Destruction through Imagery and Theme in The English Patient
The imagery in Michael Ondaatje's novel The English Patient serves to illustrate the theme of destruction in this novel. The setting of the novel as well as the characters themselves present to the reader a vivid picture of demolition. Critics also find that Ondaatje's imagery is a vital element in the presentation of this theme.
The English Patient is set at the end of World War II in a war-ravaged Italian village. Ondaatje gives vivid descriptions of the damage the village sustained due to the war:
As the hill town began to be torn apart like a battle ship at sea, by fire shells, the troops moved from the barrack tents in the orchard into the now crowded bedrooms of the old nunnery. Sections of the chapel were blown up. Parts of the top storey of the villa crumbled under the explosions. (12)
Ondaatje's detailed and memorable description completes his picture of the county side. "Dead cattle. Horses shot dead, half eaten. People hanging upside down from bridges" (Ondaatje 19). This elaborate and vivid imagery makes an appropriate backdrop for the characters.
Hana the nurse is the first character introduced by Ondaatje. She is distraught over the death of her father and the strain of nursing the wounded. The nature of her injuries is revealed through the dialogue of two doctors:
". . . She was in rough shape herself."
"Is she injured?"
"No. Partial shell shock probably. She should have been sent home. The trouble is,...