The English Patient: Top Ten Quotes
- He whispers again, dragging the listening heart of the young nurse beside him to wherever his mind is, into that well of memory he kept plunging into during those months before he died.
In this reference, the eponymous English patient’s relationship with the nurse (Hana) is made parallel with the way the readers also follow into this ‘well of memory’ as he recounts his story.
- She felt like Crusoe finding a drowned book that had washed up and dried itself on the shore.
By comparing Hana with Crusoe, her sense of isolation is heightened. This aloneness is apparent in her current situation in the villa, but also refers to her alienation from the world after the death of her father and at the end of the war.
- Reason was the only thing that might save them, and there was no reason. The thermometer of blood moved up the country. Where was and what was Toronto anymore in her mind? This was treacherous opera. People hardened against those around them – soldiers, doctors, nurses, civilians.
This quotation encapsulates the illogical nature of war and illustrates how Hana perceived the situation as a nurse.
- There was something about him she wanted to learn, grow into, and hide in, where she could turn away from being an adult. There was some little waltz in the way he spoke to her and the way he thought. She wanted to save him, this nameless, almost faceless man who had been one of the two hundred or so placed in her care during the invasion north.
This is one of the few overt references as to why Hana has stayed with the patient.
- If he were a hero in a painting, he could claim a just sleep. But as even she had said, he was the brownness of a rock, the brownness of a muddy storm-fed river.
This reference highlights how Western art is dominated by white figures, and how Kip recognizes that his skin color is not represented.
- But here they were shedding skins. They could imitate nothing but what they were. There was no defence but to look for the truth in others. p. 117
Just prior to this reference, Caravaggio has been thinking how during the war he had been trained to invent double agents or phantoms. Now in post-war Italy, he realizes there is no longer the defence of duplicity that he has had to live by. The reference also applies to the English patient, of course, as he gradually reveals his identity (when Caravaggio already believes he knows he is Almásy).
- By the time war arrived, after ten years in the desert, it was easy for me to slip across borders, not to belong to anyone, to any nation.
At this point, the patient explains how his years in the desert taught him to not belong anywhere. This is, of course, questionable as he went on to be affiliated with the Axis powers and helped Eppler to reach Cairo.
- The self-sufficiency and privacy Hana saw in him later were caused not just by his being a sapper in the Italian campaign. It was as much a result of being the anonymous member of another race, a part of the invisible world.
In England, Kip became used to ‘his invisibility’ in that he was ignored in the barracks and bars because of the racism of his fellow soldiers.
- You were a mystery, a vacuum on their charts. Turning your knowledge of the desert into German hands.
Caravaggio explains how he knew of the patient (as Almásy) during the war, and how significant he was to British intelligence from the time of his affair with Clifton.
- The Germans in the Italian campaign had choreographed one of the most brilliant and terrible retreats in history.
The term ‘choreographed’ is used several times in the novel in relation to war and implies a sense of structure as well as grace in relation to the carnage that occurred. This gives the novel an alienating tension and also highlights how planning was involved in the deaths of millions.
The English Patient Study GuideChoose to Continue
- The English Patient
- Novel Summary
- Chapter 1
- Chapter 1 Continued
- Chapter 2
- Chapter 2 Continued
- Chapter 3
- Chapter 3 Continued
- Chapters 4-5
- Chapter 6
- Chapter 7
- Chapter 8
- Chapter 9
- Chapter 9 Continued
- Chapter 10
- Character Profiles
- Metaphor Analysis
- Theme Analysis
- Top Ten Quotes
- Michael Ondaatje
- Essay Q&A