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Only twenty years old, Hana is torn between adolescence and adulthood. Barely eighteen when she leaves to become a nurse in the war, she is forced to grow up quickly, eliminating the luxuries of her character that get in the way of her duty. Three days into her work, she cuts off all her hair, as it gets in the way of her work, and refuses to look in a mirror for the duration of the war. With the confidence that comes with experience, Hana cares for the English patient, bringing him morphine and washing his wounds. Yet she still clings to vestiges of innocence that allow her to feel like a child—some nights, she goes out in the garden to play hopscotch. Hana is a dynamic character, and the novel is in many ways the story of her maturity into adulthood.
Hana goes about her duty with a Christian belief that has been somewhat compromised by the war. While she refrains from praying and outright religious ceremony, the allusions she makes are clearly religious. Hana sees her English patient as a "despairing saint" with "hipbones like Christ." This religious imagery elevates the tone of her thoughts and he importance of her actions. She imagines the patient to have been a noble warrior who has suffered—perhaps wrongly—for his actions. In reality, however, Almásy is a mapmaker who has helped German spies and carried on an affair with another man's wife. By projecting noble images onto the blank identity of the English patient, Hana builds innocent and childlike dreams. As the novel concludes, Hana sees the reality in her situation, and she longs to return home to the safety of Clara and her home.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The English Patient!