Guests of the Nation


Frank O’Connor

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Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on Frank O’Connor's Guests of the Nation. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of Frank O’Connor

Michael O’Donovan, known primarily as Frank O’Connor, was born to a poor family in Ireland at a time when the movement for Irish independence from the United Kingdom was gaining steam. His family was mostly supported by his mother, who worked as a house cleaner, while his father sank into alcoholism and debt. The young O’Connor was an ardent supporter of Irish independence, and he joined the Irish Republican Army in 1918 to fight occupying British forces, for which he was later imprisoned in 1922. In the early years of what was called the Irish Free State, O’Connor launched his literary career and became a prolific writer of short stories, poems, plays, biographies, and travelogues. He also worked as a translator of Irish poetry and ran a Dublin theater in the 1930s. During World War II, O’Connor’s former resentment of Britain cooled and he worked as a broadcaster for the British Ministry of Information. Following the war, he lived in the United States and worked as a visiting professor. He died of a heart attack in Dublin in 1966 at the age of 63.
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Historical Context of Guests of the Nation

When Frank O’Connor was born, Ireland was a part of the United Kingdom, which included Scotland, Wales, and England. At this time, Ireland had little political independence. In 1916, however, Irish militias confronted British authorities in what was called the Easter Rising, resulting in a bloody crackdown. Shortly afterwards, Ireland formally declared independence, leading to war with the British between 1919 and 1921. “Guests of the Nation” is set during this war, when young Irish soldiers were realizing the sacrifices that would need to be made to win independence, as well as witnessing the emergence of a new country with an uncertain future.

Other Books Related to Guests of the Nation

Frank O’Connor was heavily influenced by his teacher Daniel Corkery, whose literary history of Ireland The Hidden Ireland influenced a number of Irish writers coming of age during the independence movement. O’Connor wrote “Guests of the Nation” during a renaissance of the short story form in Ireland. Contemporaries of his include Sean O’Faolain, who wrote naturalist stories focusing on the Irish lower classes, and Liam O’Flaherty, whose novel The Informer shared O’Connor’s preoccupation with the Irish revolutionary period. Additionally, O’Connor couldn’t help but be influenced by W.B. Yeats’ plays and poems that revived and reinterpreted Irish folklore.
Key Facts about Guests of the Nation
  • Full Title: Guests of the Nation
  • When Written: 1928-1930
  • Where Written: Dublin, Ireland
  • When Published: 1931
  • Literary Period: Irish Nationalism / Modernism
  • Genre: Realist Short Fiction
  • Setting: Ireland circa 1920
  • Climax: The execution of Awkins and Belcher
  • Antagonist: Jeremiah Donovan
  • Point of View: 1st person

Extra Credit for Guests of the Nation

Film Inspiration. “Guests of the Nation” heavily influenced the 1992 movie The Crying Game, which partially adapted the story for another period of Irish revolutionary violence called the Troubles in the 1970s and 80s.

Namesake. The name of the character Jeremiah O’Donovan is a reference to Jeremiah O’Donovan Rossa. O’Donovan Rossa was an Irishman imprisoned for years after plotting a nationalist uprising in 1865 to establish an independent Irish Republic.