Guests of the Nation

by Frank O'Connor

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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 I should have the guts to betray my country.’’ Think about the deep meaning in this statement. How do you think Donovan or Bonaparte would react to it? How would you react to it, given similar circumstances to those in the tale? Would you react differently, if your ‘‘prisoners’’ were lifelong friends?

Choice. Duty. Morality. Do these words mean the same thing in the context of this tale? If so, explain how they are the same. If they are different, carefully describe those differences.

For a story teller, selecting the proper narrator is very critical. Imagine the difference in this story if O’Connor had used an omniscient narrator (one who knows the thoughts of all the characters in a narrative). Would the impact of the ending be as effective? Create a parallel tale using an omniscient narrator. Remain faithful to the sequence of occurrences in this one.

O’Connor said that God had intended that he be a painter. ‘‘But I was very poor and pencil and paper were the cheapest. . . . Literature is the poor man’s art.’’ What does he mean when he says that literature is a poor man’s art? Think of other arts and explore the differences between them that makes sense of his remark.

Imagery and symbolism are important aspects of fiction. Select an image in the story and develop it into a symbol. Describe how that improves our understanding of the tale.

Themes of courage and cowardice, guilt and innocence, and fate and chance are present in the story. Select one of these pairs of ideas and show how they control the action in the tale.

Titles of short stories often have clever meanings. What does the title of this story mean? Who are the ‘‘Guests’’ and of what ‘‘Nation?’’ Explain your response completely using material from the text.

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