The English Patient: Theme Analysis

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Effects of war
The traumatic effects of war are made evident in various ways in the depiction of all four of the main characters and in the villa they stay in. The so-called English patient and Caravaggio are physically maimed, and Hana and Caravaggio are most obviously psychologically scarred.
The damage to Kip is more subtle until he hears of the news of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and at this point his anger at the Imperial powers and at the racism of the Allies comes to the fore. He has been scarred by disillusionment and unfairness, and this anger is also useful in highlighting the hypocrisy of those for whom he has risked his life.  As Caravaggio points out, ‘they’ (meaning the Allies) would never have caused the same devastation to a white nation as they did in Japan.
Identity
Questions concerning the identity of the English patient form one of the main narrative threads and lend the novel a sense of mystery. This mystery may also be seen as elemental to the period under discussion as millions in Europe had their identities erased and others claimed incorrectly not to be guilty of war crimes.
The English identity is also cross examined and the title brings this to the forefront of the readers’ mind. Through Kip, Englishness and its association with Imperialism and racism is highlighted as is the hypocrisy of those who claimed to be fighting for equality while denigrating those that were not white.
Words
The power of words, language and literature is implied through the course of the novel and is most obvious in the references to other works of fiction. Kim by Rudyard Kipling is referred to intermittently as the characters and topics allude to this work, and this emphasizes the aspect of the narrative that is concerned with the damage caused by English Imperialism.
References to other texts and authors also give the novel an intertextual layering as when Hana is compared to Crusoe, and she regards Kip as another Creighton (of Kip).

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