Guests of the Nation


Frank O’Connor

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Themes and Colors
National Identity Theme Icon
Religion, Spirituality, and Materialism Theme Icon
War and Duty Theme Icon
Home Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Guests of the Nation, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

National Identity

“Guests of the Nation” is set during the Irish War for Independence in the early 20th century, during which Ireland attempted to secede from the United Kingdom and form a sovereign country. As such, the story is concerned with what it means for people to be from different countries, even if that difference in national identity springs from a border that was drawn only recently. The story dramatizes this distinction in identity by putting a…

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Religion, Spirituality, and Materialism

‘Awkins is a strident atheist and materialist (someone who believes that economic structures drive world events). He thinks that the capitalist class predates the priesthood, and that capitalists use priests as a method of social control. The old Irish woman who houses the prisoners, however, has more spiritual beliefs. With a blend of Catholicism and paganism, she explains momentous world events, such as the First World War, as a consequence of disturbing “hidden powers.” While…

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War and Duty

The Irish War for Independence is only one conflict in a long and bitter struggle for Irish independence which would last for decades to come. Despite that, Bonaparte, Noble, Belcher, and ‘Awkins have to be reminded that there’s a war on when Jeremiah darkens their door. The battlefield seems very distant from the old woman’s house, and the only thing O’Connor depicts that resembles armed conflict is the quick flash of…

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Despite being set in wartime, much of the story focuses on domestic simplicity, if not bliss. Belcher is the focal point for this theme, as he reveals his shattered domestic situation and his desire to cobble together a new one. “Guests of the Nation” suggests that home is not merely one’s birthplace, but rather a feeling that can be found or built in unlikely places. Here, even a stint as a prisoner in a foreign…

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