The English Patient

by

Michael Ondaatje

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Kip/Kirpal Singh Character Analysis

An Indian sapper during World War II and Hana’s lover. Kip is a Sikh from Punjab, and he joins an experimental bomb unit led by Lord Suffolk, an “eccentric” Englishman. Kip grows close with both Suffolk and Hardy, Kip’s second-in-command, who teaches him Western songs and customs. In a reflection of colonial-era racism, the men in Kip’s unit hesitate to call him “sir” as his rank dictates, and he is treated as an “anonymous member of another race.” Kip is received as an “other,” both in the military and later at the Italian villa. Kip immerses himself in Western culture and practices, and even develops a deep love for English tea, but he is never accepted as an equal in the eyes of the white Westerners. Attention is constantly drawn to Kip’s brown skin, and his turban serves as a physical symbol of his Indian identity. Hana is intrigued and attracted to Kip’s dark skin, finding him exotic, while Caravaggio is initially critical of Kip because of his race and cultural differences. Hana even tries to keep Kip away from the English patient, fearing they will not get along, but they, too, develop a deep friendship. Kip has, in his efforts to conform to Western society, developed an affinity for Englishmen. Yet, at the climax of the novel, Kip learns of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and threatens to kill the English patient. The tragic bombing of Japan opens Kip’s eyes to the racism and injustice of British colonialism, and he considers the English patient to be a representation of England and their systemic oppression and abuse of Asia. Kip does not kill the English patient, but Kip strips himself of his Western clothing and leaves the villa, and all of Europe. Kip returns to India, where he embraces his native culture and lives a full and happy life. Kip’s character highlights the racism of colonial-era society and underscores Ondaatje’s central argument that despite efforts to conform to the Western world, those from the East will always be viewed as “other” and inferior by those in the West.

Kip/Kirpal Singh Quotes in The English Patient

The The English Patient quotes below are all either spoken by Kip/Kirpal Singh or refer to Kip/Kirpal Singh. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The English Patient published in 1993.
Chapter II Quotes

He sits with his hands below the table, watching the girl eat. He still prefers to eat alone, though he always sits with Hana during meals. Vanity, he thinks. Mortal vanity. She has seen him from a window eating with his hands as he sits on one of the thirty-six steps by the chapel, not a fork or a knife in sight, as if he were learning to eat like someone from the East. In his greying stubble-beard, in his dark jacket, she sees the Italian finally in him. She notices this more and more.

Related Characters: Hana, Kip/Kirpal Singh, Caravaggio
Page Number: 39-40
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter III Quotes

At lunch there is Caravaggio’s avuncular glance at the objects on the blue handkerchief. There is probably some rare animal, Caravaggio thinks, who eats the same foods that this young soldier eats with his right hand, his fingers carrying it to his mouth. He uses the knife only to peel the skin from the onion, to slice fruit.

Related Characters: Kip/Kirpal Singh, Caravaggio
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

If he were a hero in a painting, he could claim just sleep. But as even she had said, he was the brownness of a rock, the brownness of a muddy storm-fed river. And something in him made him step back from even the naive innocence of such a remark. The successful defusing of a bomb ended novels. Wise white fatherly men shook hands, were acknowledged, and limped away, having been coaxed out of solitude for this special occasion. But he was a professional. And he remained the foreigner, the Sikh.

Related Characters: Hana, Kip/Kirpal Singh
Related Symbols: Books , Bombs
Page Number: 104-5
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter VII Quotes

He looked back at the others, peered around the room and caught the gaze of the middle-aged secretary. She watched him sternly. An Indian boy. He smiled and walked towards the bookshelves. Again he touched nothing. At one point he put his nose close to a volume called Raymond, or Life and Death by Sir Oliver Hodge. He found another, similar title. Pierre, or the Ambiguities. He turned and caught the woman’s eyes on him again. He felt as guilty as if he had put the book in his pocket. She had probably never seen a turban before. The English! They expect you to fight for them but won’t talk to you. Singh. And the ambiguities.

Related Characters: Kip/Kirpal Singh, Lord Suffolk, Miss Morden
Related Symbols: Books , Kip’s Turban
Page Number: 187-8
Explanation and Analysis:

He was accustomed to his invisibility. In England he was ignored in the various barracks, and he came to prefer that. 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. He had built up defences of character against all that, trusting only those who befriended him.

Related Characters: Hana, Kip/Kirpal Singh
Related Symbols: Bombs
Page Number: 196-7
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter VIII Quotes

He will sit up and flip his hair forward, and begin to rub the length of it with a towel. She imagines all of Asia through the gestures of this one man. The way he lazily moves, his quiet civilisation. He speaks of warrior saints and she now feels he is one, stern and visionary, pausing only in these rare times of sunlight to be godless, informal, his head back again on the table so the sun can dry his spread hair like grain in a fan-shaped straw basket. Although he is a man from Asia who has in these last years of war assumed English fathers, following their codes like a dutiful son.

Related Characters: Hana, Kip/Kirpal Singh
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter X Quotes

I grew up with traditions from my country, but later, more often, from your country. Your fragile white island that with customs and manners and books and prefects and reason somehow converted the rest of the world. You stood for precise behaviour. I knew if I lifted a teacup with the wrong finger I’d be banished. If I tied the wrong kind of knot in a tie I was out. Was it just ships that gave you such power? Was it, as my brother said, because you had the histories and printing presses?

Page Number: 283
Explanation and Analysis:

My brother told me. Never turn your back on Europe. The deal makers. The contract makers. The map drawers. Never trust Europeans, he said. Never shake hands with them. But we, oh, we were easily impressed— by speeches and medals and your ceremonies. What have I been doing these last few years? Cutting away, defusing, limbs of evil. For what? For this to happen?

Related Symbols: Bombs
Page Number: 284-5
Explanation and Analysis:

Before light failed he stripped the tent of all military objects, all bomb disposal equipment, stripped all insignia off his uniform. Before lying down he undid the turban and combed his hair out and then tied it up into a topknot and lay back, saw the light on the skin of the tent slowly disperse, his eyes holding onto the last blue of light, hearing the drop of wind into windlessness and then hearing the swerve of the hawks as their wings thudded. And all the delicate noises of the air.

Related Characters: Kip/Kirpal Singh
Related Symbols: Kip’s Turban
Page Number: 287
Explanation and Analysis:

He was riding deeper into thick rain. Because he had loved the face on the ceiling he had loved the words. As he had believed in the burned man and the meadows of civilisation he tended. Isaiah and Jeremiah and Solomon were in the burned man’s bedside book, his holy book, whatever he had loved glued into his own. He had passed his book to the sapper, and the sapper had said we have a Holy Book too.

Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 294
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The English Patient LitChart as a printable PDF.
The English Patient PDF

Kip/Kirpal Singh Character Timeline in The English Patient

The timeline below shows where the character Kip/Kirpal Singh appears in The English Patient. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter III. Sometime a Fire
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The Sikh, an Indian sapper named Kip, sets up his tent near the villa’s garden. Beginning outside, he immediately takes to dismantling... (full context)
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Kip notices that Caravaggio often wanders at night, and he begins to trail him. After two... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Kip is the only one at the villa who still wears a military uniform. The uniform... (full context)
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Kip remembers lying on the floor of a massive church and looking up to the vaulted... (full context)
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When Kip arrived in Gabicce near the east coast of Italy, he was the lead sapper on... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Sitting at the table with Hana and Caravaggio, Kip thinks everything looks “temporary,” as if nothing is permanent. He looks down at his onions,... (full context)
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Kip and Caravaggio take a cart into the village to pick up some flour, and they... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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In the field just north of the villa, Kip finds a large bomb hidden beneath a slab of concrete. The grass has grown over... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Kip offers to tape the wires to the tree so Hana can leave, but she refuses.... (full context)
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Hana is speaking, but Kip doesn’t hear her. He begins to shake. Hana repeats herself. She thought she was going... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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As he watches Hana sleep, Kip is wide awake, wondering why he can never sleep. He thinks about a sapper he... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Kip returns to the window and can smell cordite in air. He quietly slips out of... (full context)
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Kip doesn’t believe in books the same way Hana does. As Hana watches Kip stand at... (full context)
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Hours later, Kip returns from the mine explosion, which killed Hardy, Kip’s second-in-command. After passing Caravaggio asleep on... (full context)
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...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. (full context)
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Caravaggio, who is high on morphine, sits with Kip and Hana, and asks them if they think it is possible to fall in love... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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Caravaggio tells Hana and Kip that they should all just leave the villa, but Hana refuses to leave the English... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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Kip thinks Hana is “remarkable.” He loves her face and the sound of her voice as... (full context)
Chapter VI. A Buried Plane
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Later, Hana enters the English patient’s room to find Kip standing at his bedside. The English patient claims he and Kip get along so well... (full context)
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Kip tells Hana and the English patient about his time as a sapper, diffusing bombs all... (full context)
Chapter VII. In Situ
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In 1940, Kip was in Westbury, England, with Lord Suffolk, Miss Morden, and Mr. Fred Harts. Kip was... (full context)
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While Kip was training, he learned that the most dangerous bombs did not explode until after they... (full context)
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“Lord Suffolk was the best of the English,” Kip tells Hana. While in England, Kip quickly found the best places to drink tea, and... (full context)
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When Kip had first applied to Lord Suffolk’s bomb unit, he was led into a library for... (full context)
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When Lord Suffolk finally arrived at the library, the testing for the bomb unit began. Kip breezed through each round and began to believe that he would be easily admitted if... (full context)
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Kip traveled England with Lord Suffolk, Miss Morden, Mr. Harts—“the Holy Trinity”—and five other sappers. After... (full context)
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Holding back his emotions, Kip went to Erith with Hardy but insisted on diffusing the bomb alone. The bomb was... (full context)
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Kip tells Hana about his older brother, who refused to fight in the war. “He refused... (full context)
Chapter VIII. The Holy Forest
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...a fuse box off a table as he turns towards Hana’s voice in the hallway. Kip slides seamlessly to the ground and catches the bomb in his hands. Caravaggio looks to... (full context)
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Not long after Kip was sent to Italy, he was lowered by Hardy into a pit with a large... (full context)
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As Kip continued his work defusing the Esau bomb, he sang the song Hardy taught him out... (full context)
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...They use kerosene to get out the lice and then rinse with water. Hana watches Kip as he lays with his hair spread out to dry. Through Kip, Hana pictures all... (full context)
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As Kip’s hair dries, he again tells Hana about his brother, who refused to fight with the... (full context)
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During all the time Kip has spent fighting in Europe, he has never once considered himself. He spends most of... (full context)
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...and leaves the English patient’s room. As she climbs the 36 steps outside the chapel, Kip slips out into the courtyard and quietly climbs into a well. Hana enters the library,... (full context)
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...room in the dark. He reaches out to grab her, but she is gone. Suddenly, Kip’s arm closes around Caravaggio’s neck, and they both fall to the floor. On the ground,... (full context)
Chapter X. August
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...the Hungarian, Almásy. “He’s fine,” Caravaggio says. “We can let him be.” Caravaggio asks where Kip is, and Hana says he is on the terrace, planning something for her birthday.  (full context)
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Outside, tiny candles illuminate the terrace, and Caravaggio begins to think that Kip has gone overboard bringing candles out from the chapel, but then he realizes that the... (full context)
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As Hana, Caravaggio, and Kip eat and drink, they toast each other and the English patient. Kip joins a glass... (full context)
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As they talk, Kip is interested in hearing stories about Hana, but she steers Caravaggio away from any stories... (full context)
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“This is for you,” Hana says to Kip as she begins to sing the “Marseillaise,” letting her voice drift all the way up... (full context)
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At night in Kip’s tent, Hana and Kip often talk until the sun comes up. Resting on Hana’s neck... (full context)
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Hana loves spending time with Kip, but she does not think that can give herself completely to him and be his... (full context)
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In 1943, 30 sappers were flown into Naples, including Kip. When the Germans left Italy, they had laid thousands of bombs, and what should have... (full context)
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...if he was telling the truth, but they evacuated Naples anyway. Only 12 sappers, including Kip, remained behind to continue sweeping for bombs. The electricity was to be restored at 3:00... (full context)
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In the evening, thunderstorms gathered over the villa. Kip returns each night around 7:00, at which time a thunderstorm will begin, if there is... (full context)
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...2:00, one hour before the electricity was set to be restored. In the abandoned city, Kip could hear only birds and barking dogs. He came upon the Church of San Giovanni... (full context)
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 Hana looks down to the field from the villa and sees Kip grab his head. She thinks he is in pain but then realizes that he is... (full context)
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Kip passes Hana sitting in the kitchen and goes to the stairs, taking three at a... (full context)
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“I sat at the foot of this bed and listened to you, Uncle,” Kip says to the English patient. Kip had done the same as a child and always... (full context)
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Kip tells the English patient that the English and the Americans have “converted” Indians to be... (full context)
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Kip says that his brother told him not to trust Europeans. They are the “deal makers,”... (full context)
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Caravaggio tries to tell Kip that the English patient isn’t really an Englishman, but Kip says that it doesn’t really... (full context)
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Caravaggio sits in a chair and looks away from Kip. He knows that Kip is right; bombs like those dropped on Japan would never have... (full context)
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Back in is tent, Kip stares into the darkness. He closes his eyes and sees people jumping into rivers as... (full context)
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Kip knows nothing about the bombs that have been dropped on Japan. He does not know... (full context)
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Hana can see Kip standing outside his tent and watches him disappear into the chapel. Inside, Kip removes the... (full context)
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As Kip climbs on the Triumph and “guns [it] to life,” Caravaggio waits halfway down the path... (full context)
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Kip rides away from the villa and heads south, steering clear of Florence. He goes through... (full context)
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In Cortona, Kip rides the Triumph up the steps of a church and goes inside. He finds a... (full context)
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On the Triumph, Kip arrives in Ortona. He does not allow himself to think of Hana as he rides,... (full context)
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As Kip’s head breaks above water, a candle burns in the English patient’s room back at the... (full context)
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Years later, Kirpal Singh still thinks about Hana. He is a doctor now, with two kids and a wife.... (full context)
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As Kirpal Singh sits down to eat with his family, his daughter fumbles with her silverware. At Kirpal’s... (full context)