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Transcending The Atrocities Of War Essay

1657 words - 7 pages

Warfare not only results in majority of casualties but also affect individuals both physically and psychologically. This can damage their sense of purpose and identity which can lead to difficulties in the way they relate to others. Art and religion proves to be the saviour of these individuals by helping them respond to the effects and aftermath of war with valour and resilience which not only helps them cope with stress and grief but also gives them the opportunity to interact and connect with others. David Roxborough argues that “Ondaatje’s method of alternating mythical identity allows the efficient construction of a panoramic religious framework with widespread mythical significance.” Similarly, Alice Brittan claims that “Ondaatje’s novel is filled with [……] scenes of reading and writing, and characters who delight in marginalia.” Both the authors agree that Ondaatje’s novel The English Patient utilizes imagery and mythology to explain the atrocities of the Second World War, and to explicate that religion and the admiration of art attempts to defy the violent human displacements enabled by war, and helps to transcend the crude realities of the world.
The novel The English Patient harbours four central characters namely Almasy, Hana, Caravaggio and Kip whose lives are devastated by the Second World War and British colonialism. Almasy, the English patient, receives austere burns during an escape from a “blazing aircraft” which makes him resemble “a [burnt] animal, taut and dark” (Ondaatje 6, 41). His injuries hinder him in making any kind of movement. Hana, a twenty years old Canadian nurse, is forced to leave her adolescence and step into adulthood at an early age. She loses her father, and has to suffer the pain of an abortion which detaches her from her surroundings and throughout the war she “[survives] by keeping a coldness hidden in her role as a nurse” (Ondaatje 48). This makes her “[grow] harsh with herself and the patients” whom she likes to call “Buddy” (Ondaatje 50). Caravaggio, a Canadian thief, whose thumbs were incised by the Nazis, when they discovered his identity, can no longer pursue his profession and is haunted by the memories of this incident which makes him an evasive character. Kip, an Indian sapper, loses his mentor Lord Suffolk, who made him conversant with English culture and customs, which makes him emotionally withdrawn and he indulges himself in his work. Ondaatje shows the characters of the novel to be literally immobilized by the atrocities of the war. The characters of the novel use art and religion, which assimilate stillness and propinquity in them, to escape the crude reality of the Second World War.
Ondaatje explores the realm of art through the four characters of the villa to demonstrate that healing and redemption lies in art. The novel is saturated with many “works of art such as novels, plays, murals, and tapestries” which help the characters to defy the violent human displacements enabled by war and...

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