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The English Patient

Michael Ondaatje


Key Facts

Key Facts

full title ·  The English Patient

author · Michael Ondaatje

type of work · Novel

genre · Historical fiction

language · English

time and place written · 1992; Toronto

date of first publication · 1993

publisher · Vintage International

narrator · The narrator is omniscient, and conveys the points of view of several different characters

climax · Kip threatens to kill Almásy, the English patient, after he hears the news that the United States has dropped atomic bombs on Japan .

protagonist · Almasy, the English patient

antagonist · World War II; the war disrupts the lives of all the characters and makes it impossible for Almasy to continue his love affair with Katharine

setting (time) · The scenes in the villa take place in 1945, at the very end of the World War II, though the various flashbacks are set throughout the 1930s and early 1940s

setting (place) · Primarily a small villa in the hills near Florence, Italy; but also Cairo, the Libyan desert, and England

point of view · The point of view is generally third-person omniscient, except several times when the English patient begins to tell stories about his past in the first person

falling action · Kip's desertion of the villa on his motorbike without saying goodbye to Hana, Almasy, or Caravaggio; Kip's thoughts of Hana while having dinner with his new family in India years later

tense · Present tense when Ondaatje writes about live and events in the Italian villa; past tense when one of the characters is flashing back to a previous memory or event

foreshadowing · Almasy draws his arm across Katharine's neck, a foreshadowing of their violent and passionate love affair; Kip's emotional distance, which prefigures his desertion of Hana at the end of the novel

tone · Reflective and poetic, as each of the characters' memories are revealed complete with their thoughts and personal connections

themes · Love's ability to transcend time and place; nationality and identity; the connection between body and mind; ownership

motifs · Reading; the desert; maps; history books; bodies

symbols · The bomb; the villa; the English patient's burned body

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Addendum on Count Almasy

by Desdichado32, March 18, 2017

One point in this analysis I cannot entirely agree with is the argument that Almasy places no value in the concept of nations and states. Certainly he believes them to be man-made and irrelevant in the brutal landscape of the desert; however, his value of nations changes once he is betrayed by the British. When they refuse to help him and in effect allow Katherine to die his perspective of nations changes. At this point nations do assume value for Almasy. He sees the Germans as the most effective conduit for revenging himself on the British.... Read more


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