"Guests of the Nation" is a short story written by Frank O'Connor, first published in 1931, portraying the execution of two Englishmen held captive by the Irish Republican Army during the War for Independence. The story is split into four sections, each section taking a different tone. The first reveals a real sense of camaraderie between the English prisoners, with the two Englishmen being killed, and the final lines of the story describe the nauseating effect this betrayal has on the Irishmen. The very last sentence, often praised by critics, is reminiscent of Gogol's "and from that day forward, everything appeared to me as if in a different light."
• Guests Of The Nation is an ironic/sarcastic description of British Army hostages seized in the Irish war of Independence by Irish freedom fighters
• A hostage is victim of aggression in a brutal dispute between warring factions
• Belcher: Belcher is a big Englishman who is one of the hostages, he was the quieter of the two who ingratiated himself with the old woman of the house by helping her with her daily chores. Belcher had made her his friend for life. Belcher on realising his fate seemed to accept it as “whatever unforced seen thing he’d always been waiting for had come at last”. His sense organisation sees him preparing his own blindfold for his execution. His courage and generosity sees him request of his executioners that they finish off Hawkins first before he meets his own fate. This is further demonstrated in Belchers acknowledging to his executioners that they are only doing their duty. Belchers whole character and personality is found in his last statement. His Mrs had left eight years before “want away with another fellow and took the kid with her. I like the feeling of a home, as you may have noticed, but I couldn’t start another again after that”.
• Hawkins: Hawkins, the second hostage made his capturers look like fools when he showed that he knew the country better than they did. Hawkins knew Mary Brigid O’Connell and had learnt to dance traditional dances such as the walls of limerick. Hawkins had too much old talk and as a result lost at cards. He always argued with Noble into the early hours. He worried Noble about Religion with a string of questions that would puzzle a cardinal. He had a deplorable tone he could mix a variety of cursing and bad language into any conversation. He was a fright to argue but met his match in the old woman when she blamed a drought on Jupiter Pluvius a deity Hawkins was not familiar with. A communist and agnostic Hawkins always argued with Noble about capitalism and Religion. When it came to his execution Hawkins could not believe his fate he thought his chums were joking. He couldn’t understand why Noble wanted to plug him. Hawkins terror at the needless prospect of death highlights the futility of the conflict in terms of humanity and the friendships that developed between capturers and hostages. The actual execution of Hawkins provides a chilling climax to this episode.
• Jeremiah Donovan:
• Noble: Noble was a young volunteer who along with Bonaparte guarded the hostages. Noble’s character and personality is expressed in the story in his exchanges with Hawkins. Noble is a devout Catholic who had a brother a priest and worries greatly about the force and vigor of Hawkins terrible arguments. Noble shows his humanity in not wanting to be part of a deception telling the hostages that they were being shifted again. But yet he understood his duty and along with feeney undertook the order of preparing the graves at the far end of the bog. Horrified by the ritual of executing the hostages Hawkins pleading of friendship and community must have born heavily on him. Yet when it came to Belcher's execution Noble became the one who gave Donovan the nod to complete the act.
• Bonaparte: Bonaparte again a young man of war uncertain but probably glorious times is the narrator of this story. It’s not clear from the story the relationship between Bonaparte and the author but given O’Connor’s role in I.R.A some comparisons may well be drawn Bonaparte has the responsibility of telling a terrible and chilling story about a war of independence. These stories are testament to the butchery and subentry and futility of war and of this war in particular. The last paragraph of the story best describes the effect this episode had on both Bonaparte and Noble. Communicating on what happened in the bog to the old lady without saying what they did. The description by Noble by the little patch of bog stiffening into it. And Bonaparte “very lost and lonely like a child a stray in the snow. And anything that happened to me afterwards, I never felt the same about again."
"Guests of the Nation" is the title story of the 1931 Frank O'Connor short story collection of the same name. This collection includes:
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