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Volume 29, Number 2 (2004)

The English Patient and His Narrator: “Opener of the Ways”

  • Janis Haswell
  • Elaine Edwards
March 25, 2010


In The English Patient, storytelling allows the teller to continue to grow as a person; it adds to his or her sense of self by corroborating his or her identity. Michael Ondaatje's text develops two lines of narration: an official Narrator, who reveals himself only at the close of the novel, and a collaborative narration, made up of the stories or confessions of the novel's four main characters. These stories are enabled by the presence of the English patient, whose narrative, once delivered, serves as a pool in which the characters see reflections of their own truths. As the English patient provides an opportunity for the characters to reflect on and understand their own lives, the Narrator, in turn, provides a text made up of oral narratives that grows with its reading, and that readers can inhabit.