The English Patient

by

Michael Ondaatje

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Madox Character Analysis

The English patient’s friend and part of his desert exploration team. Madox is an Englishman, and like the English patient, he carries a book—Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina—through the desert. Madox uses Tolstoy’s book to try to explain Geoffrey Clifton’s connection to the British government, which underscores Ondaatje’s overarching argument that literature offers a way to understand and shape the world. As World War II begins, Madox leaves the desert and returns to England, where he commits suicide with his revolver in the middle of a church during a sermon that supports the war. According to the English patient, Madox “died because of nations.” Madox thought the church had “lost its holiness” in its support of the war, so “he committed what he believed was a holy act.” Madox’s final act is one of protest against what he considers to be a misuse of religion, which, to many characters in The English Patient, has “lost its holiness” in the violence of the war. The character of Madox is based on Patrick Clayton, a real-life British surveyor and soldier who mapped large areas of the North African desert in the early 1930s.

Madox Quotes in The English Patient

The The English Patient quotes below are all either spoken by Madox or refer to Madox. 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 IV Quotes

By 1932, Bagnold was finished and Madox and the rest of us were everywhere. Looking for the lost army of Cambyses. Looking for Zerzura. 1932 and 1933 and 1934. Not seeing each other for months. Just the Bedouin and us, crisscrossing the Forty Days Road. There were rivers of desert tribes, the most beautiful humans I’ve met in my life. We were German, English, Hungarian, African— all of us insignificant to them. Gradually we became nationless. I came to hate nations. We are deformed by nation-states. Madox died because of nations.

Related Characters: The English Patient/László Almásy (speaker), Madox
Related Symbols: The Desert 
Page Number: 138
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The English Patient LitChart as a printable PDF.
The English Patient PDF

Madox Character Timeline in The English Patient

The timeline below shows where the character Madox appears in The English Patient. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter IV. South Cairo 1930-1938
War and Nationality Theme Icon
British Colonialism and Racism Theme Icon
...tells Hana that his first desert exploration was in 1930 with a fellow explorer named Madox. They went on a seven-day journey to El Taj on which they were plagued by... (full context)
War and Nationality Theme Icon
...to hate nations. He tells Hana that the world is “deformed by nation-states” and that Madox had “died because of nations.” The explorers went to the desert to shed the clothing... (full context)
War and Nationality Theme Icon
British Colonialism and Racism Theme Icon
...He soon came to Cairo and met up with the English patient’s exploration team, including Madox, Bell, Prince Kemal el Din, and Almásy. They were still looking for Zerzura, a city... (full context)
Chapter V. Katharine
Love Theme Icon
...Geoffrey ever found out about their affair, he would “go mad.” As their affair progressed, Madox couldn’t help but notice the English patient’s multiple bruises and bandages, and he wondered why... (full context)
Chapter VI. A Buried Plane
Love Theme Icon
War and Nationality Theme Icon
...her about his time in Cairo. In 1937, he went gone on an expedition with Madox to Uweinat. The English patient asked Madox what the name for the small hollow at... (full context)
War and Nationality Theme Icon
...to travel to the buried plane by foot. It was an extra plane, owned by Madox, which the expedition didn’t use anymore. (full context)
Love Theme Icon
When the English patient finally reached Madox’s plane buried in the desert in 1942, he loaded Katharine’s body into it and took... (full context)
Chapter IX. The Cave of Swimmers
Love Theme Icon
History, Words, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...with Katharine. The English patient had ignored all of Katharine’s remarks about Geoffrey’s relatives, but Madox had tried to warn him about Geoffrey’s connection to the English. Like the English patient’s... (full context)
History, Words, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...eventually returned to Geoffrey, and the English patient returned to the desert. He had told Madox nothing specific about the woman he was seeing, only that she was a widow in... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
War and Nationality Theme Icon
God and Religion  Theme Icon
As Madox was leaving for England, he stopped and turned around. “This is called the vascular sizood,”... (full context)
Love Theme Icon
On Madox’s last night in Cairo, the English patient finally talked him into going into a bar,... (full context)
War and Nationality Theme Icon
God and Religion  Theme Icon
...important to die in holy places,” the English patient tells Caravaggio, and that is why Madox killed himself in the church in Somerset. Madox thought the church “had lost its holiness,... (full context)