The English Patient Questions and Answers
by Michael Ondaatje

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To what extent did the setting (time and place) of The English Patient affect the main characters?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I certainly think that the backdrop of the war has profound impacts on the lives of the main characters.  Almasy and Katherine only meet because of the war, the time period in which borders were strictly interpreted and the concept of "internationalism" was seen in a negative light.  Almasy and Katherine are also separated as a result of the setting.  The war causes Almasy to be captured and incapable of fulfilling his promise to Katherine that he would return.  Caravaggio's own narrative is highlighted because of the war.  His work as a spy and punishment, along with his eventual hunting for Almasy are all a result of the war and the conditions of the time period.  Kip's work as a bomb detonator is only present because of the war, as is Hanna's work along with her pain. The Italian villa serves to be the one haven or sanctuary where all of these individuals who are impacted by their condition of the war seek to find a realm that resides away from it.  In this, the setting, once again, impacts the behavior and motivations of the main character.

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