Study Guide

The English Patient Kip (Naveen Andrews)

Kip (Naveen Andrews)

Minesweeper

Think of Kip Singh as the little smiley face at the top of the window in the classic Windows computer game Minesweeper. He's cool and collected (just look at the shades on that smiley) and frowns when a mine explodes.

Okay, that's simplifying his role. Kip is much more complex than an easy 8x8 mode of Minesweeper. He's an expert 30 x 24 field, so let's start sweeping.

Kip shows us that there's danger lurking everywhere, and that it takes expert, patient skill to diffuse that danger. Whether it's under a piano, in a statue, or in the middle of the road, there could be a bomb just waiting to go off. The English patient's memories might seem like little landmines of their own, but the ones Kip deals with are far dangerous and deadly.

It's a high stress job, so Kip finds comfort with Hana, the nurse. However, there is no future for them. Hana is afraid Kip will die because she is cursed, and because he has such a high-risk job, and Kip isn't going to give up his job until all the mines are gone.

Because of his dangerous job, he puts up an emotional barrier and a physical barrier between himself and Hana. In the movie, you often see them separated—like by a bedsheet when he is bathing. After his friend dies, Kip shuts himself in a barn with Hana on the other side of the wall. He won't let her in.

Kip and Hana have a sweet, romantic young love that is the opposite of the almost-violent possessive love between Almásy and Katharine. Kip and Hana's love is best represented by this conversation they have after a night of lovemaking:

HANA: If one night, I didn't come to see you, what would you do?

KIP: I'd try not to expect you.

HANA: Yes, but if it got late and, I hadn't shown up.

KIP: Then I'd think, there must be a reason.

HANA: You wouldn't come to find me? That makes me never want to come here. Then I tell myself, he spends all day searching. In the night he wants to be found.

KIP: I do. I do want you to find me. I do want to be found.

They dance around the issues of ownership that Almásy and Katharine are mired in. But even though Hana and Kip are younger, they seem to have a more mature love. Maybe because they have both experienced so much during the war, passion is hard to come by.

Kip, Meet Kipling

Speaking of ownership, another scene lets Kip explore this topic on a global scale. The patient likes to be read to, and Rudyard Kipling (that imperialist) is one of his favorite authors.

Kip says, "I can't read these words. I can't read them. They stick in my throat." Almásy asks, "What is it exactly you object to: the writer, or what he's writing about?" And Kip responds,

"What I really object to, uncle, [is] the message everywhere in your book, no matter how slowly I read it, that the best thing for India is to be ruled by the British."

Kip is fiercely independent, which is another reason he decides to leave Hana in the end, and go off on his own.

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