Guests of the Nation


Frank O’Connor

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The Old Woman Character Analysis

The woman Bonaparte refers to as “the old woman” is never named. She opens up her home to the Irish soldiers and their British prisoners but doesn’t seem happy about the arrangement. Her religious beliefs are a mix of Catholic and pagan, and she blames events on obscure deities or the desecration of temples. She’s surly towards all except Belcher, who is keen to help her with housework.

The Old Woman Quotes in Guests of the Nation

The Guests of the Nation quotes below are all either spoken by The Old Woman or refer to The Old Woman. 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

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:
Part 4 Quotes

“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:

…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:
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The Old Woman Character Timeline in Guests of the Nation

The timeline below shows where the character The Old Woman appears in Guests of the Nation. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1
Home Theme Icon
Bonaparte, Noble, ‘Awkins, and Belcher are staying at the house of an old woman , whom Bonaparte describes as surly and quick to scold the Irish soldiers. Bonaparte goes... (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 woman . When ‘Awkins complains about the drought, the old woman attributes it to an obscure... (full context)
Part 3
Home Theme Icon
The old woman protests this decision so forcefully that Jeremiah snaps at her. ‘Awkins complains that they’re being... (full context)
Part 4
Religion, Spirituality, and Materialism Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
...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 old woman asks what’s been done with... (full context)
Religion, Spirituality, and Materialism Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
The old woman falls to the ground in grief, praying with her rosary beads. Noble also sinks to his... (full context)