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Guests or Enemies

In: English and Literature

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Guests or Enemies
In literature most prestigious writers like relating their works to their personal lives and experience. Personal experiences will help writers to shape their characters in more than one ways including psychological and physical aspects. In addition, personal background also helps authors to grasp themes or prospects better so that their stories are more plausible and readable even though they are fictional. Frank O'Connor is a writer who did this. “Guests of the Nation” is definitely a story based on his own experience. Frank O'Connor puts his personal thoughts and experiences to arrange the characters in order to talks about the relationship between personal duty and humanity during the war, which also implies the relationship between political conflicts and the hope of peaceful life for humans.
Though out history, at the beginning Ireland was a British colony, the economic depressed and had a time of hardship. By 1900, the Irish Civil War loomed. In the summer of 1913, Dublin workers went on strike for 5 months, indicating that the proletariat had become the Irish independent political force. During World War I in 1914, the Irish national fighting moved to further. Easter Rising broke out in April 1916. In 1919, the Sinn Fein refused to attend the British Parliament, but held their own in the Dublin parliament and the creation of army. In 1921, the Irish Civil War occurred; the Irish people started fighting for national independence, autonomy for land rights, and the struggle to recover. The Republic of Ireland was established (Lambert).
O'Connor's background change strongly related to the history of the Irish Civil War. He experienced a difficult childhood. On the main page of New World Encyclopedia states that “In 1918, he joined the First Brigade of the Irish Republican Army in its resistance to British rule. Following the war, the polyglot O'Connor took various positions, including that of an Irish teacher and librarian. In fact, many of O'Connor's works appeared in the Irish Statesmen” (O'Connor). From the 1930s to the 1960s, Frank O'Connor was a prolific writer of short stories, poems, plays, and novels. “Guests of the Nation” was one of the first short stories that Frank O'Connor produced. This is one of his memoirs based on his experiences as a member of the Irish Republican Army, which struggled to establish their self-rule during the Irish Civil War (O’CONNOR).
“Guests of the Nation” is a story that weaves the theme of duty and humanity. In the story, O’ Connor narrates the temporarily peaceful and friendly life between two English prisoners of war, they are living with an old Irish woman and two Irish soldiers who actually watch the English prisoners. During that time they all play cards, chat and argue together, and they do not mention anything about the war between two countries. The reader can see that the people of two countries are looking forward to having a peaceful life; they want to forget the shadow of war and political differences.
Unfortunately, war is still war. As soldiers, in the face of the war between the two nations, the personal relationships had to shrink. Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia says that “The characters in his story are ordinary people caught in extraordinary situations. They struggle to make sense of their circumstances and come to reach conclusions based on that struggle” (O’CONNOR), such as Noble and Bonaparte have to fulfill their duty as soldiers. After their different experiences and strong inward conflicts between the duty and the humanity, humanity is defeated by the duty; the two Englishmen have to be killed. However, there is coercion, a force that conflicts their personal preference because they actually expect to keep “temporary peace” during the war. Their inner dreams give them the hope that someday in the future, when there are no wars and gun fires, they can freely shake their hands and hug together with these Englishmen.
In general, political conflicts may cause war; it is like the war between Ireland and Britain. The war will last as long as the political differences continue. If two nations have a huge difference in policies, and it’s hard for them to find a common point, a war occurs. However, if the leaders make an agreement through those disagreements, a war could be avoided. O’Connor is trying to tell that war is inevitable, nobody can change it, and facing war, people have no choice; duty will be the first choice forever for most people, especially for soldiers, because obedience is the first duty of a soldier.
The other reason that people have to accept war is that they try to protect their countries and they are looking forward to harmonious lives. At the end of the story, the narrator feels he was “somehow very small and very lost and lonely like a child astray in the snow” (DiYanni 59). This shows that people look forward to peace; their feelings and emotions make them want to speak out for their own desire and hope to be friends with other countries’ people even if there is a war, just like Noble and Bonaparte. If there is a choice, they are willing to make a change, a change that will eliminate political conflicts and armed intervention forever.
War could change everything. In the story, the war between two nations brought people together and gave them the chance to have a temporary peaceful life and to be good friends. The war also cruelly separated them and forced the friends to shoot each other. One soldier is only one in a million soldiers in the army, but to the family, he is unique, he is the son of a mother, the husband of a wife and the father of a child. In addition, to a friend, he is unique too, because you will never find a friend as unique as him. The war is so cruel that the death of one soldier is of little consequence to the whole army or to the entire war, but to a family and friends, it means a great loss and endless suffering.
Even though the features of the story are soldiers, gun fires and wars, there are still millions of common people suffering from the same or even worse situations under the serious consequences of political conflicts and national attacks. They are desperate to seek a compromise but have no way to go. Anyway, people are all the same as “victims” after this terrible warfare because they all want their own shields and spaces to take a rest. Therefore, what is behind the epitome should never be concealed, which is, although war always exists, peace is still the hope for all human beings.
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Dictionary -View detailed dictionaryWorks Cited
DiYanni, Robert. Literature: Reading Fiction, Poetry, and Drama. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2007. Print.
Lambert, Tim. "A Brief History of Ireland." A World History Encyclopedia. Web. 23 Oct. 2010. <>.
"O’CONNOR, Frank." Funk & Wagnalls New World Encyclopedia. Web. 23 Oct. 2010. <>.
"O'Connor, Frank." Info:Main Page - New World Encyclopedia. 2 Apr. 2008. Web. 23 Oct. 2010. <'Connor>.

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