Guilty By Association/essay on Frank O'Connor's "Guests of the Nation"

Essay by brandon.boeschCollege, UndergraduateA, November 2009

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The setting within Frank O’Connor’s “Guests of the Nation” helped support his central idea that inexperienced soldiers are at risk for emotional breakdowns. The story began by explaining how the two English soldiers Belcher and Hawkins, had been caught in war and were hostages of the Irish Republic Army (IRA). The English soldiers were guarded by a few IRA soldiers and sent to the residency of an old Irish woman. At the old women’s home, the English hostages would help around the house, and came to be friends with the old women and the Irish guards (all except the supervising IRA soldier, Jeremiah Donovan). They would often play cards with each other, and got in long debates over religion.

During a friendly card game, Jeremiah Donovan approached the narrator, Bonaparte, and asked to speak with him in private. They went for a walk, and he told Bonaparte the possible fate of the hostages.

Under military orders, The English soldiers were to be shot if the English army killed any of their IRA prisoners. The next morning, news came down that four IRA prisoners had been shot. Donovan ordered his guard, Noble, and local intelligence officer, Feeney, to go dig a grave for the two hostages out in the marshy bog; while Donovan informed the hostages of their fate. The hostages were then escorted to their graves. At the grave site, the hostages were offered their last words and killed by Donovan. Both Noble and the Bonaparte wanted nothing to do with the deaths of their friends/hostages, but they had to follow to their military orders.

Hawkins’ military duty left him captured behind enemy lines during the Irish Civil War. His small figure contradicted his big mouth. He was very talkative, and would often get into heated religious debates with...