Study Guide

The English Patient War

War

ALMÁSY: Am I being interrogated? You should be trying to trick me, make me speak German.

It's difficult to trust anyone during a war. Almásy and English soldiers have a mutual distrust of one another. Almásy is distrusted because of his nebulous identity, and he doesn't trust English soldiers because they captured him during the war.

HANA: There's a war. Where you come from becomes important.
ALMÁSY: Why? I hate this idea.

These lines foreshadow the ending, when Almásy is unable to return to Katharine because he cannot prove where he comes from. Him saying, "I hate this idea" so simply here might be the understatement of the movie.

KIP: The Germans left mines everywhere. The pianos were their favorite hiding places.

War destroys even seemingly innocent things. The monastery is damaged by bomb blasts, and not even a piano is safe. War tries its hardest to extinguish art itself.

MADOX: By order of the British Government: All international expeditions to be aborted by May 1939.

Prior to the war, the Egyptians and the British worked together, mapping the desert. But national security becomes the most important priority in a war, and the Egyptians don't want the British around making them a target.

MADOX: In a war, if you own the desert, you own North Africa.
ALMÁSY: Own the desert! (scoffs)

War is all about ownership, and we know how Almásy feels about ownership. He hates it. But what is the alternative?

NEWSREEL: Nowhere is there any wild patriotic excitement, but everywhere there is a deep hatred of war.

This movie reel adds some historical context to this point in time. England is reluctant to enter the war, just as Katharine is reluctant to stay in Egypt as war breaks out. But everything is beyond her control.

ALMÁSY: Thousands of people did die. Just different people.

This sounds cold, but it is an interesting point. Almásy couldn't have stopped the course of the war, and he didn't make it worse. He only changed it. But he changed it in a way that added many casualties to the Allied side.

MADOX: It's ghastly. It's like a witch hunt. Anybody remotely foreign is suddenly a spy. We didn't care about countries, did we? Brits, Arabs, Hungarians, Germans, none of that mattered did it? It was something finer than that.

Madox reiterates the point of how people worked together, in peace, before the war. War tears not just nations apart, but smaller communities too, like the community of international mapmakers in the desert.

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