Guests of the Nation

Bonaparte Character Analysis

Bonaparte is the thoughtful, sensitive first-person narrator, telling the story in past tense from some unspecified point in the future. He’s a young soldier in the Irish Republican Army who, along with Noble and Jeremiah, is responsible for guarding two British prisoners behind the frontlines. Bonaparte grows attached to Belcher and Awkins, and he protests the decision to execute the prisoners, even daydreaming about confronting his fellow soldiers to protect them. At the critical moment, Bonaparte fails to intervene as Jerimiah kills the British prisoners, and the memory of the execution haunts him for long afterward.

Bonaparte Quotes in Guests of the Nation

The Guests of the Nation quotes below are all either spoken by Bonaparte or refer to Bonaparte. 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:
Quotes explanation long mobile

Unlock explanations and citation info for this and every other Guests of the Nation quote.

Plus so much more...

Get LitCharts A+
Already a LitCharts A+ member? Sign in!

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

And another day the same 'Awkins was swearing at the capitalists for starting the German war, when the old dame laid down her iron, puckered up her little crab's mouth and said, “Mr 'Awkins, you can say what you please about the war, thinking to deceive me because I'm an ignorant old woman, but I know well what started the war. It was that Italian count that stole the heathen divinity out of the temple in Japan, for believe me, Mr 'Awkins, nothing but sorrow and want follows them that disturbs the hidden powers!”

Related Characters: Bonaparte (speaker), ‘Awkins, The Old Woman
Page Number: 5
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

Because there were men on the Brigade you daren't let nor hinder without a gun in your hand, and at any rate, in those days disunion between brothers seemed to me an awful crime. I knew better after.

Related Characters: Bonaparte (speaker)
Page Number: 7
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

“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
Get the entire Guests of the Nation LitChart as a printable PDF.
Guests of the nation.pdf.medium

Bonaparte Character Timeline in Guests of the Nation

The timeline below shows where the character Bonaparte 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
Describing 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... (full context)
National Identity Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Bonaparte introduces another man named Jeremiah Donovan, who would occasionally come to watch the card game... (full context)
National Identity Theme Icon
...is an awkward man with several eccentric tics that make him difficult to talk to. Bonaparte notes that he has “big farmers feet” and a “broad accent” that the narrator finds... (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... (full context)
National Identity Theme Icon
...quoting a bit of conversation with ‘Awkins, the narrator finally reveals that his name is Bonaparte. Bonaparte relates that he and ‘Awkins seem to even have acquaintances in common, and ‘Awkins... (full context)
Home Theme Icon
Bonaparte, Noble, ‘Awkins, and Belcher are staying at the house of an old woman, whom Bonaparte... (full context)
Religion, Spirituality, and Materialism Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Bonaparte says that ‘Awkins loves to argue with Noble about religion, which needles Noble in part... (full context)
Religion, Spirituality, and Materialism Theme Icon
War and Duty Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Bonaparte then tells an anecdote about ‘Awkins trying to strike up an argument with the old... (full context)
Part 2
War and Duty Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
One evening, the four soldiers plus Jeremiah are playing cards. Bonaparte realizes that Jeremiah doesn’t like the two Englishmen, which was hard to determine at first... (full context)
National Identity Theme Icon
War and Duty Theme Icon
To avoid the argument, Bonaparte walks down to town with Jeremiah. On the way, Jeremiah suddenly stops to scold Bonaparte... (full context)
National Identity Theme Icon
War and Duty Theme Icon
...the Irish army plans to shoot them unless the British release their Irish prisoners. Dismayed, Bonaparte complains to Jeremiah that they should have been told sooner about the purpose of keeping... (full context)
Religion, Spirituality, and Materialism Theme Icon
Bonaparte is miserable as he returns to the house. When he arrives, the religious argument between... (full context)
National Identity Theme Icon
War and Duty Theme Icon
After the British prisoners are locked up for the night, Bonaparte tells Noble about the true purpose for keeping them under guard. They resolve not to... (full context)
National Identity Theme Icon
War and Duty Theme Icon
That night, Bonaparte has a lot of trouble sleeping, obsessing over how to prevent his fellow soldiers from... (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... (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, Jeremiah comes to their door to demand the prisoners. (full context)
National Identity Theme Icon
War and Duty Theme Icon
...Noble to gather tools from the shed and dig a hole near the bog, while Bonaparte and Jeremiah take the prisoners. He suggests that they tell the prisoners they’re being moved... (full context)
National Identity Theme Icon
War and Duty Theme Icon
Jeremiah appeals to Bonaparte to try to convince ‘Awkins that the execution is for real. ‘Awkins still won’t believe... (full context)
National Identity Theme Icon
War and Duty Theme Icon
Bonaparte recoils at the prospect of killing the British prisoners, and he resolves not to stop... (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... (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... (full context)
National Identity Theme Icon
Religion, Spirituality, and Materialism Theme Icon
War and Duty Theme Icon
...‘Awkins whether he has any final messages or prayers. Instead, ‘Awkins appeals to Noble and Bonaparte as his “chums” and even offers to desert and fight for the Irish side. Neither... (full context)
Religion, Spirituality, and Materialism Theme Icon
War and Duty Theme Icon
...final time for a last message before shooting ‘Awkins in the back of the neck. Bonaparte tries to say a prayer as he watches. The Irish are silent as they witness... (full context)
War and Duty Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
...own execution, pulls out a handkerchief to tie over his eyes and borrows another from Bonaparte. In their excitement and inexperience, the Irish had forgotten to offer this courtesy to the... (full context)
Religion, Spirituality, and Materialism Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
...to bury them. Noble finds the letter on ‘Awkins’ body. After the burial, Noble and Bonaparte return in silence to the old woman’s house, which they find cold and dark. The... (full context)
Religion, Spirituality, and Materialism Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
...praying with her rosary beads. Noble also sinks to his knees near the fireplace. Overwhelmed, Bonaparte pushes his way out of the house. (full context)
National Identity Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
Bonaparte remembers that during the execution and burial, he felt thousands of miles away from where... (full context)