Short Story Analysis

"Guests of the Nation" By Frank O' Connor

Critical Biography

Frank O'Connor was born on September 17, 1903 in Cork, Ireland. His father, Mick, was a soldier, and his mom worked as a maid to provide for the family. Frank grew up as an only child with a compressed education. In the time of the Irish Troubles, Frank joined the Volunteers, and during the Civil War he was captured by soldiers. He described this experience in what is called "A Boy in Prison" (Steinman). O'Connor loved to write stories about his Irish culture. In 1931, O'Connor published his most famous short story, "Guests of the Nation". "One day, when I was sitting on my bed in an Irish interment camp...I overheard a group of country boys talking about two English soldiers whom they had held as hostages and who soon got to know the countryside better than their guards" (Steinman). This is how O'Connor got the idea for this magnificent short story. He also wrote many more stories such as "The Saint and Mary Kate", "Three Tales", and "Irish Miles". Frank O'Connor died on March 10, 1996 in Dublin, Ireland, but he will be remembered as one of the greatest short story authors of all time.


In Frank O' Connor's short story, "Guests of the Nation", two Englishmen are held captive by several Irishmen. Two guards, Bonaparte and Noble, are told to stay in a house with the Englishmen to keep watch on them. While they are living with them in the house, they play cards with each other, discuss politics, and share their beliefs as if they have been friends for a long time. As they start to become close with the prisoners, they hear shocking news. Jeremiah Donovan, another Irish guard, tells Bonaparte and Noble that the Englishmen's people have killed four Irish hostages, and now they must kill the two Englishmen they have become so attached to. It was difficult for Bonaparte and Noble to do this, but they helped Jeremiah Donovan kill the prisoners by shooting both of them.

Analysis of Theme

In "Guests of the Nation", Bonaparte and Noble, the two Irish guards, become attached to the two Englishmen that they are holding as prisoners. As they are living with each other in the house, their relationship keeps growing everyday. "They're my chums; they stand by me and I stand by them" (O'Connor). When Jeremiah Donovan tells Bonaparte and Noble that they have to kill the Englishmen, they put their relationship to the side. This leads to the theme of the story which is that a person's duty to their country or job is more significant than a short-term relationship, but it can lead to consequences. All of the men in this story lose their sense of personal choice because they believe that duty must come first ("Guests of the Nation"). Before Jeremiah Donovan shoots both of the Englishmen, the prisoners say they understand why they must be killed. After the execution of their short-term friends, Bonaparte and Noble have a huge burden on their shoulders. Bonaparte and Noble question their existence after the strenuous task they completed. "And I was somehow very small and very lonely. And anything that ever happened me after I never felt the same about again" (O'Connor). Bonaparte and Noble valued their duty to their country more than the short-term friendship they created, but they will have to live with the thought of killing them forever.

Works Cited

"Guests of the Nation." Short Stories for Students. Ed. Kathleen Wilson. Vol. 5. Detroit: Gale, (1999). (128-129). Print.

O'Connor, Frank. "Guests of the Nation." PDF.

Steinman, Michael. "Michael John O'Donovan." British Short-Fiction Writers, 1915-1945. Ed.John Headley Rogers. Detroit: Gale, 1996. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 162. Literature Resource Center. Web. 2 May 2016.