The English Patient


Michael Ondaatje

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The Villa

Hana refuses to leave the Italian bombed-out villa she inhabits with the English patient, a structure which symbolizes the damaged physical and emotional state of Ondaatje’s characters after the violence of World War II…

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The Desert 

Much of The English Patient takes place in the Gilf Kebir, a desert plateau in North Africa, and this desert landscape is symbolic of the English patient, László Almásy’s, lack of a national identity…

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Mirrors are symbolic of the characters’ struggles with their respective identities within the novel. When Hana, a nurse, first arrives in Italy during World War II, she cuts her hair after it in falls…

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Books help Ondaatje’s characters to understand and interpret the world and each other, but books also symbolize the incredible connection between personal narratives and history within the novel.  Books are important on many levels in…

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Kip’s Turban

As the only character of color in the novel, attention is repeatedly drawn to Kip’s differences, often through his turban, which is an ongoing symbol of his Indian identity. When Kip first arrives at…

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Bombs are a constant and threatening presence in The English Patient, and they represent the violence and destruction of World War II within Ondaatje’s novel. When Hana refuses to leave the Italian villa due…

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