Ondaatje's The English Patient and Rewriting History
Stephanie M. Hilger, in her paper "Ondaatje's The English Patient and Rewriting History," situates the novel within the long-standing Western tradition of writing about the cultural "Other," from Herodotus to Michel de Montaigne to Rudyard Kipling. Michel de Certeau's notion of history serves as a reference point for the analysis of Ondaatje's presentation of the "English" patient's story as well as of twentieth-century history. Hilger argues that the protagonist's physical mutilation is a metonymic representation of post-World War II and postcolonial consciousness. In the same way that the characters in the novel attempt to understand the mystery that is the "English" patient, Ondaatje's readers are led on a search for the understanding of a brutal and fragmented reality. While the novel questions and undermines the opposition between the "civilized" and the "barbarian," Ondaatje also suggests that certain historical realities, such as the dropping of the atomic bomb, force characters into a binary that they have been trying to deconstruct throughout the narrative.