How does the narrator's character differ from Donavan's throughout "Guests of the Nation?"

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sullymonster eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The narrator, Bonaparte, and Donovan differ in their view of the world.  Donovan is more narrow-minded.  In common phrases, he sees the world in only black or white.  Either something is good or it is bad.  There is no in-between, no shades of gray.  The prisoners are English.  They have been captured because the Irish are in the midst of a rebellion.  It matters not who these two men are as individuals.  Their role is as English prisoners, and nothing else.  As Donovan says before the execution, "What else did you think we were keeping them for?"  There is no veering from the set path.

Bonaparte sees the world in shades.  He connects and empathizes with the prisoners.  In conversing with them, he has transferred their roles from "enemy" to "individual" - almost, if not totally, to "friend".  As a result, he can not imagine executing these men.  He ceases to care about the rebellion in the face of killing men he has taken time to know and understand.

These contrast between the Irish characters sets up one of the themes, that of society vs. the individual.  Can one exist inside the other?