Guests of the Nation by Frank O'Connor

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What is the significance of the title of Frank O'Connor's short story "Guests of the Nation"? What literary technique is illustrated by the story's title?  

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The title of Frank O’Connor’s short story “Guests of the Nation” already implies an important literary technique that will be used throughout the work: the technique of irony.  The story is ironic from start to finish, beginning with the four words that constitute its title.

O’Connor’s story is about two British soldiers, Belcher and Hawkins, who have been captured by Irish forces during the Irish war for independence from Britain.  The Englishmen are being held in the cottage of an old Irishwoman in the remote Irish countryside. They are being guarded, very loosely, by two Irish guerillas, Noble and Bonaparte, who in turn are supervised by a cold, unfriendly Irish officer named Jeremiah Donovan.

During the course of their stay in the cottage, Noble and Bonaparte have actually become friends with their two captives. The four men spend much of their time together drinking tea and playing cards around a warm fireplace. Donovan seems jealous of the bond that has arisen among the four men, while the old lady actually seems to enjoy the presence of the four men in her home. Eventually, Donovan brings orders that the two Englishmen must be shot as a reprisal for the British army’s execution of some Irish prisoners it held. Donovan blunty explains the situation to Bonaparte:

"There were four of our lads shot this morning, one of them a boy of sixteen."

Later, he is even more blunt in addressing the two Englishmen:

"There were four of our fellows shot in Cork this morning...

(The entire section contains 507 words.)

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