Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

One of the most important components of technique in “Guests of the Nation” is Frank O’Connor’s masterful use of irony. An early instance of irony, apart from the story’s title and the repetition of the word “chum” (underlining the failure of friendship in the plot), is the reference to the Irish dances that Belcher and Hawkins have learned, whose titles (“The Walls of Limerick,” “The Siege of Ennis”) allude to divisiveness, violence, and war, which undercut the harmony of the social occasion. Further, the narrator’s word to describe the timbre of Belcher’s speech, “peaceable,” ironically contrasts with the reason the British soldiers are kept captive, as well as their fate.

Indeed, ironies run throughout the story: The two soldiers executed are among the most congenial to the country and its culture; the religious doubter Hawkins is the first to discover the truths about the afterlife (by being the first killed); Belcher is so considerate of his executioners that just before he is shot he asks their forgiveness for his sudden outpouring of talk, explains his thoughtful wish to speed things up because he knows the delay is painful to them, and finally absolves them all with consoling words. Finally Belcher’s blindfold, made by knotting his handkerchief with Bonaparte’s, ironically symbolizes the union that should have prevented Belcher’s pitiful death, while it is also connected to the story’s motif of blindness—to human community and to the twists of fate, summarized in the repeated key word “unforeseen.”

Guests of the Nation Historical Context

Michael Collins Published by Gale Cengage

Irish Rebellion
The history of Ireland is one of domination by the British and of conflict between Protestants and...

(The entire section is 571 words.)

Guests of the Nation Literary Style

Dialects and Writing Practices
One of the little known aspects about any writer’s approach to his or her craft is...

(The entire section is 1024 words.)

Guests of the Nation Compare and Contrast

1916: Following the Easter uprising, in which Irish rebels seize control of the General Post Office in Dublin in an effort...

(The entire section is 119 words.)

Guests of the Nation Topics for Further Study

E. M. Forster once said: ‘‘I hate the idea of causes, and if I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope...

(The entire section is 333 words.)

Guests of the Nation Media Adaptations

On May 20, 1958, a performance was given of Guests of the Nation, a drama, drawn directly from O’Connor’s story. It was adapted and...

(The entire section is 58 words.)

Guests of the Nation What Do I Read Next?

Brian Friel’s play, Translations (1980), is set in nineteenth century Ireland as British troops arrive...

(The entire section is 207 words.)

Guests of the Nation Bibliography and Further Reading

Crider, J. R. ‘‘Jupiter Pluvius in ‘Guests of the Nation’,’’ in Studies in Short Fiction,...

(The entire section is 400 words.)