The English Patient
Michael Ondaatje
Contributed by Pearl Vahle
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Discussion Questions
  1. Does The English Patient follow a linear story structure? In other words, do events happen chronologically? If not, how would you characterize the structure of the novel?
  2. What is the best explanation for why Katharine Clifton leaves Almasy in the novel and returns to her husband?
  3. Why is Hana so drawn to the English patient? Who does he remind her of? Why is she willing to trade her safety for his company?
  4. What is Kip’s initial reason for coming to the villa? Why does he leave?
  5. If one takes Caravaggio out of the novel, it seems to hold up narratively and in terms of emotional impact. What purpose does he serve in the villa? Why is he brought in as an essential character?
  6. Why is Caravaggio so determined to reveal the English patient’s identity? Does the English patient seem particularly afraid of being found out?
  7. What is the significance of the moment when Kip catches the fuse box that might explode upon its fall from the shelf?
  8. Why does Geoffrey Clifton plan the murder-suicide even though the affair between his wife and Almasy is already over?
  9. What is Kip’s relationship to his own skin color? Does he feel inferior or superior to the English?
  10. Who is Hana ultimately loyal to? The English patient, Caravaggio, or Kip, or someone else?
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