In
what ways can relationships initiate change within? What happens when the
foundation of a relationship changes? A relationship is the way in which two
people are connected. Change is when something familiar becomes something
different. This shared connection can be the greatest gift a person can
receive, or it can become the worst event that a person can go through in their
lifetime.

 

In The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje, Kip is trained by Lord
Suffolk and Miss Morden to diffuse bombs for the military. The trainers die
from a bomb, giving Kip the drive to dispose of as many bombs as he can, to
save as many lives as he can. Hana experiences a similar traumatic event, which
gives her a drive to help life. While serving as a nurse and after caring for
so many injured soldiers, she receives a letter stating her father is dead.
Both Kip and Hana have traumatic events that drive them to do similar things,
save lives.

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Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys, follows the extremely difficult life of
Antoinette. Antoinette’s mother, Annette, treats her daughter as a problem, and
the relationship between daughter and mother shapes the life of the daughter.
This one negative relationship can be the root foreshadowing all negative
relationships Antoinette later develops. The relationship between Antoinette
and Annette defines Antoinette.

 

These relationships developed early in all the characters’ lives
and define whom they become later in their novels, with respect to their morals
and values. As the trauma of loss struck both Hana and Kip, they persevered to
achieve a position where they can prevent the loss of more life. Hana, a nurse
who has the knowledge to heal those wounded, and Kip who continued training to
ensure that no other lives would be lost the way those who he looked to as
family had been lost. While Antoinette has her own trauma, she does recognize
that some of it comes from her mother’s own traumatic life.

 

Kip is damaged due to a relationship he had with Lord Suffolk. Lord
Suffolk took Kip in, made him feel like family, and trained him to diffuse
bombs for the military. This connection, a sense of family, is a strong
relationship, which can leave heavy impressions on someone. “He had loved
Lord Suffolk and his strange bits of information. But his absence here, in
the sense that everything now depended on Singh, meant Singh’s awareness
swelled to all the bombs of this variety across the city of London (195).” Now that this
relationship is over, Kip feels compelled to rid the city of all bombs,
ensuring not another loss of life due to the same way Lord Suffolk had lost
his. Hana is also damaged, due to the wear from caring for all the injured
soldiers, after receiving the letter informing her of her father’s death.
“Nurses too became shell-shocked from the dying around them. Or from something
as small as a letter. They would carry a severed arm down a hall, or swab at
blood that never stopped, as if the wound were a well, and they began to
believe in nothing, trusted nothing. They broke the way a man dismantling a
mine broke the second his geography exploded. The way Hana broke down in the Santa Chiara Hospital,
when an official walked down the space between a hundred beds and gave her a
letter that told her of the death of her father (41).” The damage that happened to both Kip and
Hana is similar in the sense that it motivates them to save lives. Kip and Hana
eventually fall in love with each other, but find that Kip’s damage prevents
him from building a real relationship, due to his obsession with finding bombs.
“Later she will realize he never allowed himself to be beholden to her, or her
to him. She will state at the world in a novel, life it off the book and carry
it to a dictionary. Beholden. To be under obligation. And he, she knows, never
allowed that. If she crosses the two hundred yards of dark garden to him it is
her choice, and she might find him asleep, not from a lack of love but from
necessity, to be clear-minded towards the next day’s treacherous objects (128).” This quote
explains that Kip’s mind is too preoccupied, because his previous experiences
with Lord Suffolk leave him unable to allow himself to properly be there for
Hana. Kip is too worried about the possibility of Hana’s death, along with the
deaths of others, to allow him to be there for Hana.  In contrast to Kip’s inability to create
relationships, despite the damage done to Hana, she is still able to have
relationships with other people. This is apparent in the quote ” “Kip? Do you
hear me? I’m so happy with you. To be with you like this (129).” This shows that even though Hana cares for
the English Patient and dedicates herself to him, she can still build a
relationship with Kip. “However, for Kip, the patient’s idealized
“international” identity is shattered by the American bombing of
Hiroshima. This act of violence by what Kip calls a “white
nation” against a “brown nation” destroys Kip’s previous
idealization of the West, Europe, and especially Britain; it makes clear to him
the exploitation by these colonial nations of the non-Western peoples of the
world. His explosive anger at the Americans’ celebration of the nuclear bombing
of Japanese civilians, and his subsequent, very sudden, exit from both the
villa and from Hana’s life, forms the climax of the novel (Contantakis).” This is important, because it signifies the
change in Kip. Kip is able to overcome his inability to detach himself with the
military and his duty as sapper. Kip learns of the atomic bomb and is so
distraught by the news that he leaves the military and removes his insignia
from his uniform, signifying the end.  “Finally able to openly acknowledge
her father’s death, Hana achieves an emotional healing (Constantakis).” This
quote refers to Hana at the end of the novel, where she writes to her
stepmother Clara. This is a key moment in the novel, because it marks the first
time Hana is communicating her sense of grief to anyone.

 

The resolution Hana receives at the end of her novel is not shared with
Antoinette at the end of Wide Sargasso Sea.

 

 One of the first people spoken
about by Antoinette is her mother, and this is very telling of how Antoinette’s
dynamic with her mother actually is. “The Jamaican ladies had never approved of
my mother, ‘because she was pretty like pretty self (15).” Antoinette is explaining that to fully
understand her story and her damage, you must first understand the story of her
mother and her damage. While race plays a big role in the novel, Antoinette is
too young in the beginning to have any disposition towards race. “I never
looked at any strange negro. They hated us. They called us white cockroaches.
Let sleeping dogs lie. One day a little girl followed me singing, ‘Go away
white cockroach, go away, go away (20).'” This quote supports the negative societal
relationship between Antoinette and those who surround her. Despite the
treatment Antoinette receives, she tries to befriend a black girl by the name
of Tia. “I hated this frown and once I touched her forehead trying to smooth
it. But she pushed me away, not roughly but calmly, coldly, without a word; as
if she had decided once and for all that I was useless to her (18).” This quote
signifies the end of the relationship between Antoinette and Annette. This is
the exact moment in the novel, where Antoinette no longer puts forth any effort
to recognize a relationship with Annette. Needing to fill the marital role,
Christophine seemingly fills that role. “Christophine said loudly that it was
shameful to let Antoinette run wild, grow up thinking she was worthless and no
one cared  (23).” This quote shows Christophine putting
forward the mindset of a mother, who cares for her own. This is the first
appearance in the novel by which a character shows compassion towards
Antoinette. Christophine is showing that she knows Antoinette needs a mother figure
in her life and someone who cares for her. “With Christophine’s help, she makes
friends with a little black girl named Tia, though the friendship is not
unmarked by feelings of jealousy and rivalry. One day, after a quarrel, Tia
switches clothes with Antoinette, taking the latter’s newly laundered dress and leaving her own
shabbier one behind. Forced to don Tia’s dress, Antoinette returns home to find
her mother entertaining several wealthy white guests, who laugh at the child’s
tattered appearance. That night, Antoinette dreams she is walking in the forest
with someone who hates her and wakes in distress, feeling as though her world
is changing irrevocably (Loy).” This quotation speaks to the
relationship between Antoinette and those around her. Christophine is doing
what her maternal instincts are telling her to, and give Antoinette a friend,
so she isn’t lonely. Annette rips the clothes off and burns them, making
Antoinette feel horrible. This is a reoccurring event, Annette making
Antoinette feel miserable.

 

While both novels have key differences, the role relationships play is
very similar in character development, which consequently enriches the plots of
the novels. The Mother to daughter relationship between Antoinette and
Christophine is similar to that of Hana and Clara. These relationships are
similar, because Hana finds comfort in speaking with Clara about what has
damaged her for so long. This is similar to Antoinette and Christophine,
because, like Hana, Christophine is the only person whom Antoinette finds
comfort in. “Finally able to openly acknowledge her father’s death, Hana
achieves an emotional healing (Constantakis).” Hana is finally able to feel relief, much
like Antoinette must have felt, when she heard Christophine defending her to
Annette “Christophine said loudly that it was shameful to let Antoinette run
wild, grow up thinking she was worthless and no one cared (23).”

 

Both novels share the key factor in major relationships, but not all
turn out the same. Both Kip and Hana eventually move on from their damaged
pasts and find a way to heal. Kip moves back to India and starts a family. Hana
feels the closure she’s been looking for so long. Unfortunately, Antoinette
does not share the same outcome as Kip and Hana. Antoinette, much like her
mother Annette, is damaged too severely by the negative relationships she has
been put through and permanently withdraws into a realm of her own.

            The novels having two
absolute opposites of resolution speak towards the strength of relationships
between people. In the falling action of both novels, we learn how the
relationships have affected the characters spoken about. We find in The English
Patient that, while the mind is in a constant stage of panic, there is relief.
While you can do your best to save those around you, there are some you cannot
save, and that’s okay.

 

The main essential truth to be found throughout both novels is that
compassion, kindness, and caring go a long way for not only oneself, but also
those one truly cares about. Everyone is constantly fighting his or her own
inner demons, and what we cherish most dearly defines us as human beings.

 

If anything was to be learned, it is that relationships are truly
special. Relationships are what make human life so unique, the way we interact
with those around us and the way they interact back with us. These
relationships define who we are not only as people, but as a species and if
those relationships are positive, life is pretty amazing.