Essay on The Effects of War on the Characters of The English Patient

772 Words 4 Pages
Like a tree spreading its roots into the ground, cultural history is something that is deeply rooted in the minds of people. As the significance of Herodotus unravels itself in “The English patient,” Michael Ondaatje touches further upon the idea of how personal history is shaped by cultural history. Ondaatje refers to Tacitus, a great Roman historian, in the third chapter, “Something with Fire” in order to enhance the notion that times of terror can influence the shaping of an individual’s personal history. By focusing on the behavior and habits of the Kip and Caravaggio, he can pinpoint how warfare in cultural history affects the personal history. With the aid of Tacitus’ insight, the use of description, Ondaatje effectively demonstrates …show more content…
Ondaatje writes: “…Why couldn’t he turn towards the girl, stop thinking everything was still half lit, hanging fire? In a painting of his imagining the field surrounding this embrace would have been in flames. He had once followed a sapper’s entrance into a mined house with binoculars. He had seen him brush a box of matches off the edge of a table and be enveloped by light for the half-second before the crumpling sound of the bomb reached him. How could he even trust even this circle of elastic on the sleeve of the girl’s frock that gripper her arm?”(105).
Kip’s experiences in the war have traumatized him. After seeing the matchbox trigger the bomb, how could he trust anything anymore? Warfare was even affecting his love life. Cultural history, warfare, and violence, shaped Kip into a distrustful, detached person because in order for Kip to survive in a world of chaos, he must be alert. Distractions, like love, will only weaken his alertness and ultimately lead him to a fatal death. Ondaatje uses this example to convey how war in culture history can deprive an individual of the most meaningful things in life, and instead influence personal history through the triggering of survival skills.
Although war triggers instincts for most individuals, some of the habits used to protect one could only be obtained by training as a soldier during warfare. Even after the war ended, soldiers continued to use techniques they learned…