The atomic bomb the United States drops on Japan symbolizes the worst fears of western aggression. The characters in the novel try to escape the war and all its horrors by remaining with the English patient in a small Italian villa in the hills. Staying close to the patient, they can immerse themselves in his world of the past rather than face the problems of the present. The atomic bombs rip through this silence of isolation, reawakening the characters, especially Kip, to the reality of the outside world pressing in upon them. The bomb reminds them of the foolishness and power of nation-states and reminds them of the violability of their enclosed environment.
In Chapter II, Hana reflects to herself that "there seemed little demarcation between house and landscape." Such an organic depiction of the villa is symbolically important to the novel. Straddling the line between house and landscape, building and earth, the villa represents both death and rebirth. War has destroyed the villa, making huge holes in walls and ceilings. But nature has returned to fill these holes, replacing the void with new life. Such an image mirrors the spiritual death and rebirth of the villa's inhabitants, the way they learn to live again after the emotional destruction of war.