Duty At The Hands Of Friends

1359 words - 6 pages

Frank O’Connor’s “Guests of the Nation” is a compelling short story portraying the execution of two Englishmen held captive by two Irish guards. The story is set during the War of Independence. It is split into four sections, each section with a different tone. The first reveals a strong sense of friendship between the English prisoners and the guards. The prisoners, Belcher and Hawkins, and the guards, Bonaparte and Noble, act as if they have known each other for years. However, in the second sections, the reader discovers that this is not the case. Donovan, the IRA leader, comes to the men with interesting news. The guards realize that Belcher and Hawkins are being held hostage, and they will be executed. The third section outlines Bonaparte and Noble’s feelings toward the execution. In the final section of the story, Belcher and Hawkins are executed and the reader sees Bonaparte and Noble’s reaction. By using opposing diction and tone, O’Connor shows a contrast in the way Donovan feels about the Irish prisoners and how the guards feel about them. Duty means something different to Donovan than what it means to the guards. To Donovan, his duty is to his country, and to Bonaparte and Noble, their duty is to their new friendship with the prisoners. Through Bonaparte and Noble’s reaction to their friends execution coupled with Donavan’s easy response to his duties, O’Connor explores the difficulty of navigating friendship and duty in a time of war.
O’Connor establishes a friendship between the guards and the prisoners early in the story. He writes, “seeing that they were such decent chaps” (52), which shows that Bonaparte and Noble know that Belcher and Hawkins are truly great men. The word “chum” begins to become a word of endearment for the prisoners. It is seen numerous times throughout the entire story. Bonaparte says, “after a day or two we gave up all pretenses of keeping a close eye on them” (52). The men hit it off and became friends almost instantly. After only two days, they felt comfortable with each other. Bonaparte continues saying, “it is my belief that they never had any idea of escaping and were quite content to be where they were” (52). The guards knew that Belcher and Hawkins were so comfortable that they were not going anywhere. Several lines later Bonaparte says, “our guests, as I may call them,” (52) which shows that he sees the men as guests and not prisoners. Bonaparte also hints at the bond that Hawkins and Noble have when he says “Hawkins worried the soul out of Noble” (53). O’Connor uses the easy dialogue and camaraderie between the groups to establish the friendship between the guards and prisoners.
O’Connor gives a contrast, however, to this newfound friendship when he introduces Jeremiah Donovan. One night, while having tea with Donovan, Bonaparte says, “it suddenly struck me that he had no great love for the two Englishmen” (53). Donovan had made no effort to become friends with the prisoners. He is only holding the...

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