Prose as Poetry in The English Patient

Prose as Poetry in The English Patient

Length: 627 words (1.8 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Excellent

Open Document

Essay Preview

More ↓

Prose as Poetry in The English Patient

"Never again will a single story be told as though it is only one." John Berger.

The English Patient consists of the stories of its four characters told either by themselves or by Ondaatje. Two stories, the accounts of Kip's military service and the many-layered secrets of the patient, are developed while Hana's and Caravaggio's stories are less involved. However, none of these stories could stand alone. The clash of cultures and changing relationships between the characters provide the texture for the novel. They create a complex web in which everyone becomes entangled.

Ondaatje uses an extremely complex structure and poetic language to further the interweaving of the characters' lives. According to one critic, "The author's four stories are not a story that gathers momentum from start to finish. They are the widening and fading circles on a pond into which history has plunged like a cast stone." (Eder 203).

"The overall structure of the book is circular and allusive, advancing, rounding back on itself, coming to endings that are not necessarily resolutions, and which may be connected to other starting points." (Draper 204). The novel begins en medias reis with the burned English patient already installed in an upper room of the villa. It is near the end of the war. The other doctors and nurses have left leaving only the patient and his nurse. He can only give short, vague descriptions of exploring the Liberian desert. When Kip and Caravaggio enter Ondaatje interlaces flashbacks to give the reader glimpses of their pasts. The novel has third person, but often characters revert to the first person to tell their own story.

The least is learned about Hana's past. Most of what is known about her childhood in Toronto is given by Caravaggio. As the novel progresses the English patient's flashbacks become longer, more detailed and coherent. The farther into the novel the farther into the past he recalls. Ondaatje moves toward the denouement obliquely, avoiding standard conventions of plot and narrative voice.

The English patient's story is the oldest narrative material, the center around which the rest of the book builds. His story lies at the center of the book, just as the patient himself lies at the center of the villa. " The dialog is pften not substantial enough to carry the deep emotions of the characters, so Ondaatje often relies on intierior monologue.

How to Cite this Page

MLA Citation:
"Prose as Poetry in The English Patient." 27 Jan 2020

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje Essay examples

- The book The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje, shows the effects that World War II had on soldiers, as well as the nurses involved in the war. Hana, a nurse during the war, goes through the devastating loss of her father, Patrick, who dies in the war. Hana then commits her life to helping a burnt, disfigured, and severely wounded man, referred to as the English patient. Hana decides to stay with the dying English patient, whom she loves like her own father, in the makeshift hospital, despite being told how dangerous it was for her....   [tags: The English Patient Essays]

Research Papers
1202 words (3.4 pages)

The Characterizations on the English Patient Essay

- 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....   [tags: The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje]

Research Papers
1666 words (4.8 pages)

Role of Poetry in Heian Narrative Prose Essay

- Poetry has a long history in both Western and Eastern literature. As an art form, it is thought to even pre-date the written word (“Poetry,” n.d.). Some argue that the role of Eastern poetry, specifically Japanese, differs from that of the West because in Japan it is meant to capture a moment of emotion whereas Western literature is meant to describe an emotion. Nonetheless, poetry plays an extensive role in new and old Japanese society—some of the earliest written texts and the most important were poem anthologies....   [tags: Poetry Analysis ]

Research Papers
1374 words (3.9 pages)

Essay on Role of Poetry in Heian Narrative Prose

- The Heian Period (794—1185 A.D.) is remembered as a period of great creativity and literary innovation by the Japanese court—waka, true Japanese poetry, became established as an art form of its own, independent of Chinese poetry, and Ki no Tsurayuki compiled Japanese poems written by the aristocracy into the famous Kokinwakashū in 905 A.D. Although literature continued to thrive and new forms that were written mainly in prose developed under the court as well, poetry was never forgotten and was constantly included in these narratives....   [tags: writiting, poetry]

Research Papers
1132 words (3.2 pages)

Verisimilitude in The English Patient Essay

- Verisimilitude in The English Patient One critic has written, "Ondaatje has always been fascinated by history - seen as a series of arcane stories about the past. In his hands, even the documents of history slide away from factual representation toward a haunting apprehension of indeterminacy." (Barbour 207). In The English Patient Ondaatje blends fiction and history into a socially conscious story. Verisimiliude is the aspect of belivability present in a novel. Ondaatje's use of the element of verisimilitude accentuates important undercurrents and events which are vital to understanding the novel....   [tags: The English Patient]

Research Papers
902 words (2.6 pages)

The English Patient Essay

- Count Lazlo Almasy, the English Patient, is a man in an Imperial time and world. The people in this world live by Imperial rules and perpetuate Imperial stereotypes. The film takes place in World War II era Africa, and as the film portrays it, in the mysterious and exotic Sahara desert and in Cairo, Egypt. Count Almasy’s character lives in the desert among imperial explorers and in the desert environment full of natives who bring to life classic stereotypes full of ignorance and white prevalence and power....   [tags: Film Movie Movies English Patient]

Research Papers
1461 words (4.2 pages)

Essay on Postmodernism in The English Patient

- 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 them...   [tags: English Patient Essays]

Research Papers
967 words (2.8 pages)

English Prose Study Essay

- English Prose Study Essay Miss Havisham is first introduced to the reader when Mr Pumblechook (Pips Uncle) announces that Miss Havisham Requests Pips presence to play at her house. Miss Havisham fits into the main plot because she trains Estella to “ break their hearts.” When Pip sees Estella for the fist time, he instantly falls in love with her. Miss Havisham sees this and she encourages Pip to do so. Miss Havisham was also, in Pips eyes, the cause of his ‘Great expectations’ Miss Havisham may also have been placed in the novel by Dickens, To explore how the effects of bad experiences on people....   [tags: English Literature]

Free Essays
798 words (2.3 pages)

Essay Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient

- Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient The limited character in Michael Ondaatje’s novel, The English Patient, was Almásy. Almásy was a man who was burned from head to toe, and whose identity is unrecognizable thus making him a limited character. The novel takes place in a villa where the man was being taken care of by Hana, a young nurse who stayed behind to take care of Almásy while the rest of the nurses escaped to a safer place to stay. She calls him the English patient because of his accent, though she is unaware of where he is from....   [tags: MIchael Ondaatje English Patient Essays]

Research Papers
968 words (2.8 pages)

English Poetry Essay

- English Poetry 2. What are the symbolic significances of the candy store in Lawrence Ferlinghetti's "The Pennycandystore Beyond the El" (Geddes, 318). The candy store in "The Pennycandystore Beyond the El" is symbolic of a child's youth. This poem is referring to the fact that our childhood passes by too soon and the candy store is a reminder that we need to seize every moment to enjoy it. The pennycandystore offers as a retreat or refuge to the bad weather outside and the stresses of everyday life....   [tags: English Poetry Poem ]

Research Papers
1359 words (3.9 pages)

Related Searches

" I'm drawn to the kind of people who behave as though there were a finite number of words," he once said (Slopen 48).

In addition to his skill with prose, " Michael Ondaatje is a poet as well as a novelist, and the discipline and cadance of poetry informs all of his writing," as one critic says. (Connolly 197). His prose is inventively figurative. There is figurative thinking at every level of this novel. His characters, stories, and settings make literal as well as figurative sense. He creates images and scenes that are unlikely but still intensely vivid. Through the intimacy and richness of his language Ondaatje draws the reader into the world of the characters. He is interested in mood and feeling.

"I don't like to throw characters into a plot as though it were a raging torrent where they are swept along," Ondaatje said, "What interests me are the complications and nuances of character. Few of my characters are described externally; we see them from the inside out'" (Slopen 48). Ondaatje also creates powerful narrative images that stick with the reader - a boy in a ditch with a bomb, a woman dying in a cave, a small Indian girl tied to a man's bed. At one point the English patient tells Caravaggio about words: "They have a power." (TEP 234).

Return to