How did Philip Nolan change after the incident off the coast of Egypt in which he read Sir Walter Scott's "The Lay of the Last Minstrel"?

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The short story "The Man Without a Country," by E. E. Hale, was first published in the magazine Atlantic Monthly in 1863. The story deals with Lieutenant Philip Nolan, a young Army officer, who is tried for treason along with Aaron Burr. During the trial, Nolan angrily remarks "Damn the United States. I wish I may never hear of the United States again." His fitting sentence bans him from ever setting foot on U. S. soil during his lifetime or ever hearing the name of his nation again, instead living his life on board a series of Naval warships.

Nolan eventually comes to regret his remark, but it is his reading of Sir Walter Scott's "The Lay of the Last Minstrel" which affects him most.

Breathes there a man with soul so dead
Who never to himself hath said,
“This is my own, my native land.”

The reading of the poem breaks him, and he later shows great remorse for his remark. His patriotism returns when he joins his shipmates during action in the War of 1812. Shortly before his death, he is briefed on the history of his country, assured that it is one of the most powerful in the world, and he dies a happy man.