Sour Grapes “It was very unforeseen of Jeremiah Donovan, anyhow. ” -Frank O’Connor, Guests of the Nation Guests of the Nation expresses horror, and dealing with the violence it depicts in an anti-heroic, realistic manner, which allows no evasion for the reader. We must constantly confront ironies and displace our hopes in order to effectively osmose the burdens of our narrator, Bonaparte. “Guests of the Nation presents us with a seemingly absurd situation – made all too real by the plethora of mundane detail” (Korner).Bonaparte helps us draw in our surroundings while making us privy to information, information that would inculpate him, and in turn we give him our trust. Bonaparte and Noble are young.
When presented with the two English, “(we) took them over with a natural feeling of responsibility”, a duty that would demand they defy other natural feelings. “I couldn’t at the time see the point of me and Noble guarding Belcher and Hawkins at all”, says Bonaparte. The two English, Belcher the big and Hawkins the small could’ve rooted anywhere. They were like a “native weed”.Native in their amalgamation, but a weed competes with the cultivated plants of the region. “Hawkins… showed that he knew more about the country than we did”, says Bonaparte.
Hawkins knew a few commemorative Irish dances, but Bonaparte could not return the compliment, “… because his lads did not dance foreign dances on principle”. Bonaparte is not actively xenophobic, but aware and sensitive to the xenophobic habits of his peers. His desire to return the compliment indicates increasingly comrade like relations between them. Belcher is observed as a large, contented poor devil.Gaining the confidence of his hostess by helping her break sticks, a symbol of authority. In contrast, his comrade Hawkins is small, pugnacious, and lazy. He constantly complains and argues with Noble, and when Noble has had enough of it, he does the same with the hostess.
There is a drought, which Hawkins complains to her about. A symbol of the eradication of culture, and in a sense he would do just that, denouncing his ties with his mother country. Also significant is his mindfulness of the absence of water, water that is a symbol of foreboding doom.Meanwhile, still remaining oblivious to fate. She says their present state is due to Jupiter Pluvius, the thunder god who was grafted on the helmets of old roman soldiers. This became a largely understood symbol of war and conquest, contrasting the English empire with similar ambitions. “Bleeding capitalists”, says Hawkins, referring to Noble and the resistance army. Hawkins believes in a moral redistribution of wealth, a direct berate on Noble, whose name is literally interpreted as aristocrat or a member of a prominent family.
Noble combats this little, but turns the argument towards religion. Priests are paid to tell you about next world so you don’t notice what the bastards are up to in this one” says Hawkins. Unwittingly summarizing his relationship with Noble, the brother of a priest. The arguments between Noble and Hawkins were amusing to Bonaparte. They usually came during their ritual cards games every night. Belcher, “…could’ve skinned myself and Noble…”, during those card games. Cards a game, which is not solely based on luck, but your understanding of the other players.
Showing us that Belcher is not the simple quiet oaf he appears to be, but he is perceptive to the behavior of others.Bonaparte likened Belcher to a ghost, walking about quietly, finding his seat and “… he stretched out in the ashes as usual, with his usual look of waiting in the quietness for something unforeseen to happen”. Jeremiah Donovan, an otherwise diffident man, would come supervise the game and look in on Hawkins cards, screaming and “treating him like one of our own”. Only later did Bonaparte realize that Jeremiah Donovan “… had no great love for the two Englishmen. ” The Englishmen amused Bonaparte, but still he approached Jeremiah Donovan with a wish to be sent into a fighting regiment, too immature to understand the weight of such a request.Jeremiah Donovan tells him his duty is to guard the English which, frustrates Bonaparte, who is tragically unaware of their state as hostages. Bonaparte is resentful of the relationship he had formed with the two men. Likening it to a dog (man’s best friend) heading to the vet to be put down, and noting that Jeremiah Donovan was incapable of understanding.
His mental agony begins, but he does not argue outwardly with Jeremiah Donovan who was “… only looked up to because he was a fair hand at documents. ” When the order does come in to kill the two Englishmen, neither Bonaparte nor Noble argues for the men’s lives.They were unwilling to challenge the framework of a system that they both respected and feared. As they walk to the bog on “the edge of it in the darkness”, Jeremiah Donovan “shaking with excitement”, tells them they are to die in reprise for the death of their men. Hawkins goes into a state of denial, insisting that this is some sort of joke.
As they approached Noble, Bonaparte began to feel sick, a physical response to his revulsion for violence. Jeremiah Donovan is the only person at this point who can speak, adapting his regiment of duty. Placing duty between him and his actions.
Bonaparte unquestionably follows his duty and notices “that the people who speak a lot about duty find it much of a trouble to them”. “I’m through with it alright, I’m a deserter” says Hawkins. “’For the last time, have you any messages to send? ’ returns Donovan in a cold, excited sort of voice”.
In a final desperate plea that shocks Bonaparte, Hawkins turns to Noble asking, “Give me a rifle and I’ll go along with you and the other lads”. There was no way out. Donovan shoots Hawkins in the back of the neck. He falls to the earth “like a child falling asleep”.Belcher pulls out a blindfold and attempts to tie it around his eyes, but his head is too large so he borrows Bonaparte’s.
He notices that Hawkins is still alive, and suggests that they put another in him. Bonaparte kneels to do so when he has a revelation of the cruelty of making Belcher watch. He looks up at Belcher, and for the first moment Bonaparte realizes that he and Belcher have had a similar perspective on things.
Belcher tells him it is okay, and that he should shoot him first. Bonaparte admits that he himself doesn’t realize what he is doing.He kneels and shoots Hawkins for the second time, becoming the one to actually kill Hawkins. When Donovan asks Belcher if he has any last prayers, he says no, and if he did “it wouldn’t help”. A full revelation of something foreseen had come. When Donovan again places the burden on the duty of country on Belcher, Belcher states that he himself “had never fully understood duty, but thought they were all good lads.
” The first time he hadn’t referred to them as chums, showing he has accepted his fate and removes the burden of friendship. Donovan shot Belcher.They had to carry the bodies to the grave. Time raced by quickly for Bonaparte. He felt displaced, detached, and confused. Like Adam, being banished from the Garden of Eden. The English had gone from guests, to friends, to hostages. Three stages of metamorphosis that matured Bonaparte, and he knew his life would be different from there out.
“… the bitter irony of it is that they were sacrificed on an altar of Triumphant National Glory…” (Atanasov).Works Cited Korner, Simon. “21st Century Socialism. ” Frank O’Connor’s ‘Guests of the Nation’ -. N.
p. , 25 Mar. 2008. Web.
24 Apr. 2013.