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english patient

            Michael Ondaatje's novel The English Patient focuses a great deal on the theme of identity. The destruction and reconstruction of the character's identities are found mainly through the physical bodies of the characters and the environments they reside in. The four main characters in Ondaatje's novel, Hana, Almasy, Kip and Carvaggio, all find that the absent personas they possess are revived through the mutual colonization of each other's bodies and the surroundings they all share. The body of each individual character becomes the defining features of their identities. They are defined by certain physical characteristics such as Carvaggio's lack of thumbs for example. He is first and foremost recognized for this because it is an immediate association to the loss of his youth and therefore part of his identity. Hana's self-identity is unrecognized in her own eyes. She is unable to celebrate and enjoy the beauty of her body. Her lack of identity in the beginning stems from her tragic past. She has lost all those whom she loves and as a result feels as though she herself has lost an identity, which would explain her refusal to look into any mirrors for over a year. Kip and the English Patient share many similar character traits. They are both "international bastards-born in one place and choosing to live elsewhere" (176) and they feel a loss of connection with their national identities. For Almasy, the desert becomes a place of refuge from his feelings of not belonging. Kip's rebellious character seeks answers to where he truly belongs because he feels as though he has abandoned his nationality. All the characters are dealing with the struggle to maintain and rebuild their identities after the traumas of war. They are brought together in the Italian villa in order to recapture their sense of belonging in the world and to regain an understanding of who they really are. .
             Identity and nationality tie the characters to certain places and times regardless of their repeated attempts to avoid such confinements.

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