Guests of the Nation

Belcher Character Analysis

Belcher is a British prisoner of war. He’s a tall, quiet, and kind man whose wife and children left him years ago. As a result, he’s eager to make a home even out of his stint as a prisoner, helping the old woman with chores, suggesting card games to bring the group together, and warming himself by the fireplace. He’s calm and bemused even in the face of death, and he seems not to blame his captors for their actions.

Belcher Quotes in Guests of the Nation

The Guests of the Nation quotes below are all either spoken by Belcher or refer to Belcher. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
National Identity Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of Guests of the Nation published in 1982.
Part 1 Quotes

At dusk the big Englishman Belcher would shift his long legs out of the ashes and ask, “Well, chums, what about it?” and Noble or me would say, “As you please, chum” (for we had picked up some of their curious expressions), and the little Englishman 'Awkins would light the lamp and produce the cards.

Related Characters: Bonaparte (speaker), Belcher, ‘Awkins
Related Symbols: The Fireplace
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
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I couldn't at the time see the point of me and Noble being with Belcher and 'Awkins at all, for it was and is my fixed belief you could have planted that pair in any untended spot from this to Claregalway and they'd have stayed put and flourished like a native weed.

Related Characters: Bonaparte (speaker), Belcher, ‘Awkins
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 2 Quotes

He looked at me for a spell and said, “I thought you knew we were keeping them as hostages.” “Hostages — ?” says I, not quite understanding. “The enemy,” he says in his heavy way, “have prisoners belong to us, and now they talk of shooting them. If they shoot our prisoners we'll shoot theirs, and serve them right.”

Related Characters: Bonaparte (speaker), Jeremiah Donovan (speaker), Belcher, ‘Awkins
Page Number: 6
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 3 Quotes

I rose quietly from the table and laid my hand on him before he reached the door. “What do you want?” I asked him. “I want those two soldier friends of yours,” he says reddening. “Is that the way it is, Jeremiah Donovan?” I ask. “That's the way. There were four of our lads went west this morning, one of them a boy of sixteen.” “That's bad, Jeremiah,” says I.

Related Characters: Bonaparte (speaker), Jeremiah Donovan (speaker), Belcher, ‘Awkins
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“Just as a man mikes a 'ome of a bleedin' place,” mumbles 'Awkins shaking her by the hand, “some bastard at headquarters thinks you're too cushy and shunts you off.” Belcher shakes her hand very hearty. “A thousand thanks, madam,” he says, “a thousand thanks for everything . . .” as though he'd made it all up.

Related Characters: Bonaparte (speaker), Belcher, ‘Awkins
Page Number: 8
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

We walked along the edge of it in the darkness, and every now and then 'Awkins would call a halt and begin again, just as if he was wound up, about us being chums, and I was in despair that nothing but the cold and open grave made ready for his presence would convince him that we meant it all. But all the same, if you can understand, I didn't want him to be bumped off.

Related Characters: Bonaparte (speaker), Belcher, ‘Awkins, Jeremiah Donovan
Related Symbols: The Bog
Page Number: 9
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
Part 4 Quotes

“Poor blighter,” he says quietly, “and last night he was so curious abaout it all. It's very queer, chums, I always think. Naow, 'e knows as much abaout it as they'll ever let 'im know, and last night 'e was all in the dark.”

Related Characters: Belcher (speaker), ‘Awkins
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“But my missus left me eight years ago. Went away with another fellow and took the kid with her. I likes the feelin' of a 'ome (as you may 'ave noticed) but I couldn't start again after that.”

Related Characters: Belcher (speaker), The Old Woman
Related Symbols: The Fireplace
Page Number: 11
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

“I never could make out what duty was myself,” he said, “but I think you're all good lads, if that's what you mean. I'm not complaining.”

Related Characters: Belcher (speaker), Bonaparte, Jeremiah Donovan
Page Number: 11-12
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile

…but with me it was the other way, as though the patch of bog where the two Englishmen were was a thousand miles away from me, and even Noble mumbling just behind me and the old woman and the birds and the bloody stars were all far away, and I was somehow very small and very lonely. And anything that ever happened me after I never felt the same about again.

Related Characters: Bonaparte (speaker), Belcher, The Old Woman
Related Symbols: The Bog
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:
Quotes explanation short mobile
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Belcher Character Timeline in Guests of the Nation

The timeline below shows where the character Belcher appears in Guests of the Nation. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
National Identity Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
...an evening routine, the narrator (whose name is later revealed to be Bonaparte) describes how Belcher would pull his legs out of the ashes of the fireplace and ask, “Well chums,... (full context)
National Identity Theme Icon
War and Duty Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Bonaparte wonders why he and Noble are there with Belcher and ‘Awkins at all. He describes how the two Englishmen are strangely at home in... (full context)
Home Theme Icon
Bonaparte, Noble, ‘Awkins, and Belcher are staying at the house of an old woman, whom Bonaparte describes as surly and... (full context)
Part 2
Religion, Spirituality, and Materialism Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
...and he continues to mock Biblical beliefs using offensive and profane language that irritates Noble. Belcher just humors him by agreeing periodically while warming himself by the fireplace. (full context)
National Identity Theme Icon
War and Duty Theme Icon
...to guard the prisoners. This prompts Bonaparte to ask him why they even bother keeping Belcher and ‘Awkins around. Bonaparte claims that he’d rather be “out with a column” than doing... (full context)
National Identity Theme Icon
War and Duty Theme Icon
...the true purpose for keeping them under guard. They resolve not to tell ‘Awkins and Belcher, thinking it’d be kinder not to. (full context)
National Identity Theme Icon
Religion, Spirituality, and Materialism Theme Icon
War and Duty Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
The next morning, both Bonaparte and Noble have trouble interacting with the Englishmen. Belcher is at his customary place by the fireplace, but ‘Awkins is agitated. Noble can’t even... (full context)
Part 3
War and Duty Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
When evening comes, Belcher suggests a card game in his usual way, but Bonaparte has a bad feeling. Suddenly,... (full context)
War and Duty Theme Icon
...as he hinted before that they might. Now, the Irish soldiers have orders to kill Belcher and ‘Awkins in response. Outside the door, a man named Feeney, who’s an Irish intelligence... (full context)
Home Theme Icon
...‘Awkins complains that they’re being moved just as they’re starting to feel at home, but Belcher jumps up to thank the old woman for her hospitality. (full context)
National Identity Theme Icon
War and Duty Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Bonaparte thinks about the bog, despairing that it will be Belcher and Awkins’s resting place. He mentions again that he doesn’t want them to die. (full context)
Part 4
National Identity Theme Icon
War and Duty Theme Icon
Jeremiah, Bonaparte, ‘Awkins, and Belcher meet Noble and Feeney. ‘Awkins immediately lays into Noble for his complicity in this scheme... (full context)
War and Duty Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Belcher, anticipating his own execution, pulls out a handkerchief to tie over his eyes and borrows... (full context)
Religion, Spirituality, and Materialism Theme Icon
After ‘Awkins dies, Belcher laughs darkly. He remarks that ‘Awkins was so concerned about the afterlife, but he knew... (full context)
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Belcher asks the Irishmen to deliver the letter on ‘Awkins body to his mother. He says... (full context)
Religion, Spirituality, and Materialism Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Belcher apologizes for babbling about domestic life, and Jeremiah asks him for a final prayer. Belcher... (full context)
War and Duty Theme Icon
...he prepares to fire, Jeremiah tries to explain that he’s only doing his duty, but Belcher doesn’t understand what duty really means. He says that he doesn’t blame them and that... (full context)
Religion, Spirituality, and Materialism Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
...house, which they find cold and dark. The old woman asks what’s been done with Belcher and ‘Awkins. Noble answers indirectly until it’s clear that they’ve been killed. (full context)
National Identity Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
...of miles away from where he was, distant from the bog and the bodies of Belcher and ‘Awkins. He feels unbearably lonely, and notes that nothing in his life felt the... (full context)