War evokes different emotions and feelings for many people. Some are drafted and forced to serve, others volunteer their lives for a cause they believe in and some never even see a battle ground. Some live, some die, others are captured and become prisoners or hostages. But one thing is certain, for those who have actually seen war know first hand that it has the power to change and in most cases it does just that. In Frank O'Connor's "Guests of the Nation," two British soldiers are captured by the Irish Republic Army. Two young Irish soldiers are assigned to guard the captives. The British earn the trust and friendship of their young captors. Until one day the call of duty forces the Irish to carry out orders that forever change their perspective on the war and the duty that accompanies. In "Guests of the Nation," O'Connor uses six elements of fiction to illustrate the conflict associated with the responsibility of duty and one's personal morals in the circumstance of war.
Although this is a story of war and there is obviously external conflict between the opposing countries, it is the internal conflict of the Irish soldiers Bonaparte and Noble that help the reader understand how the weight of duty ultimately defeats personal morals during war. It is Bonaparte and Noble's duty as an Irish soldiers in the IRA (Irish Republic Army) to guard the two captured British soldiers. Bonaparte feels the two men do not even need guarding, that they would not flee given the chance. He and Noble both have become bored with docile cottage life and would rather be out in the action fighting. Bonaparte soon finds out that he and Noble are going to be relived of there guarding duties but not how either of them had anticipated. "It was the next morning that we found it so hard to face Belcher and Hawkins. We went about the house all day scarcely saying a word" (O'Connor 1097). Bonaparte and Noble are on edge all day with
the anticipation of weather or not they will have to execute the British soldiers they have come to
regard as friends. When the two men are given the orders that they will be executing Belcher and Hawkins they are overcome with guilt and moral responsibility. Neither Bonaparte nor Noble want to carry out the duty of execution. Bonaparte even hopes that the men would try to escape or fight knowing full well that he would never fire on them. "And all the time I was hoping that something would happen; that they'd run for it or that Noble would take over the responsibility from me. I had the feeling that it was worse on Noble than on me" (1099). This is a very harsh reality of the duties of war. They want for their friends to run away and relive them of their execution duty although it is their soldierly duty to obey the orders and kill them. There is internal conflict as to the duties and the personal feelings of responsibility that Bonaparte and Noble feel for what they know must be done to Belcher and Hawkins.