Guests of the Nation

Guests of the Nation Part 3 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
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.
Bonaparte spends the day agonizing over the prospect that he’ll be called on to execute the prisoners. It’s a “relief” when Belcher suggests a card game in his usual way. Bonaparte welcomes this gesture as a return to the easy familiarity of the past days. Bonaparte describes Belcher’s behavior as “peaceable,” as if he’s suggesting an end to hostilities between them.
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Jeremiah says that four Irish prisoners “went west” (or were killed), 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 officer, is waiting.
When Jeremiah describes the killing of the Irish prisoners, he uses the euphemism “went west,” meaning to die, to minimize the violence of his news. Neither Jeremiah nor Bonaparte explicitly say that they’re going to kill the Englishmen, even while describing preparations for the execution. They gingerly sidestep the actual words, illustrating their moral discomfort.
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Jeremiah sends Feeney and 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 back to the Second Battalion, rather than telling them they’re about to be executed, in order to keep them cooperative.
Here again, Jeremiah maintains the fiction that Belcher and ‘Awkins are just amusing civilians being bounced between units of the Irish army. He, too, is trying to delay acknowledgement of the violence he plans to commit.
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The old woman protests this decision so forcefully that Jeremiah snaps at her. ‘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.
The old woman resists the departure of Belcher and ‘Awkins, demonstrating her affection for them and the home they’ve built together. ‘Awkins and Belcher also mourn the loss of home, but they do so in ways that reflect their differing personalities. ‘Awkins complains and pins the blame on distant elites, while Belcher shows authentic gratitude to the old woman, recognizing how rare and precious this sense of home is.
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As the four begin to walk down to the bog, Jeremiah tells them that they’ll be executed in response to the death of the Irish prisoners. ‘Awkins can’t believe it at first, accusing Jeremiah of playing at being soldiers. Jeremiah responds by insisting that it’s his duty, but ‘Awkins silences him by saying “Cut it out!”
Getting closer to the bog, the pretenses fall away. Jeremiah begins to explain the reason for their execution, and ‘Awkins’ shock and disbelief mirrors Bonaparte’s own reaction when he discovered that Belcher and ‘Awkins were hostages. Jeremiah appeals to duty, but this approach is least likely to appeal to ‘Awkins, who believes duty is a result of capitalist scheming.
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Jeremiah appeals to Bonaparte to try to convince ‘Awkins that the execution is for real. ‘Awkins still won’t believe it and insists that he and Bonaparte are “chums.” ‘Awkins and Jeremiah argue about the morality of shooting them in response to the death of British soldiers.
Facing resistance from ‘Awkins, Jeremiah explicitly divides the group into Irish and British sides when he asks ‘Awkins why “your people” would kill their prisoners. Jeremiah continues to operate on this level while ‘Awkins continues to cite friendship, placing the status of “chums” above that of enemy soldiers.
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Bonaparte recoils at the prospect of killing the British prisoners, and he resolves not to stop them if they try to escape. ‘Awkins asks whether Noble is complicit in this, and he claims that he’d never shoot his Irish friends if their positions were reversed.
Bonaparte imagines that if the prisoners tried to escape, he wouldn’t stop them. It’s an example of a minor disobedience he feels he may be capable of, as opposed to the major one of “disunion between brothers,” or going against one’s nation.
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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.
The bog now seems like a malevolent force in Bonaparte’s mind. It serves as a perverted image of domestic life when he thinks of it as the Englishmen’s “last earthly bed.” But as the inevitability of the execution sets in, Bonaparte continues to dodge it in his language. He thinks “I didn’t want them to be bumped off,” rather than “to die” or “to be killed.”
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