Nicole Bernabei
Mrs. Salvatore
Survival in the English Patient

      The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje is a novel in which four extremely withdrawn people are forced to live in a villa and to depend on one another in order to survive during World War II.  Ondaatje uses flashback sequences, direct questioning and heavy doses of morphine to allow his characters to travel back and forth in time in order to reveal the plot of the novel. By using these techniques, Ondaatje's characters are more open to reveal their true selves to each other. Ondaatje allows the characters to come to the realization that in order to survive they must trust those around them, which can only be achieved by first trusting themselves.
Ondaatje opens the novel with a shell-shocked nurse, named Hanna, caring for an extremely wounded man in a small villa. Not knowing what to call the man, he is referred to as the English patient. Ondaatje uses the English patient as a way for Hanna to both avoid and deal with her past. As we travel back and forth through Hanna's memories, we discover that she has lost her father, her husband, and unborn child to the war. We soon discover that the pain of these losses drives Hanna to terminate her pregnancy, which kills a piece of her soul. "I lost the child. I mean I had to lose it. The father was already dead. There was a war" (Ondaatje 82). She becomes hard and cold as a way to protect herself from further losses. "I will survive this. I won't fall apart at this" (48). Believing she can hide from her pain, Hanna consumes herself with her vow to care for the English patient.
      Hanna's plan of avoidance is soon foiled with the arrival of more people. With their presence, Hanna comes to terms with the fact that she needs other people. "She needed an uncle, a member of the family" (85).  In Caravaggio, she finds a bridge to her past and all of her fears that are hiding there. The English patient serves as an outlet for...