Postmodernism In The English Patient Essay

1060 words - 4 pages

Postmodernism in The English Patient

Postmodernism is one of the most controversial and influential intellectual movements to appear in the last fifty years.  In order to understand postmodernism, it would be wise to begin with a definition of modernism.  Modernism is a philosophy based on the belief that through Enlightenment values of rationality and the absolute truth of science, the human race will evolve into a utopia.  Modernists are Eurocentric, humanistic, and optimistic.  Postmodernism is essentially a rejection of modernism and all Enlightenment values.  More importantly, postmodernism looks upon the "modern" world with increased cynicism and disappointment.  Key themes in postmodern thought include irony, arbitrary actions, intertexture, surface and superficiality, self-consciousness, skepticism, multiple perspectives, and relativism.  In Anthony Minghella's film The English Patient, postmodernism is addressed using all of these themes in interrelated situations.


The film uses irony as a primary mode of expression, subverting conventions and negotiating contradictions.  The ultimate use of irony is an expression is love.  Almasy writes in the book of Herodotus that the heart is an "organ of fire," meaning it is consuming both of oneself and the past (Minghella, English).  Later Hana reads the passage and agrees with his observation.  She, too, has experienced such feelings having lost many who are dear to her during the war.  While in the desert, Almasy questions Geoffrey's decision to leave Katharine with the group, citing the possible dangers involved for a woman (Minghella, English).  Ironically, Geoffrey asks Almasy why he is so threatened by a woman, when truthfully he is afraid of betrayal.  Almasy is terrified of a cathartic reaction while being alone with Katharine.  When Almasy and Katharine finally come together in a passionate tryst, both reveal feelings contradictory to their actions (Minghella, English).  Although Katharine hates lies, she is living one by involving herself in an affair.  Almasy explains to Katharine while in the bath, his hatred of ownership.  However, later in the film after she tries to break off the relationship he becomes insanely jealous and tells her he "wants the things which belong to him" (Minghella, English).  The most significant irony comes near the end of the film when Almasy, on his deathbed, confesses to Carvaggio that he was responsible for Katharine's death (Minghella, English).  Almasy is overcome with grief in the cave when he tells Katharine "every night I cut out my heart, but in the morning it was full again," essentially saying his "organ of fire" consumed his every thought (Minghella, English).  He tells Carvaggio "she died because of me.  Because I loved her," and he had the power to control the situation but chose not to (Minghella, English).  The English Patient is filled with situations of significant irony used to...

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