Sometimes we are approached by a dilemma which makes us question what is more important, duty or a friendship that might become destroyed by the decision. Frank O’Connor wrote “Guests of the Nation” in the early to mid 1900’s during an Anglo-Irish war. In this short story friendships grew over a misconception were in the end it was ultimately sacrificed for the duty to one’s country.
The Second Battalion appointed Noble and Bonaparte to guard the British prisoners. The prisoners took to the country, learning Irish songs and dances. Hawkins was a terrible man who loved to argue, and Belcher who lacked speech befriended the old woman in which they lived within a cottage. In the evenings the men would join in on card games and friendly banter lasting for hours. They had become “chums.” “After the first day or two we gave up all pretence of keeping an eye on them.” (390) Donovan, the superior, was a sober, contented devil, who always looked down.
One night the dislike Donovan had for the two prisoners became very apparent to Bonaparte. When Bonaparte approached Donovan about why they were even guarding the prisoners for he was told, “I thought you knew that we were keeping them as hostages.” (393) The British were holding some of their men and were talking about shooting them and if they did then they would be able to shoot the prisoners as a reprisal. Bonaparte told Noble and they found it hard to face Belcher and Hawkins the next day. Word came that it was time to shoot the prisoners. “There were four of our lads shot this morning, one of them a boy of sixteen.” (395) Hawkins and Belcher were upset to leave the old woman’s cottage. Donovan was full of excitement as they walked down to the bog. Bonaparte wished that they would just run or put up a fight so he would not have to shoot them.
By the time they made it to the bog it was dark and Bonaparte was sick with the thought of killing his “chums.” Hawkins could still not believe...