The English Patient

by Michael Ondaatje

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Discuss the narrative structure and point of view in Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient.

Quick answer:

The author uses the recollections of each character, providing an insight into their private thoughts and emotions. The author is also able to present a dead character's voice giving us more information about his life.

Expert Answers

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The narrative structure of the novel is like a collage, mostly made up of the recollections of numerous, non-sequential memories of each of the four main characters. The recollections are inserted in between the main action of the story, including Hana's and Kip's love story and the revealing of the patient's true identity.

By not telling the story in a chronological structure, the author shows each character's private memories they would never share with anyone. The author is also able to explore the source of each character's private grief, as well as how they are able or unable to accept it.

The collage of memories is told from the point of view of each character, giving different points of view. He's even able to include the voice of a dead character, Katharine, by telling his story in this manner. Otherwise, we wouldn't know what kind of relationship Katherine had with the patient or know how her character felt and what she thought.

This type of narrative is a different way that history can be written, rather in just the traditional chronological form. It provides a framework for written history to be told through the voices of more than one perspective.

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