One of the major themes dominating this novel is the theme of nationality and identity. This book mainly revolves around 4 characters all of different nationalities and backgrounds. All of them are in a foreign land coping with the harsh after affects of a brutal war.
First we have Almasy the lead character and the main protagonist, he is Hungarian by birth, but has been raised and educated in England and thus his habits and mannerisms are English and so he is referred to as the English patient. Almasy works in the deserts of Africa far from the forces of civilization. There he creates for himself his own world without borders, a place where a person’s identity/nationality is not at all important. He forgets that at times of war the nationality is given utmost important and this mistake of his causes him a great deal of anguish later on in his life. To him a war was just a feud between nations that was of no relevance to him or his companions. To him helping a German spy a across the desert is no act of betrayal. He chooses his identity rather than accepting it. The atmosphere of the villa as well as that of the desert of solitude and remoteness from the outside world makes him think that there is no need for nationality and that it can easily be erased. His attitude of neglect towards his nationality gets him into trouble on many occasions. When an army officer is questioning him about his past he acts mysterious and questions the relevance of his identity, this creates a doubt in the mind of the officer if he was a German. Another incident is when he goes in search of help after leaving wounded Catherine in the cave. He approaches the British Army officers and demands help, when he says his name, which sound Hungarian he is thrown into jail and Catherine is left to die in the desert. This incident also fuels his hatred for nationality; due the obstacle of nationality he had lost the love of his life Catherine. This leaves him bitter for the rest of his life....
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