The English Patient
Study Questions and Essay Topics
How is the theme of nationality and nationhood expressed in the novel? Can nationality and ethnicity be transcended?
Describe the function of the body in the novel. How is the body used as a larger metaphor for the connection between people?
How is adultery addressed in the novel? Do the characters feel shame about their adultery? Why or why not?
Suggested Essay Topics
How does the motif of reading in The English Patient inform the novel as whole?
Describe the role of the desert in the novel. How is this setting intertwined with the themes of the story?
We do not learn Hana's name until Chapter II, Kip's name until Chapter III, and Almásy's name until Chapter IX. Why might Ondaatje have chosen to withhold the names of the characters? What larger implications does this have regarding the characters' identities?
Which characters change throughout the course of the novel? Which ones remain static? What does this personal growth or stagnation reveal about the nature of each character?
Compare Kip to Caravaggio. How do their different emotional reactions to the war emphasize the different types of "humanity" that emerge in wartime?
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