The Sikh, an Indian sapper named Kip, sets up his tent near the villa’s garden. Beginning outside, he immediately takes to dismantling the bombs left behind by the retreating Germans. He is always polite, and Hana watches as he takes his shirt off to bathe in a small basin of rainwater, staring as the water pours over his brown skin. Caravaggio is irritated by Kip’s constant humming of Western songs, which Kip learned from Hardy, the other sapper who accompanied Kip to the villa. Hardy, however, has been relocated to a nearby town, and Kip has remained alone to sweep the villa for any remaining bombs and mines.
Again, Hana seems to be attracted to Kip for the reasons he is not like her—his dark skin. The water pouring over his skin makes its color more noticeable, and she can’t help but stare. Kip’s constant humming of Western songs is proof that he has largely assimilated and accepted Western culture and ways. However, Caravaggio’s irritation reflects his latent prejudice against Kip as someone from the East. Caravaggio seems to not want to share his Western culture with Kip.
Kip notices that Caravaggio often wanders at night, and he begins to trail him. After two nights, Caravaggio corners Kip and tells him to stop following him. Kip tries to deny it, but Caravaggio silences Kip by slapping him across “his lying face.”
Caravaggio’s physical abuse of Kip can also be interpreted as racism brought on by colonialism. As a Westerner, Caravaggio assumes a position of superiority over Kip, which, in Caravaggio’s eyes, makes it appropriate for him to physically strike Kip when he disapprove of his behavior.
One day, Caravaggio enters the library and, looking around to make sure he is alone, notices Kip up near the ceiling. Kip snaps his fingers at Caravaggio and motions for him to the leave the room, as he cuts the fuse to a bomb hidden behind a window valence.
Here, it is Kip who is in a position of superiority over Caravaggio. Not only is he physically towering over Caravaggio, but at this moment Kip has complete control over whether Caravaggio lives or dies.
Kip is the only one at the villa who still wears a military uniform. The uniform is “immaculate,” and his shoes are always polished to a high shine. Hana thinks that Kip is “unconsciously in love with his body,” and he moves with a sureness that catches her eye. He had come to the villa not because he enjoyed Hana’s piano playing, but because he feared that there may have been a bomb in the piano. There wasn’t, but musical instruments and grandfather clocks are favorite hiding spots for the Germans’ bombs. Unsuspecting civilians returning home to set their clocks or play their favorite instruments are often blown up.
Again, Hana sense of safety at the villa is just an illusion. There are bombs everywhere, and she could blow up at any moment. Kip’s uniform is a reflection of his acceptance of Western ways. As India was a colony of Britain during this time, Kip fights for Britain, and his uniform identifies him as a member of the English military, not a Punjabi Indian. Kip takes pride in his new Western identity, which is reflected in his polished shoes and his “unconscious” love for his body. He still retains his traditional turban, however, which indicates that he has not fully let go of his Indian roots.
Kip remembers lying on the floor of a massive church and looking up to the vaulted ceiling through the scope of his rifle. The sergeant lit a signal flare so Kip could see better, even though they knew they would get into trouble for lighting weapons in the Sistine Chapel. Kip looked to the ceiling, to the images of Noah and Abraham, and could hear the approaching guards. He quickly asked the sergeant who the painted figure was directly over their heads. It was Isaiah, the sergeant had said as the flare went out.
Kip is sweeping the Sistine Chapel for bombs, which further reflect the wanton disregard for religion and God throughout the war. Even though Kip is obviously not Christian, he is still interested in the ceiling’s fresco, and the image of Isaiah in particular, a prophet believed to have lived several hundreds of years before Christ. Isaiah is often seen as a suffering servant, which has significance when considered in context with Kip, who is given few freedoms by the British.
When Kip arrived in Gabicce near the east coast of Italy, he was the lead sapper on a patrol guarding a local ceremony of the Virgin Mary. He watched as Italian men carried a five-foot-tall statue of Mary through the city. He didn’t want to get too close to the children with his guns, so he moved over one street and walked slowly, keeping pace with the procession. The men put the statue down and stood guard around it. Kip considered leaving something at the statue “as his gesture,” but he had nothing to give, and he had his own religion.
Of course, Kip’s Eastern religion, Sikhism, is not observed in the West, which is a predominately Christian part of the world. This means that Christian religions are given precedence over Eastern religions, which are denied or disregarded. This again reflects the superiority and domination of the West in relation to the East. Still, Kip clearly has respect and reverence for this different religion and does not want to get too close to it with his gun, suggesting that those from Eastern cultures may have more respect for the West than vice versa.
Caravaggio walks into the library, where he has been spending most of his time lately. He is so distracted by the books, he doesn’t at first notice Hana sleeping on the couch. He sneezes suddenly, and she opens her eyes. They talk a bit, and then Hana tells him that she lost a baby a year ago. “I mean, I had to lose it,” she says, after the baby’s father was killed in the war. Even after this, though, Hana continued talking to the child as if it were still alive.
When Hana says she “had to lose” her baby, this implies that she was forced to abort it because of the violence and hardship of the war. Hana could not possibly birth and care for a baby alone in the middle of a war, and she therefore was forced to make a difficult decision. This, too, is a source of trauma for Hana, evidenced by the fact that she continues talking to the baby long after she aborts it.
Patrick must have died not long after the baby, Caravaggio says to Hana. Yes, she says, but she wasn’t aware that Caravaggio knew about her father. He says he heard about it in a letter from home. Hana asks if Caravaggio came to the villa because Patrick had died, and he assures her that he didn’t. That’s good, Hana says. Patrick wasn’t a sentimental man, and he wouldn’t want them mourning him.
The death of Patrick not long after Hana’s abortion is further evidence of the trauma she is forced to endure because of the war. Hana feels immense guilt over not being with her father when he died, especially since she is a nurse and might have been able to help him. This is why Hana puts so much energy into caring for the English patient, who is burned just like Patrick was.
Caravaggio asks Hana when she stopped talking to the baby, but she can’t really remember. Things got so busy during the war, and there was so much death. Once, Hana had closed a patient’s eyes thinking he was dead, but he wasn’t yet. The man had screamed at her and insulted her. She knows death much better now and doesn’t make that mistake anymore. Hana thinks that all the war generals should have to work as nurses. It should be “a prerequisite,” she says.
Hana believes that generals should have experience as nurses so they can see firsthand the pain and destruction that is caused by war. As a nurse, Hana was forced to spend every day confronting death. If the war generals were privy to the intimate aspects of suffering, pain, and death, they wouldn’t be so keen on war, Hana implies.
After about a week, Hana and Caravaggio grow more used to Kip’s strange eating habits. He sits with Hana and Caravaggio, pulling onions and herbs from his bag, which Caravaggio suspects he stole from a nearby garden. Caravaggio thinks that Kip probably never ate in a mess canteen throughout the entire war. But Kip actually had stood in the mess line each day, waiting for the English tea he loved, to which he would add condensed milk.
Kip’s love of English tea may seem like a way for him to adopt Western culture and practices, but it also highlights the exploitation of Indians by the English. The English were made rich by forcing Indians to work as indentured servants on “tea estates,” which is further evidence of the systemic abuse of the Indians by the English.
Sitting at the table with Hana and Caravaggio, Kip thinks everything looks “temporary,” as if nothing is permanent. He looks down at his onions, which he had carefully pulled from the ground. The Germans had mined even the gardens when they retreated. Caravaggio stares at Kip and thinks that there is probably some “animal” somewhere that eats the same way Kip does, always with his right hand.
Caravaggio’s inner thought that Kip’s identity as an Indian and his cultural practices somehow make him an “animal” reflect the racism produced by British colonialism. Caravaggio considers himself superior and considers Kip an “animal” simply because of his race.
Kip and Caravaggio take a cart into the village to pick up some flour, and they talk about Hana to avoid talking about themselves. Caravaggio tells Kip that he has known Hana for years, even before the war, and Kip tells Caravaggio that his real name is Kirpal Singh. He had been given the nickname Kip by an army officer when he handed in his first bomb disposal report with butter all over it. “What’s this?” the officer asked. “Kipper grease?” The men laughed and the Indian man was known from then on as “a salty English fish.” Kip didn’t mind too much being called by the nickname, as he hated the English custom of calling people by their last name.
By giving Kip a nickname that is reminiscent of a “a salty English fish,” his native Indian identity, that of Kirpal Singh, is effectively erased and replaced by an identity that is distinctly English.
The English patient begins wearing his hearing aid so he can hear what is going on around the villa. He knows about the sapper, even though Hana does her best to keep them separated. She doesn’t think they will like each other. One day, she goes into the English patient’s room and finds Kip standing near the bed, the two men talking. “We’re getting along famously!” the English patient says. The English patient knows all about Italian fuses and bombs, and they draw bomb outlines and talk about the best ways to defuse them.
Hana figures Kip will dislike the English patient because he believes the man to be English, the country that colonized India and robbed the country’s people of their independence and cultural identity. However, Kip is somewhat brainwashed by colonialism, and he, too, seems to believe in Western superiority, and his obvious affinity for Englishmen is evidence of this.
As Hana leaves the room, she thinks about Patrick. She wonders what his death was like. Did he struggle? Was he alone? Her father was a shy man and never really comfortable in the world. She read in a book recommended by the English patient that “a novel is a mirror walking down a road,” and that is how she thought of her father. Caravaggio says Patrick died in a dove-cot. Everything she knows about Patrick’s death is from Caravaggio, or Clara, her stepmother. Clara has written her several letters from their island in Georgian Bay, and Hana carries them with her, but she has never answered them.
Hana’s thoughts are further evidence of her guilt and trauma related to her father’s death. Her comparison of her father with “a mirror walking down the road” suggests that Patrick, unlike Hana (who denies who she is by not looking in the mirror), could not deny who he was, even in war. This made him more vulnerable to the war’s destructive forces. Hana will later find comfort in the fact that Patrick died in a dove-cot (a sacred, almost religious, place), but she has not yet healed enough to come to this realization.
Later, Hana sits reading Kim by Rudyard Kipling to the English patient. He asks her to slow down. Kipling must be read slowly, the English patient says, as Kipling wrote with pen and ink and paused often. Hana reads until the English patient falls asleep, and then she closes the book and picks up his copy of The Histories.
Kipling’s Kim proves to be an important part of the book later on, as it helps Hana to better understand Kip and the presence of British colonialism in his life as an Indian.
The Bedouin had taken the English patient’s burned body to a British base in 1944. He was soon brought to Italy, where he was held near the cage where they kept Ezra Pound. Military officials interrogated him, but he didn’t seem to know who he was. He could speak fluent German, but he spoke other languages as well. They never could tell if he was ally or enemy, and he nearly drove them insane with his incessant talking.
The English patient’s own story is mixed in with The Histories, as he has added to Herodotus’s book and written in the margins. In this way, the English patient’s history is part of the book as well, which Hana now reads, and she is thus able to gain insight into the English patient and his identity.
As Hana flips through The Histories, she reads some of the English patient’s personal writing. He writes about a woman named Katharine and her reading of a Stephen Crane poem. He also writes of “a love story” and “human betrayals.” Feeling guilty for invading his privacy, she puts the book down and leaves the room.
The English patient notices Katharine for the first time in a romantic way as she reads the Crane poem, which again reflects the power that literature and books have over the English patient, and the importance of stories in making sense of his own identity and in relating to others.
In the field just north of the villa, Kip finds a large bomb hidden beneath a slab of concrete. The grass has grown over the wires, and Kip takes out his scissors and begins to clear it away. He takes the earphones and radio out as well, and tunes into the American music from the AIF station. The music helps him to concentrate, as he brushes dust off the six black wires.
Kip’s affinity for American music is more evidence of his assimilation and the white-washing of his Eastern culture by the West. Kip not only enjoys the Western music, it helps to him to better concentrate and diffuse the bomb. Kip seems to actually believe in the superiority of the West, yet this opinion could potentially change as World War II progresses and Western countries take increasingly drastic measures to exert their dominance.
Inside the villa, Hana carries a large mirror down the upstairs hallway. The English patient wants to see himself. At the foot of the bed, Hana stands on a chair and tilts the mirror towards him. As the English patient tells her hold the mirror still, she hears faint shouting from outside. She puts the mirror down and walks outside, stopping to listen. Again, she hears shouting and begins to run in the direction of the field.
The English patient’s desire to look in the mirror suggests that he is yearning for a true sense of identity—it’s unclear at this point whether he really doesn’t remember who he is, or if he is feigning amnesia to hide this information from the others at the villa.
When Hana gets to the field, she can see Kip standing near a tree with his hands in the air. He yells at her to stop and walk to the left. There are wires and bombs everywhere, he says. Hana slows and takes the directed path, thinking of all the times she walked through this field, never thinking of bombs. When she gets to the tree, Kip says he has been “tricked” and is holding two live wires. He needs her to hold the wires up so he can defuse the bomb. Kip passes the wires to Hana, shaking the blood back into his arms.
This again reflects just how unsafe the villa really is. Hana has spent much time in the field, and it is a miracle that she never tripped the bomb. This also reflects the stress and obvious trauma that goes along with Kip’s job as a sapper and bomb specialist. Kip could quite literally die at any moment, of any day, and this stress is taking a toll on him mentally and emotionally.
Kip offers to tape the wires to the tree so Hana can leave, but she refuses. She doesn’t think the wires will reach, so she will just hold them. The bomb is a “trick,” Kip says, and he doesn’t know how to disarm it. He puts his earphones back on and lets the sound “fill him with clarity.” He tells Hana again to go, but she insists she will hold the wires. He follows the wires up to the tree and cuts just below Hana’s left hand. The bomb makes an audible sound and Kip knows it is defused. Dropping his scissors, he puts his hand on Hana’s shoulder, “to touch something human.”
Notably, the music that Kip turns back on is obviously American, and it “fills him with clarity,” enabling him to concentrate. The trick bomb again underscores the danger of Kip’s job. The bomb is meant to explode and kill them all, and it is solely up to Kip to save them. Kip touches Hana after finally diffusing the bomb because he is further traumatized by the stress, and needs “human” contact to begin to heal.
Hana is speaking, but Kip doesn’t hear her. He begins to shake. Hana repeats herself. She thought she was going to die, she says, and she had wanted to. “We should have lain down together, you in my arms, before we died,” Hana says to Kip. She had wanted to touch his collarbone, like a “wing under [his] skin.” She has always liked dark skin she says, “the colour of rivers and rocks.” Hana is tired and wants to sleep, she says, but she first wants to know how he knew which wire to cut. He kept saying that he didn’t know, but he really did. “Right?” Hana asks.
Hana is clearly attracted to Kip, which is why she wants to lay down with him, and this attraction is obviously related to his dark skin—the “color of rivers and rocks”—which she finds exotic. Furthermore, his collarbone like a "wing under his skin” a description that paints him as angelic and again hearkens to religion. Hana, too, seems traumatized by the stress of the bomb, and her first reaction, like Kip’s, is human contact. This again suggests that meaningful connections are crucial for healing and are, in a way, a religious experience.
Under the tree, Hana sleeps deeply with her head on Kip’s chest. He is irritated that she had stayed and didn’t listen to him. Now he feels as if he owes her something, as if he is somehow responsible for her in hindsight. He thinks about Hana’s comment about his skin having “the brownness of a rock, the brownness of a muddy storm-fed river” and looks beyond the “naïve innocence of such a remark.” Kip is a “professional” but it is “wise white fatherly men” who are acknowledged after he defuses a large bomb. To them, Kip will always be “the foreigner, the Sikh.”
Kip is beginning to realize that he will never be fully accepted in the West. Hana may find his skin appealing and attractive, but the same skin causes others to sideline and exploit him—like by sending him to diffuse bombs as white men take the credit for his work. Kip’s skin is always an issue in the West, and attention is constantly drawn to it. Kip is again merely noticed for how he is different, not recognized for who he truly is.
As he watches Hana sleep, Kip is wide awake, wondering why he can never sleep. He thinks about a sapper he had once watched enter a mined house. Through his binoculars, Kip saw the sapper knock a box of matches off a table and become engulfed in a massive ball of fire seconds before the sound of the explosion reached him. Such explosions are like lightning in 1944, and Kip doesn’t know how to trust anyone or anything anymore.
Kip is unable to sleep due to the toll that the stress and death of war have taken on him. He can’t trust anything because everything is rigged to explode, and the Westerners rarely have his best interest at heart. Hana’s deep sleep suggests she is beginning to heal, which Ondaatje implies is partly because of the love she develops for Kip, and he for her.
Later that night, the residents of the villa have a party in the English patient’s room. Caravaggio has found a gramophone, and Kip, despite the fact that he doesn’t drink, has come across two bottles of wine. Caravaggio asks Hana where she was all day, and she tells him that Kip defused a huge bomb. She looks to Kip to fill Caravaggio in, and he simply shrugs, not wanting to talk about it.
The wine, and the fact that Kip doesn’t drink, is another example of Western dominance. Celebrations in the West are geared toward Western customs, not Eastern customs, and Kip is forced to adapt. The small celebration they throw further suggests that the residents of the villa are beginning to heal after the war, but Kip’s refusal to talk about the bomb suggests they still have a long way to go.
Caravaggio places a record on the gramophone and declares it time to dance. Hana looks at Kip sitting in the window alcove. She wants to dance with Kip, she says. “Not until I’ve taught you, dear worm,” Caravaggio says, taking Hana in his arms. Hana is a caught off guard. “Dear worm” was Patrick’s pet name for her. The English patient decides to have some wine, and Kip pours him a glass. Suddenly, they hear an explosion in the distance. Kip doesn’t think a bomb was tripped, he says, as the explosion seemed to come from a safe area that has already been cleared.
Caravaggio takes Hana in his arms as a way to exert power and dominance over her and Kip, by denying Kip the chance to dance with Hana. Caravaggio’s behavior again suggests that he believes he has the power, and the superiority, to tell Kip (and Hana, for that matter) with whom they can dance. The explosion is further evidence that despite their impromptu celebration, the war is still not over, and none of them are wholly safe.
Kip returns to the window and can smell cordite in air. He quietly slips out of the room and runs outside, down the 36 chapel stairs to the road beyond. He wonders if it was a sapper or a civilian who tripped the bomb. Was it a terrible “accident” or a “wrong choice?” The sappers in Kip’s unit are cordial to one another, but they’ve never really become friendly. All of their shared conversations consist of passing along information about bombs, such as new fuse techniques and devices, which is fine with Kip. Kip is only really at ease with men like the English patient and Kip’s mentor, Lord Suffolk.
Kip now seems convinced that a bomb has been inadvertently tripped, even if he doesn’t want to alarm the others and put a damper on their good time, which they all badly need. This again draws attention to the stress and danger of Kip’s job, as he is in constant danger of becoming a victim of a terrible “accident” or a “wrong choice,” which both bring instant death. Ondaatje again draws attention to the 36 chapel stairs and the need to atone or repent for the violence of war.
Kip doesn’t believe in books the same way Hana does. As Hana watches Kip stand at the English patient’s bedside, she thinks of the men as a sort of reversal of Kipling’s Kim, in which the student is the Indian and the is teacher is English. Hana thinks books such as Kim have prepared her to meet Kip, but if anything, she is the young boy in Kipling’s story and Kip is the officer Creighton.
Kip doesn’t believe in books the same way Hana does because, as he later reveals, the white, Western world owns the printing presses and decides which stories are told. Kipling’s Kim, which paints colonialism as a good and mutually beneficial thing, is evidence of the marginalization of the East, even within books.
Hours later, Kip returns from the mine explosion, which killed Hardy, Kip’s second-in-command. After passing Caravaggio asleep on the library couch with the stray dog, Kip removes his shoes and silently goes upstairs. He finds the English patient sleeping and Hana sitting near his bed. She puts her finger to her lips, telling Kip to be quiet, and he sits in the window alcove. He is angry with Hana for treating her life so casually earlier that day with the bomb. Looking at Hana across the room, Kip thinks that if he could just reach out touch her, “he would be sane.” Standing up, Kip goes to the English patient and snips the wire of his hearing aid. He will rewire it in the morning, he says.
Kip later reveals that Hardy is the only one who keeps him “human,” and Hardy’s death is more evidence of the hardships Kip is forced to live through during the war. Kip has fallen in love with Hana, and he believes he will go insane if he can’t be with her. In this way, Ondaatje depicts love as an immensely powerful force that changes people in profound ways.
The next day, Caravaggio sits visiting with the English patient. The Englishman tells him that Caravaggio is “an absurd name for [him].” Caravaggio points out that he, at least, has a name, and the English patient agrees. He tells Caravaggio about the painter by the same name, who painted David with the Head of Goliath. In the painting, the English patient says, David holds the severed head of Goliath in his outstretched hand, only the face of David is Caravaggio the painter as he was in his youth and the head of Goliath is Caravaggio as an old man. “Youth judging age,” the English patients says, the judging of one’s morality. When the English patient sees Kip standing at his bed, he says, he thinks of Kip as his own David.
Like books and novels, the famous painting the English patient mentions also tells a story, relays history, and offers a way for the English patient and Caravaggio to interpret their world and each other. Furthermore, each of the residents of the villa seem to be judging their own morality as they recover after the war. They have each likely been called to do things they wouldn’t normally do in the name of the greater good, yet those decisions still have moral implications that must be dealt with emotionally. In referring to Kip as his David, the English patient implies that colonization has moral implications that must be considered as well.
Later, Caravaggio sits in silence and thinks. He is nearly middle-aged and has nothing to show for it. He has avoided intimacy and permanence his entire life. He thinks that he must find out who the English patient is, for Hana’s sake at least. Back in Cairo during the war, Caravaggio learned to take on false identities and live as a double agent, but here at the villa they are “shedding skins” instead of donning disguises.
Caravaggio implies that those at the villa cannot heal until they finally admit who they are, or until they shed their false personas. Caravaggio and the English patent seem to have impermanence and avoidance in common, as they both try to deny who they are.
The next day, after Hana goes to the English patient’s room to read, he asks her to put down the book and instead read from Herodotus’s The Histories. According to the English patient, Herodotus’s book reveals “how people betray each other for the sake of nations.” He asks Hana how old she is, and she answers 20. He was much older when he fell in love, the English patient says. Hana asks who the woman is, but the English patient looks away and doesn’t answer.
The English patient cannot yet talk freely about the woman with whom he was in love, which suggests he is still not healed from the demise of their relationship. He also implies through the words of Herodotus that betrayal for the “sake of nations” is the cause of World War II. This suggests that nationalism and nationality do not that bring people together, but rather that divide them and breed strife and war.
Caravaggio, who is high on morphine, sits with Kip and Hana, and asks them if they think it is possible to fall in love with someone who isn’t smarter than they are. This thought has bothered Caravaggio most of his life, he says. Caravaggio asks Kip if he could love Hana if she wasn’t smarter than him. Maybe she’s not, Caravaggio says, but could you still love her? Hana loves the English patient because he is smart, Caravaggio claims. “Talkers seduce, words direct us,” he says.
This, too, reflects the power of words, and the power of those who control the words, as the English patient seduces Hana with words and stories. The English patient’s intelligence is one of the reasons why they assume he is English, and Caravaggio implies this is why Hana is in love with him.
Hana tells Caravaggio to stop talking. After all, with the English patient upstairs, they already have one excessive talker. Caravaggio says Hana is “obsessed” with the English patient, and Caravaggio is “obsessed” with Hana’s “sanity.” And Kip, Caravaggio says, will probably blow up one day soon. Hana again asks him to stop talking, but he asks Kip the name of the sapper who was just killed. Hardy, Kip answers. Caravaggio receives Kip’s answer as if it proves his point. Caravaggio claims that none of them should be there. “What are we doing in Africa, in Italy?” Caravaggio asks. And what is Kip doing fighting in an English war?
The love triangle of Hana, the English patient, and Caravaggio is beginning to make Hana uncomfortable. She loves the English patient (and later Kip), Caravaggio loves her, and the English patient loves a dead woman. Caravaggio worries that Hana’s obsession is bad for her sanity, which again reflects the power of love to change and influence people. Caravaggio is beginning to see the Western presence as the imposition that it is.
Caravaggio tells Hana and Kip that they should all just leave the villa, but Hana refuses to leave the English patient. She assumes Caravaggio is angry because she loves someone else, but he claims he is not. In fact, Caravaggio rather likes the English patient, but that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t kill him if it meant that Hana would finally leave the villa. Kip sits without speaking, and Hana, pouring milk into a cup, moves the jug over Kip’s hand, pouring the white liquid over his brown skin. He doesn’t move.
Hana again draws attention to Kip’s dark skin, which she obviously finds attractive and exotic. The darkness of Kip’s skin is amplified next to the whiteness of the milk, and he makes no effort to stop her. Like Caravaggio, Kip loves Hana and would like to see her leave the villa and go somewhere safe, even though he is fond of the English patient just as Caravaggio is.
In the middle of the night, Hana walks quietly down to Kip’s tent. Hana knows that Kip loves her, even though he does not want the food she grows or access to her stash of morphine, like Caravaggio. He doesn’t need her to take care of him like the English patient. Kip finds her comfortable, and she loves the darkness of his skin. She loves how it changes from place to place on his body, such as the skin on his arms compared to his hands or the skin beneath his turban. She especially loves watching the water drip down his neck as he bathes.
Again, Hana is most attracted to Kip’s dark skin and the ways he is exotic and completely “other.” Additionally, Kip is self-sufficient and does not rely on her like the others at the villa do, which she finds attractive as well. Kip is used to relying on only himself, since he is mostly confronted with racism and discrimination in Western society and thus cannot trust those around him.
Kip thinks Hana is “remarkable.” He loves her face and the sound of her voice as she disagrees with Caravaggio. And he loves the way she lays against his body “like a saint.” She asks Kip to kiss her and says that she is in love with his teeth. She suggests they ask Caravaggio what love is. Patrick had always said that Caravaggio was a man in love. She is sure Caravaggio can explain, and then she will take Kip home to Canada to meet Clara, the last of her family.
Hana completely disregards Kip and his culture. She assumes that Caravaggio, a white man, knows more about love than Kip does, and she wants to take Kip to Canada with her, bringing him farther away from his life and family in India. Hana’s love for Kip’s teeth hearkens to the incident with the milk—the whiteness of Kip’s teeth makes his skin seem darker by contrast, and therefore Hana loves them. In this sense, Hana’s attraction to Kip could be interpreted as exoticizing or fetishizing him, since she is drawn primarily to the racialized features which distinguish him from Europeans. Kip’s comment that Hana’s body is “like a saint” again likens love, especially physical love, to a religious experience.