Kip was uncomfortable with the respect his skill earned him among the ranks of men. Because of his race, he was used to being anonymous and invisible in England, and he was comfortable with that. He chose to leave his duty in England and travel on ship with a hundred other sappers to Italy, where he could be comfortable with his invisibility once more. Kip had built up emotional defenses in England, and it was not so easy for him to take them down.

Kip remembers his family at home. His brother had been the one who courted confrontation, who refused to give into anything that implied English domination. Kip's brother was put in prison and remained there for a long time. Though Kip admired his brother, he knew he would be different, as he hated confrontation and searched for effective means around it. Kip would stand still, invisible, until he was allowed to do whatever he wanted. He joined the army in his brother's place. His brother was not upset, and was confident that Kip possessed the trick of survival.

The chapter closes with Kip remembering his sapper test, the time Lord Suffolk watched him as he defused a bomb on the famous chalk horses on the hills of Westbury. Miss Morden had been so nice to him, bringing him refreshments without fear of her own safety. But now she was gone.

Analysis

Through Kip, Ondaatje further explores the idea of nationality and the quality of being "nationless." The English patient tells Kip that the two of them get along so well because they are both "international bastards"—men born in one place who choose to live in another. Unlike his brother, Kip embraces the western world, and especially the English. He sings Western music, wears Western clothes, and makes it his job to defuse bombs in order to save English lives. Far from being "nationless," Kip has strongly attached himself to the English nation, and knows he could never imagine doing the same job for the Germans.

Much of Kip's goodwill toward the English emerges from his experience with Lord Suffolk and his staff. Suffolk is astute enough to recognize Kip's skill and character, and thus not only trains him in bomb defusing, but also welcomes him into the "family," even taking him to see Peter Pan when he wanted to. Kip is touched by the fact that this "true English gentleman" would look past his race and take him under his wing. It becomes evident that Kip feels closer to his English family than to his Indian one. Though he talks sadly about his mentor Lord Suffolk and his premature demise, he seems relatively nonchalant about the fate of his Indian family. When Hana asks if Kip's father is still alive, he replies as if it is not much concern to him: "Oh, yes. I think. I've not had letters for some time. And it is likely that my brother is still in jail."

Kip's experience highlights the fallacy of being "nationless." Though he is born of a different nation—albeit part of the British empire—Kip finds a nation to which he attaches himself both in nature and in action. Such an understanding of Kip's connection to a nation sheds light on the English patient's connection to his own nation, as the patient himself invites this comparison. The patient has left his European home and joined the nation that is the desert. There, like Kip, he has found his skills were most useful, and feels able to erase his past so that he may be known and valued for what he has to offer the people of his new nation, the desert. Escaping one's nation, then, becomes a larger metaphor for escaping one's past, and creating a new identity: one that is based on personal character.