Anil's Ghost

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With his first novel since the internationally acclaimed The English Patient, Booker Prize—winning author Michael Ondaatje gives us a work displaying all the richness of imagery and language and the piercing emotional truth that we have come to know as the hallmarks of his writing. Anil’s Ghost transports us to Sri Lanka, a country steeped in centuries of tradition, now forced into the late twentieth century by the ravages of civil war. Into this maelstrom steps Anil Tissera, a young woman born in Sri Lanka, educated in England and America, who returns to her homeland as a forensic anthropologist sent by an international human rights group to discover the source of the organized campaigns of murder engulfing the island. What follows is a story about love, about family, about identity, about the unknown enemy, about the quest to unlock the hidden past–a story propelled by a riveting mystery. Unfolding against the deeply evocative background of Sri Lanka’s landscape and ancient civilization, Anil’s Ghost is a literary spellbinder–Michael Ondaatje’s most powerful novel yet. From the Trade Paperback edition.
Curriculet Details
44 Questions
52 Annotations
3 Quizzes

Designed for students in 11th and 12th grades, this free digital curriculum contains annotations explaining Buddhism, forensic anthropology and the Sri Lankan civil war. It also contains interactive videos that support comprehension, such as videos about emerging themes, point of view and cultural perspective. Over the course of the book, students will answer Common Core questions and quizzes related to the subjects of literary devices, overarching themes, and character analysis. This free online unit will increase student engagement while building reading comprehension.

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Author's Note

Did you know that you can look up any unfamiliar word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers. Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently. Is there a word on this page you need to look up, such as "insurgents"? 
The setting of the story is Sri Lanka. (This annotation contains an image)


"The dawn comes up like thunder." This statement above is an example of what literary device? 
Since the setting of this novel is Sri Lanka and the characters are from that country, most readers will have the opportunity to learn about a new culture. Watch the following video to get more information about point of view and cultural perspective in fiction: (This annotation contains a video)
The speaker is referencing the parable of the lost son which is one of the parables of Jesus. If you are not familiar with this parable, you can read it on the website below. Keep this story in mind as you continue to read to see if the comparison of Anil to the prodigal is accurate or not.  (This annotation contains a link)
By making an allusion to lines by the Greek lyric poet Archilochus, what is Ondaatje suggesting about the Sri Lankan civil war? 
Here the author is alluding to the results of the Sri Lankan Civil War, which began on 23 July 1983. There was a revolt against the government by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (the LTTE, also known as the Tamil Tigers), with an estimated 80,000–100,000 people killed during its course. It is unclear which group is responsible for the deaths which Anil has been hired to investigate. 
Here we finally get concrete evidence of Anil's occupation. According to, "Forensic anthropologists are experts in analyzing human remains and for this reason are integral to a number of different types of forensic investigations. Oftentimes, forensic anthropologists are called on after mass disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis in order to assist in identifying human remains. They are also used at crime scenes to help recover evidence." 
This phrase takes the reader by surprise, because the phrase is usually worded as "a lot of water under the bridge," meaning a lot of things have happened since then. What does Anil's rephrasing of the quote tell us about her character and her experiences? Use textual evidence for support. 
Based on the textual evidence from Sarath's observations, if Anil is correct and the bone she picked up is NOT that of a sixth-century monk, who would most likely be responsible for its presence with the ancient bones? 
Cerberus is the three-headed guard dog of Hades. (This annotation contains an image)
What impressions is the author creating about Dr. Perera by using metaphors like "roving snapping dog" and "Cerberus"? 
The author is making the supposition that anyone who is able to read one of the earliest known forms of writing (below) should easily be able to read English upside-down. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on textual evidence, with which of the following statements would Anil most agree? 
Which of the following overarching themes is best supported by this passage? 
Seviche is a seafood dish popular in the coastal regions of the Americas, especially Central and South America. The dish is typically made from fresh raw fish cured in citrus juices, such as lemon or lime, and spiced with ají or chili peppers. (This annotation contains an image)
Selfridges is a chain of high end department stores in the United Kingdom. It was founded by Harry Gordon Selfridge in 1909. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of Cullis' qualities would be the one positive, according to Anil? 
James Bigglesworth (A.K.A. "Biggles") is a fictional pilot and adventurer, the title character and main hero of the Biggles series of youth-oriented adventure books written by W. E. Johns. (This annotation contains an image)
It's clear from these passages that the job Anil is trying to do could be personally dangerous as well as frustrating. If you were Anil, how would you explain what you are hoping to accomplish by returning to Sri Lanka and searching for bodies? Use textual evidence for support. 
Watch the following video about emerging themes and then consider whether Sarath's observation about the law could be considered an emerging theme in this novel. (This annotation contains a video)
Based on Anil's comments in this passage, which of the following best describes her mood at this point in her investigations? 
Think about this observation from Sarath. Does it surprise you that an adult would want someone even more elderly to teach them 'how to be old'? Who are all of the 'teachers' in your life? 
The more common phrase is to 'have blood on your hands,' meaning that you participated in something for which you now feel guilty and responsible. How does Sarath's wording of this common phrase change the meaning? Analyze what his phrasing could symbolize. 
When Sarath observes, "You're six hours away from Colombo and you're whispering--think about that," what is he inferring? 
When the author notes that Anil feels at ease in foreign countries, yet feels completely uncertain in her own home country, this point of view supports which literary device? 
According to PBS, "the Laetoli footprints were formed and preserved by a chance combination of events -- a volcanic eruption, a rainstorm, and another ashfall. When they were found in 1976, these hominid tracks, at least 3.6 million years old, were some of the oldest evidence then known for upright bipedal walking, a major milestone in human evolution." (This annotation contains an image)
In her delirious state, Anil makes an interesting connection: "To perspire. To aspire. Discuss." What is the connection between perspiration and aspiration? How might these terms connect to a theme of the story? Feel free to use the Define feature if necessary. 
Note that this section is in italics, while the rest of the narrative is not. This could indicate a number of differences between this section and the rest--it could be a flashback, it might be a preview of a scene to come, it may be something that Anil imagined has happened while in her delirious state (like the monkeys). Reread the italicized section and make a prediction about why it is italicized. 
Sarath gives Anil an interesting response to her question. You would expect Sarath to tell Anil that yes, she can trust him. Instead he says she HAS to trust him--but not that he is trustworthy. What do you make of this unexpected shift in semantics? 
What does the way in which Anil acquired her first name suggest about her character? 
Hoppers are soft leavened stove-top flatbreads, a kind of cross between pancakes and bread, that cook in wok-shaped pans (hopper makers) to make a bowl-shaped bread. The middle area of the “bowl” is thick, with thin almost frilly edges all round. Here's an easy recipe to try them yourself: (This annotation contains a link)
Based on context clues from the next paragraph, what would most closely match the definition of the phrase "in situ"? 
A beedi is a thin, Indian cigarette filled with tobacco flake and wrapped in a leaf tied with a string at one end. The name is derived from the Marwari word beeda—a leaf wrapped in betel nuts, herbs, and condiments. (This annotation contains an image)

The Grove of Ascetics

With which of the following themes would Palipana agree? 
According to the Bhagavad-gita (or Classics of Indian Spirituality), the material world means these five elements, gross and subtle. Earth, water, air, fire, sky are gross. Mind, intelligence, and ego are subtle. 
The diya reddha, which is similar to a sarong, is the most widely used bathing costume by women of Asian countries including Sri Lanka. The majority of women in Asia when bathing outdoors at a river, a hillside water spout, a well or at the community tap convert the cloth they wear waist downwards into a diya reddha. Diya reddha literally means 'water cloth' or cloth used for bathing. (This annotation contains an image)
Why might the author have included this passage about Ananda the miner and set it off by using italics? 
An ambalama is a simple structure designed to provide shelter for the travelers. There were no charges involved in using an ambalama. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following is a similarity between Anil's breakup and Othello's plans for Desdemona? 
Both this scene in Anil's Ghost and the last act of Othello describe the ending of relationships. Follow the link to read Othello's opening speech in Act 5 scene 2, then answer the question that follows: (This annotation contains a link)
Ritigala is an ancient Buddhist monastery and mountain in Sri Lanka. The ruins and rock inscriptions of the monastery date back to 1st century BCE. It is located 43 kilometers away from the ancient monastic city of Anuradhapura. (This annotation contains an image)
The fact that Palipana is best able to decipher the true stories behind the epigraphs only as his eyesight is fading is an example of which literary device? 
The Kaludiya Pokuna, or Dark Water Pond is one of a handful of Buddhist holy sites located on the peak of Mihintale. A long series of steps takes visitors up to Mihintale, where legend has it that Buddhism was first introduced to Sri Lanka. The pond itself seems to be deep black in color, which is due to the clusters of trees, boulders, and mountains that surround it. (This annotation contains an image)
According to the University of North Carolina, the decision to remove or leave a foreign object inside the body depends on many factors: type of object, size of the object, and the location. Because removing the nails would probably cause excessive bleeding, Anil decides to leave them in until they have arrived at the hospital.  
Anil's Ghost Quiz 1 

A Brother

Designed in and named after Jaipur, India, the Jaipur Foot is a low cost, artificial lower limb manufactured in India that has transformed the lives of innumerable land mine victims and other amputees in India and other developing countries. (This annotation contains an image)
Reread the paragraph where Gamini, Sarath's brother, describes the children's ward. Based on the author's description, which adjective below best describes Gamini's impression of this setting? 
Which of the following sentences is NOT an example of the difference in personality that Dr. Corea seems to have undergone during his captivity? 
This is an instance of foreshadowing. Watch the video below for more information on this literary device, and then make a prediction about what Gamini may have recovered from and why it is considered a "family secret." (This annotation contains a video)
Which definition for the word feral is implied through Anil's description of Gamini? 
The name Amydgala is actually derived from the Greek and meant to denote the almond-like shape of this region in the medial temporal lobe. (This annotation contains an image)
Why is Anil a neutral herald through her forensic work? 
After reading about Hamlet's encounter with the clown/gravedigger and Anil's work in Oklahoma, which of the following inferences is supported by both texts? 
The reference to Yorick is from Shakespeare's Hamlet, Act 5 scene 1. Read the following excerpt from Hamlet and explanation of the graveyard scene before answering the next question: (This annotation contains a link)
The village of Borrego Springs is surrounded and protected by the 600,000 acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. It is San Diego county's only desert community and California's first Dark Sky Community. (This annotation contains an image)
What is Anil really asking when she says, "Who else is there, I wonder"? 


Based on textual evidence, which of the following adjectives best describes Anil's tone in this statement? 
Anil may have been embarrassed and irritated, but the actions of the soldier were meant to intimidate more than anything. If you could summarize in a sentence the message that the soldier is trying to send through his actions, what would it be? 
Forensic facial reconstruction is the process of recreating the face of an individual (whose identity is often not known) from their skeletal remains through an combination of artistry, forensic science, anthropology, osteology, and anatomy. It is easily the most subjective—as well as one of the most controversial—techniques in the field of forensic anthropology. (This annotation contains an image)
Click on the link to listen to Tom Waits' version of "Heigh Ho Heigh Ho" from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This is certainly not the Disney version of the song, and it's understandable that Ananda would be terrified waking up to this song!  (This annotation contains a video)
Having read a summary of the seven ages of man in Shakespeare's As You Like It, which of the following ages would best describe most of the men Sirissa encounters on a daily basis? 
Jaques in Shakespeare's "As You Like It" would definitely agree with Sirissa's vision of the world as a stage. Read his speech from Act II scene VII before you answer the next question: (This annotation contains a link)
Anil's teacher is speaking symbolically in this quote: the one identified victim can stand for or symbolize the many, many unidentified victims in a conflict. Watch the following video to better understand an author's use of symbolism: (This annotation contains a video)
Ramazzini is called 'the father of occupational medicine.'" Born in Italy, Ramazzini was drawn to diseases suffered by workers. He visited workplaces, observed workers' activities, and discussed their illnesses with them. The medicine courses he taught were dedicated to the diseases of workers. (This annotation contains an image)
In this section, the author tells us that Anil needed communication with the outside world. What does the fact that she chooses to call Dr. Perera infer about Anil's character? 
Make a prediction about why Ananda would want the dead to be peaceful. Then read the rest of this section to see if your prediction was accurate. 
Why wouldn't anyone from the village recognize the reconstruction that Ananda had completed? 
Think about the significance of the change in the sign at Mihintale. What comparisons can you make to other settings which embrace the themes of both danger and beauty? 
In French, one interpretation of le grand meaulnes is "the lost estate." 
To which of the following Shakespeare plays could Anil be referring in the highlighted line?  
Sri Lanka’s plumbago (or graphite) is a unique product. The country produces lump and chippy dust graphite and is the world’s only source of these particular materials. (This annotation contains an image)
Anil's Ghost Quiz 2 

The Mouse

The author chooses to introduce this chapter "The Mouse" using which of the following literary structures? 
Keep this information about Gamini in mind as you continue reading. The information that we've gathered about Gamini so far doesn't seem to align very well with this relaxed and peaceful early version of the character. 
Which definition for the word flush is implied through the author's description of Gamini's actions in this paragraph? 
If Gamini's intention was just to shoot out the flame of the candle with a pellet, why do you think he would have set the candle so close to the card party? 
According to the Spiritual Science Research Foundation, "Sixth sense, or subtle perception ability, is our ability to perceive the subtle-dimension or the unseen world of angels, ghosts, Heaven (Swarga), etc. It also includes our ability to understand the subtle cause and effect relationship behind many events, which is beyond the understanding of the intellect. Extrasensory perception (ESP), clairvoyance, premonition, intuition are synonymous with sixth sense or subtle perception ability." 

Between Heartbeats

Red River is a 1948 Western film, giving a fictional account of the first cattle drive from Texas to Kansas along the Chisholm Trail. Follow the link below if you'd like to see the clip with which Anil and Leaf were so obsessed: (This annotation contains a video)
Tetralogy of Fallot is a rare condition caused by a combination of four heart defects that are present at birth. These defects, which affect the structure of the heart, cause oxygen-poor blood to flow out of the heart and into the rest of the body. Infants and children with tetralogy of Fallot usually have blue-tinged skin because their blood doesn't carry enough oxygen. (This annotation contains an image)
Which statement best describes the impact of the last line in this scene on our impression of the outcome of the operation? 
Which line best explains the government's concern for the Sri Lankan villagers? 
In this exchange between the nurse and Gamini, we see two instances of Gamini's impact on those around him. The parents of the saved boy changed his name to Gamini, and the nurse is doing training presumably because Gamini commented at the end of the surgery that she should become a doctor. Has anyone ever done something to influence you that they weren't aware of? 
Anil realizes there are several women Gamini could be describing as he relates this story. Using context clues, who do you think is the woman in Gamini's story? 
According to, The Lightning Field (1977), by the American sculptor Walter De Maria, is a work of Land Art situated in a remote area of the high desert of western New Mexico. It is comprised of 400 polished stainless steel poles installed in a grid array measuring one mile by one kilometer. The poles are spaced 220 feet apart and have solid pointed tips that define a horizontal plane. (This annotation contains an image)
Every culture has its own burial rites. Refer to the list of items in King Tut's tomb and compare them with the description of the Chinese tomb before answering the next question: (This annotation contains a link)
Which of the following items were found both in the Chinese and the Egyptian tombs, even though they occurred in two completely different places and roughly 1000 years apart? 

The Life Wheel

In Kerala there is a man called a Toddy Tapper. He is a professional tree climber who specializes in collecting the sap from the bark of the coconut tree. He sells the sap to the local Toddy shops. After a couple of hours, the Toddy sap ferments and becomes a sour and potent alcoholic beverage. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on this surprising interaction between Anil and Sarath, which of the following would NOT be a theme which could be supported by the text? 
In the passage you just read, which line contains figurative language? 
The American slang term "beard" originally referred to anyone who acted on behalf of another, in any transaction, to conceal a person's true identity. Think about why Sarath and Gamini would need to conceal their true identities from each other. Or were they trying to reveal their true identities to each other in that scene? 
Despite Gamini's observation that he was Sarath's "least favourite relative," based on evidence from the text, it can be inferred that 
Pietas, translated variously as "duty", "religiosity" or "religious behavior", "loyalty", "devotion", or "filial piety" (English "piety" derives from the Latin), was one of the chief virtues among the ancient Romans. Below is an example of a painting of Savitra saving her husband from Death. (This annotation contains an image)
President Katugala is fictional, but is most probably based on the 3rd President of Sri Lanka from January 2, 1989 to May 1, 1993 Ranasinghe Premadasa. He was assassinated in Colombo in a suicide bombing. (This annotation contains an image)


Buduruwagala is an ancient buddhist temple in Sri Lanka which consists of seven statues and belongs to the Mahayana school of thought. The statues date back to the 10th century. The gigantic Buddha statue still bears traces of its original stuccoed robe and a long streak of orange suggests it was once brightly painted. (This annotation contains an image)
One fundamental belief of Buddhism is often referred to as reincarnation--the concept that people are reborn after dying. Explain how this concept can be found symbolically both in Ananda's work on the statue and in Ananda's life. 
A figure of Buddha which has not yet undergone the eye ceremony. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following Buddhist concepts best describes the wisdom Ananda has gained at the end of the story? 
Anil's Ghost Quiz 3