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...
... middle of paper ...
..., we might confuse with the identity of the English patient since they are not sure whether he is a barbarian or a traitor or an English patient.
Last of all, all the labels such as name, body, language and nationality play great significance on how society categorizes him or her racially, politically or culturally. However, Almasy himself oppositely has a desire to come back a “pure” state like that of the desert in which his ‘self’ is not marked by name, nationality, and other social frames. The mysteriousness of the plots that surround the title character raises the suspicion that different characters attempt to fill the gaps in his story that history has torn in the tissue of the English patient’s identity remains fluid and therefore ambiguous and multifaceted.
Ondaatje, Michael. The English patient: a novel. New York: Vintage Books, 1993. Print.
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