Postmodern Fiction and Film
May 31, 2000
Fragments and Reconstructions in The English Patient
I. Introduction: The representation of fragments of time, places, body, and memories in the war are reconstructed through the intersection of four persons (Hana the nurse, the English patient, Caravaggio the professional thief and the military spy, and Kip the sapper) in an Italian villa.
A. Time line
1. 1945: The beginning of the novel is in April at the end of W.W.II. (13)
2. 1943: Hana was trained at Women’s College Hospital; the
first Canadian Infantry Division in Italy (49)
3. 1940: Kirpal Singh joined a Sikh regiment and was sent
to England. (182)
4. 1943-1944: the last mediaeval war was fought in Italy
5. 1930-1938: South Cairo
1930: the first journey of Almásy and his partners;
looking for the lost oasis that was called Zerzura.
The City of Acacias.” (135)
1936: Geoffrey Clifton and his wife Katharine joined
Almásy’s group; the beginning of Almásy and
Katharine’s story (142)
1939: Clifton had crashed his plane and Katharine was
6. 1942: Almásy carried Katharine leaving the swimming
cave. She was dead. (174)
7. August of 1945: Kip leaves the villa and goes back to India. Hana goes back to Canada.
1. the Villa San Girolamo in Italy: a damage field hospital, a nunnery, and a besieged fortress (43)
2. the destroyed kitchen, church and library (11)
3. South Cairo
4. The desert: no boundary before the war
C. the fragments of body
1. the Englishman: the burned body, black, hardly recognized (48)
2. David Caravaggio: his fingers had been chopped off during the war. (58-59)
Though the identities of these four characters are damaged because of the war, this forgotten villa has become a place where has no boundary to recover their traumatic memories in the war and to reconstruct their identities.
1. rebuilds the outside world—the villa, the garden (13)
2. Caring for the English patient—a way to come out of a war (33)
3. Collecting the memory about her father (90-91)
B. The English patient
1. the Englishman’s identity—revealed gradually but fragmental (5, 96, 97)
2. Caravaggio is urgent to identify the English patient. (116-117)
=> The Englishman is interrogated again and again by Caravaggio. It seems that he wants to invent a new skin for the Englishman.
3. The importance of the revelation of the Englishman’s identity
=> For Caravaggio, to reveal the identity of the English patient is not only to know if he is the German Count or not, but to get Hana out of the war. (121-123)
C. The newly constructed relationship among Hana, the English patient and Kip
1. Hana vs. the English patient: Hana is a guilder for the Englishman (111)
2. the English patient vs. Kip: teacher (English) vs. student (India) (111)
3. Hana vs. Kip: companion (103)
Though in this deserted villa lives four nations of people: Canadian, Indian, Italian and English/Hungarian, they are only victims of the war. By recollecting the fragments of their personal memories, we see its great influence on a human being though it is only a fragmental and vague picture of W.W.II.