War evokes different emotions and feelings for many people. Some are drafted and forced to serve, others volunteer their lives for a cause they believe in and some never even see a battle ground. Some live, some die, others are captured and become prisoners or hostages. But one thing is certain, for those who have actually seen war know first hand that it has the power to change and in most cases it does just that. In Frank O’Connor’s “Guests of the Nation,” two British soldiers are captured by the Irish Republic Army. Two young Irish soldiers are assigned to guard the captives. The British earn the trust and friendship of their young captors. Until one day the call of duty forces the Irish to carry out orders that forever change their perspective on the war and the duty that accompanies. In “Guests of the Nation,” O’Connor uses six elements of fiction to illustrate the conflict associated with the responsibility of duty and one’s personal morals in the circumstance of war.
Although this is a story of war and there is obviously external conflict between the opposing countries, it is the internal conflict of the Irish soldiers Bonaparte and Noble that help the reader understand how the weight of duty ultimately defeats personal morals during war. It is Bonaparte and Noble’s duty as an Irish soldiers in the IRA (Irish Republic Army) to guard the two captured British soldiers. Bonaparte feels the two men do not even need guarding, that they would not flee given the chance. He and Noble both have become bored with docile cottage life and would rather be out in the action fighting. Bonaparte soon finds out that he and Noble are going to be relived of there guarding duties but not how either of them had anticipated. “It was the…
… of something like this happening. Now he begins to feel a dilemma between what his duty might be to his country and how that duty will ultimately win out over any moral dilemma he might have to the men.
All five characters in this story are faced with dilemma be true to one’s self or one’s country. Although war is defiantly a divider it also has the power to bring together under moral and personal circumstances. War is what brought these men together and it is what ultimately lead the physical death of Hawkins and Belcher, but it also lead to a little piece of Noble and Bonaparte dying too. This war forever changed the lives of four men because the duty of war was held in above morals and friendships.
O’Connor, Frank. “Guests of the Nation.” Literature for Composition. 4th ed. Sylvan Barnet, et. al. New York: Harper Collins, 2008. 590-598.