Guests of the Nation

The Bog Symbol Icon

In “Guests of the Nation,” the Irish soldiers unceremoniously bury the bodies of their English friends and captives, Belcher and ‘Awkins, in the bog—an ecosystem known for preserving bodies intact for thousands of years. As the image of the bog haunts Bonaparte’s mind, he always sees the “Englishmen stiffening into it.” As a result, the bog comes to symbolize the indelibility of the trauma, almost as if the bog is his mind perfectly preserving the two murdered Englishmen. This memory, like the bodies in the bog, does not fade, as Bonaparte notes that “anything that ever happened to me after I never felt the same about again.” Additionally, the status of the bog as a national symbol of Ireland comes to have extra resonance, since the story is set during a war for Irish independence. Here, O’Connor emphasizes the disillusionment of Irish independence; he twists the bog of Irish folklore into a bleak resting place for their dead friends, evoking the fact that the Irish won a sovereign country only through bloody sacrifice.

The Bog Quotes in Guests of the Nation

The Guests of the Nation quotes below all refer to the symbol of The Bog. 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 3 Quotes

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:
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Part 4 Quotes

…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 Bog Symbol Timeline in Guests of the Nation

The timeline below shows where the symbol The Bog appears in Guests of the Nation. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 3
War and Duty Theme Icon
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... (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... (full context)