The English Patient

by

Michael Ondaatje

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The Villa Symbol Analysis

The Villa  Symbol Icon

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. The villa, a former German stronghold, was nearly destroyed by bombs during the war, and as the German’s retreated, they mined the villa with numerous explosives. Many of the villa’s rooms are boarded up and impassable, and others are missing walls and ceilings, allowing the elements to contaminate the space. The excessive destruction of the villa mirrors that of its residents, who are each suffering from trauma connected to the war, both physically and psychologically.

While the villa represents the characters’ trauma, it also represents their collective healing. Through the villa’s history as a nunnery before the war, there is an undeniable religious connection that connotes hope, and Hana’s garden in the villa’s orchard and the painted garden on the walls of the English patient’s room hearken to rebirth and renewal. Similarly, the villa’s ad hoc “family” converges there to heal and renew as well. The characters’ emotional healing is reflected in the meaningful relationships they foster while living at the villa, and it is seen in their shared celebrations, both when Caravaggio finds the gramophone and they have a makeshift party, and when Kip surprises Hana for her birthday. Perhaps the most profound evidence of the healing of Ondaatje’s characters is the playful joking of Hana, Caravaggio, and Kip in the villa’s library. Like the Italian villa, Ondaatje’s characters are severely damaged by the violence of war, but they are still standing and slowly rebuilding.

The Villa Quotes in The English Patient

The The English Patient quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Villa . 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

The Villa San Girolamo, built to protect inhabitants from the flesh of the devil, had the look of a besieged fortress, the limbs of most of the statues blown off during the first days of shelling. There seemed little demarcation between house and landscape, between damaged building and the burned and shelled remnants of the earth. To Hana the wild gardens were like further rooms. She worked along the edges of them aware always of unexploded mines. In one soil-rich area beside the house she began to garden with a furious passion that could come only to someone who had grown up in a city. In spite of the burned earth, in spite of the lack of water. Someday there would be a bower of limes, rooms of green light.

Related Characters: Hana
Related Symbols: The Villa
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:
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The Villa Symbol Timeline in The English Patient

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Villa appears in The English Patient. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter I. The Villa
History, Words, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...she looks down the hall, but she knows that no one is coming. The abandoned villa had been a makeshift war hospital, and Hana had lived here with the others nurses.... (full context)
War and Nationality Theme Icon
...she occasionally trades hospital supplies for meat and beans with a man in town. The villa is a shell of what it once was. Large sections of the building have been... (full context)
War and Nationality Theme Icon
God and Religion  Theme Icon
The villa’s library sits between the kitchen and the chapel. Although there have been holes blown into... (full context)
War and Nationality Theme Icon
History, Words, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...town where the Villa San Girolamo is located had been besieged for weeks, and the villa, which had previously been a nunnery, was the last stronghold of the German army. When... (full context)
British Colonialism and Racism Theme Icon
There are few beds remaining in the villa—Hana prefers to sleep in a hammock. She frequently sleeps in different rooms, at times in... (full context)
History, Words, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...from the English patient’s bedside table. He had brought the book with him to the villa, and pages from other books have been glued into it. The English patient’s handwriting fills... (full context)
War and Nationality Theme Icon
...stands staring at the wall. She has long since removed all the mirrors in the villa and stored them in an unused room. She wets her hair and, walking outside, cool... (full context)
Chapter II. In Near Ruins
War and Nationality Theme Icon
...Caravaggio that the nurse, Hana, is in an old nunnery just north of Florence. The villa is incredibly unsafe, but she claims her patient isn’t stable enough to move. The doctors... (full context)
War and Nationality Theme Icon
The doctors tell Caravaggio that they can arrange a ride for him to the villa, but they remind him that it is very unsafe. The Germans laid bombs and mines... (full context)
History, Words, and Storytelling Theme Icon
...girl stubbornly refused to allow the surgeons to remove her inflamed tonsils. Arriving at the villa, Caravaggio silently enters the room Hana is sitting in and kneels down next to her,... (full context)
British Colonialism and Racism Theme Icon
The next day, Caravaggio finds Hana washing sheets in the fountain outside the villa. The Allies destroyed the water pipes in an effort to get her to leave, and... (full context)
War and Nationality Theme Icon
Hana says that if Caravaggio plans on staying at the villa, they will need more food. The vegetables won’t be enough, but she knows where they... (full context)
War and Nationality Theme Icon
...and left. Hana immediately began her garden in the rich soil next to the wrecked villa. Even though the ground was scorched and there wasn’t much water, she knew it would... (full context)
War and Nationality Theme Icon
When Hana first arrived at the villa, she was one of four nurses, two doctors, and 100 patients. She had little time... (full context)
War and Nationality Theme Icon
In the kitchen, Caravaggio gets the dog some water. He thinks of the villa as Hana’s house, so he is careful not to disturb or move anything. He thinks... (full context)
British Colonialism and Racism Theme Icon
...Canada, and as lightning illuminates the room, she notices that two soldiers have entered the villa. Hana can see that one man wears a turban, and she nods at them, continuing... (full context)
Chapter III. Sometime a Fire
British Colonialism and Racism Theme Icon
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... (full context)
War and Nationality Theme Icon
British Colonialism and Racism Theme Icon
Kip is the only one at the villa who still wears a military uniform. The uniform is “immaculate,” and his shoes are always... (full context)
War and Nationality Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)
British Colonialism and Racism Theme Icon
...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.... (full context)
British Colonialism and Racism Theme Icon
In the field just north of the villa, Kip finds a large bomb hidden beneath a slab of concrete. The grass has grown... (full context)
War and Nationality Theme Icon
British Colonialism and Racism Theme Icon
Later that night, the residents of the villa have a party in the English patient’s room. Caravaggio has found a gramophone, and Kip,... (full context)
War and Nationality Theme Icon
...to take on false identities and live as a double agent, but here at the villa they are “shedding skins” instead of donning disguises. (full context)
Love Theme Icon
War and Nationality Theme Icon
British Colonialism and Racism Theme Icon
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... (full context)
Chapter VIII. The Holy Forest
Love Theme Icon
In the library of the villa, Caravaggio accidentally knocks a fuse box off a table as he turns towards Hana’s voice... (full context)
British Colonialism and Racism Theme Icon
On warm days, everyone at the villa washes their hair. They use kerosene to get out the lice and then rinse with... (full context)
Chapter IX. The Cave of Swimmers
War and Nationality Theme Icon
Caravaggio suddenly wants to leave the villa. He is only a thief, and he doesn’t belong here with the English patient, a... (full context)
War and Nationality Theme Icon
History, Words, and Storytelling Theme Icon
The English patient asks Caravaggio if he came to the villa to finally apprehend him. No, Caravaggio says. He came to find Hana, since he has... (full context)
Chapter X. August
War and Nationality Theme Icon
Caravaggio enters the kitchen of the villa, where Hana sits quietly. She asks him how the English patient is, and Caravaggio tells... (full context)
British Colonialism and Racism Theme Icon
In the evening, thunderstorms gathered over the villa. Kip returns each night around 7:00, at which time a thunderstorm will begin, if there... (full context)
War and Nationality Theme Icon
British Colonialism and Racism Theme Icon
 Hana looks down to the field from the villa and sees Kip grab his head. She thinks he is in pain but then realizes... (full context)
War and Nationality Theme Icon
British Colonialism and Racism Theme Icon
...He leaves the tent wearing only a kurta and walks in the direction of the villa. (full context)
Love Theme Icon
War and Nationality Theme Icon
British Colonialism and Racism Theme Icon
...the Triumph and “guns [it] to life,” Caravaggio waits halfway down the path to the villa’s gate, holding the rifle. He steps into Kip’s path as he approaches, but he never... (full context)
War and Nationality Theme Icon
British Colonialism and Racism Theme Icon
Kip rides away from the villa and heads south, steering clear of Florence. He goes through Greve and heads to Cortona,... (full context)