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The Characterizations On The English Patient

1950 words - 8 pages


In Michael Ondaatje’s "The English Patient," is set before World War II, critically illustrates four dissimilar characters who meet together at the Villa San Girolamo, an Italian monastery. Simultaneously, there is a groundbreaking love story happened among those four characters under that time frames. Those four main people are included, a burned Englishman Ladislaus de Almasy, a twenty-year old French-Canadian Army nurse Hana, a Sikh British Army sapper Kip, and Canadian thief David Caravaggio. However, the burned English man, was called “The English Patient,” who is being taken care by Hana in an abandoned Italian monastery. Then, there are two more characters, David Caravaggio, Kip, both come meet together at the villa.
As the concept of nationality, boundaries, and social confinement are no longer stable in the wartime desert, national borders and identity in the novel become blurred and ambiguous. The war breaks the boundaries of nations, so identity also brings the feeling of lack for a definable identity. The characters’ identities are deconstructed by their attempts to escape from their names, their bodies, and their environment.
First of all, Almasy in this story represents multiplicity of identity. As we read the novel, the most fascinating character, Ladislaus de Almasy, whose identity is regarded as a myth until the end of the story. The novel begins with a unknown “she” and “the man”. In fact, the English patient’s body is burned beyond recognition, and his memory is vague which makes the story easy for the readers to find a blank space to deconstruct his identity. His multi-dimensional identity can be seen from his anonymity, multiple nationalities and languages, faceless figure. Apparently, names and namelessness are the main factors to the author’s descriptions of identity since he points out that the English patient escapes from the restriction of name at the beginning of the story. When he is asked by Hana about his name, he neither answers, nor refuses Hana’s assumption. When interrogated by Caravaggio about his work as a cartographer and a spy at the beginning of the war, the patient also does not response except the repeated babbling. When admiring the scene of the desert and the exotic names of the places in Africa, he declares, “I didn’t want my name against such beautiful names. Erase my family name! Erase nations. I was taught such things by the desert” (139). His hunger for the erasure of name which reflect the hate of ownership of the desert is the rejection of homogeneity. Obviously, his desire of discarding the map and refusing to name the desert appears form his conversations with Caravaggio. As author says, “We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, we are communal histories, communal books …. All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps.” (261) It is a strange wish for a mapmaker to live on an earth that had no maps. The cartography is the really...

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