For Hana, books represent a form of sanctuary after the trauma of nursing during the war and since she heard the news of the death of her father. By reading to the patient, and he claims this was on his request, she momentarily escapes from the events she has endured.
She also takes recourse in writing her thoughts in the spare pages of some of the books she has read. In this way, they become a repository of her emotions and she is able to contain them by placing the books back on the shelf.
It is ironic that she feels more secure or comforted while reading because the library is thought to have been a danger zone until Kip checks that it has not been mined. Literature may be interpreted, then, as a refuge for her but one that still holds an element of danger.
During the invasion of Italy, Kip worked in the sapper unit as one of many who constructed Bailey bridges to replace those damaged by the retreating enemy and to assist the Allies.
In terms of metaphors, this work represents his character in that he attempts to be a part of the process that brings peace (as well as defuse bombs), and tries to bridge the nations together. His final disillusionment with Imperialism and the English and Americans comes when he hears of the news of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and regards his endeavours as lost. The symbolic bridges he believed in are seen to have been destroyed.
One of the main backdrops to this novel depends on the English patient’s account of his time spent on expeditions in the desert and on the story of his rescue by a Bedouin tribe. This landscape, which he and his colleagues have attempted to map in the 1930s, comes to represent the dangers of mapping when Imperialism is involved.
It also symbolizes then how cartography and the apparently innocent notion of plotting courses is connected to the war as opposing powers needed the knowledge of the area to gain control.
The English Patient: Metaphor Analysis