For Hawkins, what does he believe in? Does he care about the outcome of the struggle? Is he fighting for a cause?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Guests Of The Nation" is a short story by Frank O'Connor about three Irish soldiers (Noble, Bonaparte who narrates the story, and Jeremiah Donovan, the officer in charge of the Irish soldiers) who hold two English soldiers (Belcher and Hawkins) captive.

Hawkins is an atheist and a Communist/anarchist. He gets into prolonged and heated arguments with Noble, one of the Irish soldiers. Hawkins seems to believe that God is the creator of the Capitalist economic and political system; he accuses Noble of believing in Capitalist charlatans who work hand in hand with religious clergy to manipulate and keep the populace under control. Noble disagrees with him, but Hawkins reasons that he is just as entitled to his anarchist beliefs as Noble is entitled to his belief in God.

"If you're entitled to a silly belief like that, I'm entitled to my own silly belief - which is that the first thing your God created was a bleeding capitalist, with morality and Rolls-Royce complete."

When Hawkins finds out that he and Belcher are to be shot as retaliation for the deaths of four Irish soldiers, he can't believe that the three Irish soldiers he has come to look upon as friends would do such a thing to him. He tells them that if he was in their place, he would never resort to shooting them. When the horrifying moment finally comes for his execution, Hawkins offers a bargain he thinks the Irishmen can't refuse.

"Listen to me, Noble," he said. "You and me are chums. You can't come over to my side, so I'll come over to your side. That show you I mean what I say? Give me a rifle and I'll go along with you and the other lads."
At this point, Hawkins is only interested in saving his own life. He doesn't have the quiet faith of his fellow Englishman, Belcher, nor his dignity. Before Belcher dies, he tells the Irish soldiers that they could write to Hawkins' mother, and that there is a letter from her to Hawkins in the dead man's pocket. He spares no thought for himself and harbors no bitterness even though his wife left him for another man and took their child with him. Hawkins is an opportunist and a pragmatist. He does not necessarily fight with any sort of deep conviction even though he is an adamant Anarchist; he fights with the English because it just so happens to be the side he's on. When faced with his mortality, he's willing to make bargains with his enemies. Despite his brash Machiavellian facade, he nourishes a naive trust in the innate humanity of his captors.
Hope this helps. Thanks for the question!
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Guests of the Nation

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