English Patient – Nationality

June 6, 2018 General Studies

One of the major themes dominating this novel is the theme of nationality and identity. This book mainly revolves around 4 characters all of different nationalities and backgrounds. All of them are in a foreign land coping with the harsh after affects of a brutal war. First we have Almasy the lead character and the main protagonist, he is Hungarian by birth, but has been raised and educated in England and thus his habits and mannerisms are English and so he is referred to as the English patient. Almasy works in the deserts of Africa far from the forces of civilization.

There he creates for himself his own world without borders, a place where a person’s identity/nationality is not at all important. He forgets that at times of war the nationality is given utmost important and this mistake of his causes him a great deal of anguish later on in his life. To him a war was just a feud between nations that was of no relevance to him or his companions. To him helping a German spy a across the desert is no act of betrayal. He chooses his identity rather than accepting it.

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The atmosphere of the villa as well as that of the desert of solitude and remoteness from the outside world makes him think that there is no need for nationality and that it can easily be erased. His attitude of neglect towards his nationality gets him into trouble on many occasions. When an army officer is questioning him about his past he acts mysterious and questions the relevance of his identity, this creates a doubt in the mind of the officer if he was a German. Another incident is when he goes in search of help after leaving wounded Catherine in the cave.

He approaches the British Army officers and demands help, when he says his name, which sound Hungarian he is thrown into jail and Catherine is left to die in the desert. This incident also fuels his hatred for nationality; due the obstacle of nationality he had lost the love of his life Catherine. This leaves him bitter for the rest of his life. The fact that he was burnt beyond recognition bodes well with his motto of a land without borders. The irony of his character lies in the fact that he was a passionate mapmaker; he made the very things that created borders and boundaries between nations and their people.

Next we have Hana, she is a Canadian nurse from Toronto. She was barely twenty years old and had suffered the ravages of war. She was in a foreign land away from home and her loved ones. She had completely devoted herself to taking care of the English patient whom she thought was as saint. To her nationality was not important nor was it unimportant. She was a nurse and she took care of all her patients’ irrespective if their caste creed or origin. When she met Caravaggio she was happy to finally see someone from her hometown.

Then we see Kip or Kirpal Singh, was a sapper. He was an Indian by birth and was part of the sapper unit of the army. In the British Army he learnt how to defuse bombs. He had been raised in India but had been exposed to Western culture during his training and the war. In the army he encountered racism, later he joined Lord Suffolk’s team, where he formed a sort of family with the other members, to him Lord Suffolk was a mentor and in some ways a father figure. During this time he was greatly influenced and fascinated by Western ideas, he adopted western culture.

He knew that everyday he risked his life for the British who hated him for his race, in the solitude and detachment of the villa he forgot this and continued to work. While in the villa he did not completely forget his own culture and identity. He remembered his maid who raised with love and affection. All this changed the day the atom bomb was dropped on Japan by America; he had forgotten a world existed outside the villa, a world in which the western aggression was still prevailing. This act according to him was a cruel act performed by a white nation on a brown nation. The true futile nature of the west was exposed to him.

In an outrage he left the villa and set off for India, his home. He returned home and became a doctor and thus followed n the tradition of his family. Caravaggio was a friend of Hana’s father. He was thief and later became a spy during the war. He had no identity as he often betrayed govts and just worked for himself. From this we conclude that ones nationality is important but to a certain extent. It is important as it defines a person and ads to his character, it brings people close together but it becomes dangerous when it causes ruthless wars amongst nations, which results in the loss of millions of lives.


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