Sikh, and a piano. Talks at duskwith the patient, and with Caravaggio. All at last becomes clear. 041b061a72


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