How does O'Connor describe the English soldiers and their Irish captors in section I of the story?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Surprisingly, there is much in way of good will and understanding between both captor and captured.  There is not the tension and animosity one would expect in a war setting.  Rather, there is a sense of good will and friendship, what Hawkins would later mournfully relate to as being "pals."  The opening card game and the constant reference from Hawkins to his Irish counterparts as "chums" establishes a setting in which there is much in way of collegiality.  Bonaparte describes the English soldiers as "such decent chaps" and this extends to how both captured and captors treat one another.  There was no need to be vigilant about them escaping because the Irish soldiers knew that they would not get very far.  In addition to this, the emotional climate was so inviting that there really was no rationale to leave.  

The description that O'Connor gives is that the partisanship in war had been overcome, at least in an instant, with the way in which the Irish and British soldiers are behaving towards one another. Hawkins and Noble argue about religion and capitalism over cards.  Belcher, described as quite skilled in playing cards, is well- liked by the old woman, as he helps her with the domestic duties, making "her his best friend for life."  With the constant use of "chum" towards the end of the first section, it becomes clear that O'Connor wishes to construct a setting in which the savageries of war appear to be overcome with "ethical and moral intelligence" reigning supreme.  It is O'Connor's genius to begin with this premise, something that he will come to undermine by the story's end.

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