The English Patient: Chapter 3 Continued

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Summary – Chapter Three continued

Many of the books that Hana has read to the patient begin with ‘an author’s assurance of order’, as with Tacitus in his Annals. Novels begin with ‘hesitation or chaos’, though. She read Kipling’s Kim to him before Kip appeared and it is described that he entered their lives ‘as if out of this fiction’. When the patient fell asleep, she turned to his notebook and looks at a page from the Bible that has been glued in. It is about King David, ‘old and stricken in years’, and is about how a virgin was sought for him.
The narrative switches to the (unnamed) tribe that saved the patient and how they brought the patient to the British base at Siwa in 1944. He was then shipped to Italy to a sea hospital. Ezra Pound was being held in the criminal compound nearby. The patient was interrogated, as he was unidentifiable and did not know his own identity either.
The focus moves forward again, to Kip, and to his discovery of a mine disguised with (and covered by) concrete. His ‘opponent’ has also painted all the wires black to make it difficult to distinguish which was which.
As Hana takes a mirror into the patient’s room (on his request), they hear a sound from the valley. It is Kip and she goes to him. He warns her of the wires and he is holding them in the air. He has been tricked and is left holding two live ones and needs her to hold them while he works out what to do. He defuses the bomb and she then lies with him; he feels like he is in a painting he seen ‘somewhere’ last year. He thinks if he were a hero in a painting he could ‘claim a just sleep’, but knows that the color of his skin bars him from this.
The narrative moves to Caravaggio telling them he has found a gramophone, and says he will teach Hana to dance. He calls her ‘dear worm’, which is what her father used to call her, and begins the dancing lesson in the patient’s room.
Kip is there too, but he leaves abruptly when he smells cordite in the air. He is described as being ‘by nature conservative’ and is also able to imagine ‘the worst devices’. Mystery books irritate him as he is able to ‘pinpoint villains’ too easily and does not yet have ‘faith’ in books.
Hana has seen him sit with the patient, who, like his mentor Lord Suffolk, he feels most comfortable with. She sees them as a reversal of Kim and thinks their reading of this book prepared them for his arrival; however, she regards herself as the young boy in the story and if anyone, Kip is the officer Creighton.
Hours later Kip is back in the room (back from a mine explosion) and thinks if he could touch Hana he would be sane. He had found the ‘location of death’ and his second-in-command, Hardy, and buried him. He cuts the wire on the patient’s hearing aid and says he will re-wire him in the morning. He then puts his hand on Hana’s shoulder.
The narrative shifts to Caravaggio talking to the patient. The patient talks of the painting ‘David With the Head of Goliath’ and explains how it is assumed that David’s face is that of the young artist (Caravaggio) and Goliath’s is that of him as the older man: ‘Youth judging age at the end of its outstretched hand.’ The patient adds that when he sees Kip at the foot of his bed, he sees Kip as David.
Caravaggio thinks how ‘war has unbalanced him’ and can return to ‘no other world as he is’. During the war in Cairo he had been trained to invent double agents or phantoms and some he knew invented whole platoons. Here, he thinks they are ‘shedding skins’ and can only look for the truth in others.
The focus moves to Hana and she pulls the copy of Kim down from the library shelf and writes in it about how ‘he says’ guns were made from a tax of metal cups and one of these guns is in Lahore.
The narrative shifts again to Caravaggio as he talks to Hana and Kip, and how he thinks Hana is obsessed with the patient, and Caravaggio is obsessed with her sanity. He also says Kip is being used and he (Caravaggio) is not staying much longer. He adds that he wants to take her home and out of Dodge City, and wants her to desert her post.
At two or three in the morning Hana goes to Kip’s tent after leaving the patient and sleeps with him. She sees that everything apart from danger is periphery to Kip. Later she will realize ‘he never allowed himself to be beholden to her, or her to him’. She wishes they had a river to swim in together, but he has a different sense of rivers from the war and from having to construct Bailey bridges. This is because his sapper unit made the bridges which the army crossed over sometimes while they were still in the water below.
Analysis – Chapter Three continued
The literariness of the novel is heightened in the overt intertextual references to other texts such as Kim. The topics of war and spying, the latter of which becomes apparent later when Caravaggio reveals the identity of the patient, are inherent in both novels.
As Hana notes, though, there is an interchangeable quality to the characters in this work, as when she notices that Kip resembles Creighton rather than Kim. This sense of overlapping and swapping with other texts and cultures is also referred to when the patient discusses a painting by Caravaggio (the artist) and how he sees Kip as David. It is also as though both Hana and the patient recognize separately that Kip is difficult to categorise and name within the terms of Western culture, but do so in terms of his youth and capability.

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