The Effects of War on the Characters of The English Patient Essay

The Effects of War on the Characters of The English Patient Essay

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Like a tree spreading its roots into the ground, cultural history is something that is deeply rooted in the minds of people. As the significance of Herodotus unravels itself in “The English patient,” Michael Ondaatje touches further upon the idea of how personal history is shaped by cultural history. Ondaatje refers to Tacitus, a great Roman historian, in the third chapter, “Something with Fire” in order to enhance the notion that times of terror can influence the shaping of an individual’s personal history. By focusing on the behavior and habits of the Kip and Caravaggio, he can pinpoint how warfare in cultural history affects the personal history. With the aid of Tacitus’ insight, the use of description, Ondaatje effectively demonstrates how the characters personal history, actions or an inability to act, and habits, are shaped by warfare.
Warfare, the struggle between two or more nations, will continue to impact the lives of individuals in the world. Ondaatje uses the following introduction from Tacitus’s work, Annals, to expand on the idea of warfare in cultural history: “I begin my work at the time when Servius Galba was Consul.... The histories of Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero, while they were a power, were falsified through terror and after their death were written under a fresh hatred” (93).
Tacitus’s interpretation of the rulers as fear inflicting people, who were hated posthumously, helps to suggest the idea that terror in history can bring individuals to act or not act. Through his view of the emperors as terrorizing, Ondaatje is able to demonstrate fear as something that enables the shaping of an individual’s personal history.
Furthermore, fear drives warfare, conflicts between nations, and even an in...


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...y life. The effects of war had forever changed Caravaggio’s personal history because he was unable to escape the habits that were ingrained into his mind throughout the war.
Fear, anxiety, survival skills, and habits are four effects that Ondaatje used in “The English Patient” to portray how the cultural history of war impacted Kip and Caravaggio’s personal history as well as their lifestyle. Ondaatje wanted to show how the warfare in the past caused characters to feel like they constantly have to look over their shoulder to confirm their safety. He used description to paint a picture in the reader’s mind to convey what kind of lives these characters were living. The shadow of war will continue to haunt the characters and their consciousnesses almost like a dark cloud hovering over the tree and its roots



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"the english patient" by michael ondaatje

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