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The English Patient | Study Guide

Michael Ondaatje

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The English Patient | Characters

Character Description
The English Patient Ladislaus de Almásy, known as the English patient after his accident, is a Hungarian count whose identity is obscured by burns suffered in a plane crash. He is an intelligent, gruff man who has spent most of his life exploring and mapping the Sahara in Libya. He becomes a spy for the Germans during World War II after a tragic love affair with Katharine. Read More
Caravaggio David Caravaggio is a thief turned Allied spy, who is caught by the Germans and tortured. He is an old friend of Hana's father Patrick, and he loves Hana. Read More
Hana Hana is a young Canadian nurse traumatized by her experiences treating injured and dying soldiers. She seeks safety and autonomy, cares for the English patient's burns, and finds comfort for a time in an intimate relationship with Kip. Read More
Kip Kip is a young Indian sapper who underwent training in England to disarm bombs. He is in constant danger as he follows the Germans' retreat through Italy, and he enjoys a degree of intimacy with Hana before his faith in the West is shattered by the dropping of the atomic bombs at the end of the war. Read More
Anna Anna is a mistress to a German officer. She captures Caravaggio's image on film at a party but doesn't give him away when he sneaks into her room to steal her camera.
Bagnold Bagnold is a British explorer who conducts explorations in the Sahara. He writes poetically about dunes.
Bedouin boy An unnamed, attractive Bedouin boy unselfconsciously dances in front of a fire.
Bedouin caretaker An unnamed Bedouin man helps care for the English patient. The man carefully treats his burns and feeds him food from his own mouth.
John Bell John Bell is an explorer interested in the possible existence and location of Zerzura, a mythical city. He is Egypt's director of Desert Surveys.
Bermann Dr. Bermann is a desert explorer who theorizes that the area of Gilf Kebir was once the site of a large lake. Along with Almásy, he hypothesizes that three wadis on the Gilf Kebir make up the legendary Zerzura. He accompanies Madox and others on expeditions in the region.
Hassanein Bey Hassanein Bey is a desert explorer and the author of a book that includes a descriptive passage about sandstorms in the desert.
Wasfi Bey His Excellency Wasfi Bey is one of the desert explorers who carry out expeditions in the Gilf Kebir.
Lieutenant Blackler Lieutenant Blackler is a talented sapper, and the one to tell Kip of Lord Suffolk's death.
Captain Carlyle Captain Carlyle is a sapper who makes a fatal mistake while working with frozen oxygen to disarm a bomb. He is knocked unconscious and set on fire in the pit when the gas comes into contact with the explosive.
Casparius Casparius is a photographer who takes part in desert expeditions led by Madox and others.
Geoffrey Clifton Geoffrey Clifton is a British Intelligence officer who works undercover as an accompanying desert explorer with Madox and the English patient. He is in love with his new wife and is driven to murder and suicide by his jealousy over her affair with the English patient.
Kemal el Din Prince Kemal el Din is a desert explorer who undertakes the "first great modern expedition" and later joins Bell, the English patient, and Madox in a final expedition before the war.
The English patient's aunt The unnamed aunt of the English patient teaches him to play a memory game with cards as a child.
Fenelon-Barnes Fenelon-Barnes is a desert explorer who thinks his discovery of a fossilized tree should be named after him. He is likely a pedophile.
Giannetta Giannetta is Caravaggio's wife.
Sam Hardy Sam Hardy is an English sapper who trains and works with Kip. He is one of the few soldiers who doesn't have racist attitudes toward Kip, and the two men are very close.
Mr. Harts Mr. Fred Harts is Lord Suffolk's chauffeur. Harts assists Suffolk in disarming bombs.
Dr. Kadar Dr. Kadar is a geologist who participates in the desert expedition with Madox and others.
Katharine Katharine Clifton is the beautiful, intelligent, young wife of Geoffrey Clifton who has a passionate but abusive affair with the English patient. She is concerned that the knowledge of the affair will drive her husband insane.
Madox Madox is an aristocratic British explorer and geographer who leads several expeditions with his friend, the English patient, in the Sahara in the 1930s. He is distraught over the war and commits suicide in a British church.
Madox's wife Madox's wife is present in the church when he shoots himself, and she holds her husband's body in her arms.
Medicine man The Bedouin medicine man is a knowledgeable traveling healer who carries a multitude of remedies in jars he wears as a shimmering, clinking cape. He presses the soles of his feet together to make a cup in which to mix the ingredients.
Medievalist The unnamed medievalist is an older man, and a friend of Kip's. He is a specialist flown in to advise the army on the medieval towns of Italy, but he is most interested in the art of the region.
Miss Morden Miss Morden is the loyal secretary of Lord Suffolk, and a friend of Kip's. She is a friendly, efficient woman who enjoys her drink and can easily identify the right trainees for her boss.
Padre The padre is an unnamed Italian priest who is grateful to have the opportunity to see the Sistine Chapel ceiling, although he worries about the consequences of lighting flares in such a holy place to do so.
Patrick Patrick is a Canadian soldier, and Hana's beloved father. He dies alone in a dovecot from burns suffered in the war.
Poliziano Poliziano is a 15th-century Italian intellectual. The English patient believes the villa once belonged to Poliziano.
Ezra Pound Ezra Pound is an American poet captured and caged by Axis forces in Italy.
Roundell Roundell is a British government aid and close acquaintance of Katharine's.
Sergeant Shand Sergeant Shand is a British officer who arranges for Kip and others to get a glimpse of the Sistine Chapel.
Lord Suffolk Lord Suffolk is the eccentric British nobleman who heads a training program for soldiers who wish to become sappers—experts at bomb disarmament. Suffolk recognizes and appreciates Kip's character as well as his mind for mechanics. He becomes his mentor.
Suffolk's wife Lord Suffolk's wife accompanies him to dinners with the young sapper trainees and others.
Miss Swift Miss Swift is a female aviator who shies away from society but enjoys the company of her lover, Lord Suffolk.
Tebu man An old Tebu man from a desert tribe refuses to reveal any of the desert's secrets to foreigners like the English patient and Bermann. He is a caravan driver.
Ranuccio Tommasoni Ranuccio Tommasoni is the German soldier who orders and oversees Caravaggio's torture and disfigurement. He is suspicious of Caravaggio and interrogates him.
Walpole Walpole is a worker in Egypt's Desert Surveys who participates in the desert expedition with Madox and others.
Williamson Williamson is a desert expert whose theory about three wadis in the Gilf Kebir informs the English patient and Berman about the location of Zerzura.
Woman The Germans force an unnamed, innocent woman to cut off Caravaggio's thumbs with a razor blade. She refuses to do more.
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