Guests of the Nation

by Frank O'Connor

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In Frank O'Connor's short story "Guests of the Nation," how do the characters make and break bonds based on categories of identity?  

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In Frank O'Connor's short story "Guests of the Nation," the characters make and break bonds based on categories of identity in a number of different ways, including the following:

  • Two of the characters – Hawkins and Belcher – are Englishmen and thus share a national or ethnic identity.
  • Four of the characters – Bonaparte, Noble, Donovan, and the old woman – are Irish and thus share a national or ethnic identity.
  • Two of the characters – Hawkins and Noble – differ in national identity but are similar in temperament, especially since both like to argue.
  • However, Hawkins is an atheist while Noble is a Christian, and so these men differ in at least one important respect despite their other similarities.
  • Two of the characters – Bonaparte and Belcher – differ in national identity but are similar in temperament, since both tend to be quiet, thoughtful observers.
  • Donovan, although Irish, has very little in common with the other Irish characters, particularly in temperament and motivation.
  • Donovan and the old woman, although Irish, differ dramatically in temperament and motivation; they are, in some senses, at opposite ends of the spectrum of temperament: the old woman is warm and welcoming, while Donovan is cold and distant.
  • Ultimately, differences of nationality destroy friendships that had at first seemed to make such differences seem unimportant.
  • Ultimately, Bonaparte is alone with his grief, while Noble and the old woman, unlike Bonaparte, at least have the consolation of religious belief to help comfort them as they grieve.
  • Ultimately, the two Englishmen differ in the ways they meet their deaths; differences of temperament are thus important right to the end of the story, at least in the case of these two men.
  • By presenting such complicated and overlapping similarities and contrasts, O’Connor creates a story of rich complexity and meaning.

 

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