Summary (Masterplots II: Short Story Series, Revised Edition)
In the first of the four numbered sections of “Guests of the Nation,” the main characters are introduced. Though Ireland and the Irish Republican Army (IRA) are not named explicitly, through mention of names such as Claregalway, reference to the British as foreigners, and dialectal expressions such as “divil” (devil), the implicit premise is established that two ordinary British soldiers have been abducted by the IRA and have been held on a rural farm for a period of several days or weeks. Just as the British soldiers got on well with their prior IRA captors in the Second Battalion, even attending Battalion dances, so they play cards with their present captors and are on friendly terms with them and the somewhat peevish old woman who owns the farm where they are being kept, largely because of Belcher’s considerate actions toward her.
The tempo of the plot, which takes place in only two days, quickens in the second through fourth sections. In the second section, after the description of yet another nocturnal argument about religion and capitalism between the devout Irishman Noble and his contentious, atheistic captive Hawkins, Bonaparte discovers (as does the reader) from his superior Donovan that their British prisoners are actually hostages, who soon may be shot in retaliation for the threatened execution of imprisoned IRA members. Indeed, as narrated in the third section, the next evening Donovan calls at the farm to implement the retaliation...
(The entire section is 434 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Guests of the Nation Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
The story opens with two Englishmen, Hawkins and Belcher, being held prisoner by a small group of rebels, somewhere in Ireland, during the Irish Rebellion. They all play cards and argue about politics, religion, and capitalists. The group is housed in the cottage of an old lady, who in addition to tending the house engages the men in arguments. She is a religious woman and quick to scold the men if they displease her.
Bonaparte, the narrator, and his compatriot, Noble, become friends with the English soldiers. Jeremiah Donovan, the third Irishman, remains aloof from the others. He is the officer in charge of the small Irish group. One evening Donovan tells Bonaparte and Noble that the Englishmen are not being held as prisoners, but as hostages. He informs them that if the English kill any of their Irish prisoners, the Irish will order the execution of Hawkins and Belcher in retaliation. This news disturbs Bonaparte and he has difficulty facing his prisoners the next day.
A few days later, Feeney, an intelligence offi- cer for the rebels, arrives with the news that four Irishmen were shot by the English and that Hawkins and Belcher are to be executed that evening. It is left to Donovan to tell Bonaparte and Noble.
In order to get the Englishmen out of the cottage, Donovan makes up a story about a transfer; on the way down a path into the bog, he tells them the truth. Hawkins does not believe him. But as the truth settles in, Hawkins...
(The entire section is 486 words.)