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, lighting up the dark and melancholic landscape for a very brief period, but long enough to reveal hints of the truth.
The truth, however, is never fully known in this novel. It is almost as if the novel is an exploration of the way we understand things and discover the truth. People are always meeting in the dark, and the only way we can know them is through casual, occasional bumps in that darkness. The aim of this paper is to show the slow development of the recognition of the characters´ identities with all it´s frustrating, thrilling and surprising “truths” by pointing out several important and significant passages. All the characters are governed by questions of nation, language and identity; all are joined by their sense of being illegitimate, in flight from patriarchy and imperial-nationalist identity.
The four main characters of the book – Hana, Caravaggio, The English Patient (Almásy), and Kip – each have their own story to tell.Their plots intersect with each other, often without clearly explaining why.I will start with a general overview of the main characters and put special attention on their identical background and misery, which each of them gives away just gradually along the chapters.Later on I will go more into detail and explore the function and the interpersonal relationship of the mysterious identity of the English patient not only as a character but a general metaphor for mankind.Finally I will.