Essay on The English Patient

2162 Words 9 Pages
A young Canadian nurse, a Sikh bomb disposal expert, a thief turned spy, and a man burnt beyond recognition, meet in the last moments of the Second World War. The identity of the patient is the heart of the story as he tells his memories of a doomed love affair in the North African desert. Love and passion are set against the devastation of war in this inspired novel by Canadian writer Michael Ondaatje.

It is a novel of revelation, and just as the identity of the English patient is slowly revealed as the novel progresses, so are the inner selves and spiritual identities of the other characters in the novel. Ondaatje writes his novel of discovery revealing things only briefly and subtile. Indeed, such brief moments abounds in this novel,
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The term “identity”
In general we differentiate between two “kinds” of identity. On the one hand there is the so called social identity, which stresses self-interpretation as a member of a certain social group and on the other hand there is the personal identity, which puts it´s emphasis on individuality and distinctiveness. This distinction is widely known as “patchwork-identity”. Both identities are only a subgroup of many different subjectively interpreted identities that everyone of us has innate.

“Life is made up of many windows and real life is only one of them.“
The question is, which of these identities will I present, which of them will I develop and how do I realize other persons´ identities? In the novel “The English patient” both of the above mentioned identities can be discovered within all the expressingly dynamic characters. If we take Hana as a first example we might simply say that she is a canadian nurse aiding injured soldiers during the second world war. This statement can be referred to as social identity – it is the way Hana behaves within society. Her personal identity, however, is much more subtile and not that easy, neither to discover, nor to understand. The same, of course, applies to the other characters, especially to the English patient, whose rediscovery of identity is the focus of this novel and mainly dealt with. His story of identical background is told in flashbacks, as he…