The English Patient

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The English Patient – Techniques Essay, Research Paper The novel, The English Patient, by Michael Ondaajte constructs meaning through the use of tropes, images and symbolism, instead of merely portraying a linear set of events. There are many intertexual references, tropes of covering, which serve to create and strengthen meaning, as well as bold imagery, which erects another level of significance. Symbolism plays a vital role in the formation of meaning, with fire, religion, the English Patients body and the desert being essential to the founding concepts of the novel. The self-awareness of the novel, as well as the multiple relaying of one event, also assist is the creation of meaning. There are many intertexual references throughout the novel, all of which serve to

create and reinforce meaning. The Histories by Herodotus is constantly referred to and is carried everywhere by the English Patient. It speaks of the enmity of East and West and their irreconcilable differences. ??wonderful deeds manifested by both Greeks and barbarians?together with reason why they fought one another.? This exert from The Histories shows that while both East and West can achieve great feats they can never achieve the greatest feat of all, overcoming their differences. This foreshadows the apocalyptic dropping of the A-bomb on Japan and Kips subsequent realisation of this enmity. This is a key notion in the novel and the continual references help to foreground these differences, particularly highlighting the treatment of Asian nations at the hands of the English,

or Western nations. This harsh conduct on the behalf of the English is emphasized by the English Patients use of cigarette papers, covering the text, much the same way as the dominating English cover the culture of the Indians. The English Patient represents everything that is English; he is knowledgeable and ?cultured?, able to speak on many ?refined? topics. This trope of covering is symbolic of the dispossession of their language, and government, indeed the very burial of their culture, suffered by the Indians at the hands of the English. Herodotus?s Histories also draw parallels between the Katherine/English Patient love affair and that of Gyges and the Queen, as well as revealing the power of words. During Katharine?s telling of the story, the English Patient falls in love

with her, the story can be seen as the mechanism for their love affair. It becomes clear that Katharine is the Queen, Clifton is Candules, while the English Patient is forced into the role of Gyges. The narratives of the English Patient, Katharine and Clifton, are inextricably entangled with that of Candules, Gyges and the Queen, though centuries apart. The use of the intertexuality in this instance alludes to the narratives that inform lives. Katharine and the English Patient felt they were having a passionate and ?original? love affair, however when the parallels between The Histories and their love are drawn, the originality is lost, the narrative has already been written, already been lived. The biblical story of David and Goliath is also referred to frequently in the novel

and is critical in assembling meaning. Goliath is a dominating, seemingly unconquerable character, while David is a mere boy, with no apparent special qualities. Goliath represents the tyrannic arm of the British, while David is a metaphor for the revolt of the Indian people against the English. According to the story, before Goliaths defeat by David the people lived in fear, always waiting for a leader to free them. The mention of David in the novel can be seen as an allusion to Gandhi, the leader which freed the Indians from the English authority. This story foreshadows the break down of Imperialism and the consequent control gained by the Indian people in 1947. On a smaller level, the English Patient can be seen as Goliath, and Kip as David. ?When I see him at the end of my