The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

4 April 2015
An analysis of elemental existence in the book “The English Patient” by Michael Ondaatje.

This paper describes Ondaatje’s symbolic use of air, fire, water and earth, especially as represented in the motif of the desert, to display the characteristics of life and love it time of war. It portrays the elements as the essence of life, and illustrates how existence is precarious and elemental in the world of The English Patient.
Love and war are central themes in the novel The English Patient by Canadian Michael Ondaatje. Ondaatje’s book won the Booker Prize, and was the basis for the film which won nine Academy Awards including Best Picture. Both love and war reduce humans to states of life that might be called elemental. Elements are the basic components of life. What is essential to life becomes paramount. The four elements, water, earth, air, and fire are symbolically employed throughout The English Patient. As the elements are necessary to the support of life, they can also bring death and suffering, just as the passionate love described in this book is both beautiful and painful. The way that the elements in combination with the motif of the desert are used in The English Patient shows the intimate interconnection between sustenance and the pain and suffering of life as humans endure the experiences of love and war.
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