Guests of the Nation by Frank O'Connor

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(Short Stories for Students)

Belcher is a big Englishman who is held prisoner by Irish rebels. He is a polite, quiet fellow, who helps the old woman do her chores. Faced with his execution, Belcher reveals more about himself in a few minutes than he had in all the weeks spent with his captors. Unlike Hawkins, he manages to maintain his dignity and composure.

Bonaparte is the narrator of the tale. His relationship with his prisoners, Hawkins and Belcher, grows from captor-captive into actual friendship. When given the news that Hawkins and Belcher are to be executed, Bonaparte is dismayed at the role he is expected to play. The executions disturb him deeply; at the end of the story he comments that ‘‘anything that happened to me afterward, I never felt the same about again.’’

Jeremiah Donovan
Jeremiah Donovan is the officer in charge of the group of Irish rebels. Unlike Bonaparte and Noble, he does not regard the English prisoners as friendly acquaintances. He delivers the news of the impending executions to Bonaparte and seems surprised at his reaction, stating, ‘‘What else did you think we were keeping them for?’’ Donovan fires the gun at the execution.

Feeney is an intelligence officer who brings the news that the Englishmen are to be executed. He assists in the executions and leaves as soon as the men are buried. His name derives from the Feinian Society, an underground organization that fought against the British for Irish independence.

Hawkins is the second English prisoner. He is smaller and more talkative than Belcher, often engaging Noble in religious and political debates. When told that he is to be executed, Hawkins reacts with utter...

(The entire section is 435 words.)