The English Patient Questions and Answers
by Michael Ondaatje

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What are the main themes of The English Patient from Almasy's perspective?

The three main themes in The English Patient from Almasy's perspective are survival, love as an individual issue, and loyalty. Almasy is close to death, and questions why he remains alive in the face of war. He also reflects on his love for Katherine; for him, their bond was more important than politics and war. He also felt more loyal to that love than to his wartime mission, betraying his commitment to serve as a German spy.

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For the so-called English patient Ladislaus de Almásy, who turns out to be Hungarian, the primary theme is survival. Knowing that he is close to death, he wonders about the value of life and questions why he remains alive in the face of massive devastation wrought by war. For him, this question has painful personal dimensions because he survived the plane crash that led to the death of his lover, Katherine. For Hana, not knowing his story leads her to see his death as a sacrifice.

That haunting question connects to the second theme affecting Almásy: love as an individual issue. He felt that their love was stronger and more important than politics, while she was torn by her patriotism, if not her devotion to her husband.

The third, closely related theme is loyalty and betrayal. Almásy is a man without a country. He wishes for an "earth that had no maps" or borders. He had already been co-opted by serving as a German spy though he did not believe in the goals of the Reich, but his love for Katherine made him betray that commitment. Katherine attracted him in part because she seemed a principled person, but ironically—had she lived—their future would have depended on her betrayal of her marriage.

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