Circumstances are perhaps one of the most powerful tools one could use in the art of persuasion. The “what if’s” that define such circumstances could go on endlessly into the night, as far as one’s imagination can creatively escort them. When considering circumstances of war (which can essentially be described as murder), it is important to note that one’s moral compass will be indefinitely intertwined with one’s actions, as well as one’s justification of those actions; one is also capable of talking one’s self into the acceptance of otherwise “forbidden” acts of violence or morally inappropriate acts.
In order to understand the conflict between one’s moral compass and an assumed incongruous act, one must understand the roots of one’s moral compass. In the short story “Guests of the Nation”, Bonaparte seems to have adopted his moral compass from religion, as interpreted through this quote: “I alone of the crowd saw Donovan raise his Webley to the back of Hawkins's neck, and as he did so I shut my eyes and tried to pray” (O’Connor 4). The fact that Boneaparte closed his eyes shows the reader that Bonaparte in no way wanted to witness the execution, and that his moral compass disagreed with the thought of murder. The mention of prayer hints at his affinity for religion, implying that his moral compass is rooted there.
O’Connor makes an interesting observation about the impending execution of Bonaparte’s hostages: “And all that time I was hoping something would happen; that they’d run for it, or that Noble would take over the responsibility from me” (4). Before the execution, Bonaparte was simply scared. He did not want to take part in this execution, supposedly because he felt it was immoral. This is a perfect example of one’s moral compass in action while under the intense pressure of an approaching breach of one’s sense of morality.
According to Dr. Shira Maguen and Dr.Brett Litz, who both hold PhD’s (one is Psychology and one in Mental Health, respectively), acting against your morality, or moral compass, is not remotely healthy. This transgression of the conscience can even be considered a disease or illness. As stated in a cohesively written article that was published in the PTSD Research Quarterly: “An act of serious transgression that leads to serious inner conflict because the experience is at odds with core ethical and moral beliefs is called moral injury.” The article goes on to state that these transgressions may come in many different forms, not just pulling the trigger of a gun or being directly associated with the immoral act. “Moral injury” can also come about via acts of commission/omission, witnessing someone else commit what one would consider a moral transgression, or watching intense acts of violence against other human beings. All three of these circumstances were present in “Guests of the Nation” with relation to Bonaparte’s morality. This article makes it abundantly clear that one can never completely...