The English Patient

Characters as Portrayed Through Themes and Images

Patterns of imagery, symbol and metaphor inform a reading of the novel as much as character or plot. Discuss with close reference to The English Patient.

Whilst the four main characters of The English Patient are extremely powerful, and important to the reader's understanding of the story, they cannot stand alone without the patterns of imagery, symbolism and metaphor which underpin the text, and offer a complexity which extends beyond the literal level. These patterns reveal information about each character, and provide significant links between characters and ideas which lead to a greater understanding of the novel. Likewise, the plot would have little impact upon the reader were the novel not so densely coloured with these patterns of imagery, symbol and metaphor; amongst which skin, hands, mapping and the elements are particularly important.

A metaphorical idea which resonates throughout the novel, and is present in all of the characters (particularly the English patient and Caravaggio) is the concept of man as a sort of communal Book, whereby every aspect of his life, and his relationships with others are "mapped" onto him. This also operates literally, through the obvious markings of scars on the English...

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