Revenge, the concept of an eye for an eye, is the undeniable motto of war. But even in war, a man is only a man, and his conscience is still present. Frank O’Connor’s “Guests of a Nation,” is a test to the motto of war, and the model of what it stands for. However, with this test comes another, the test of companionship. Willing to listen and understand another man’s perspective, but not allowing it to alter a friendship.
Overall this story is one of choice, duty, and morality, and how each could be a deciding factor for a man’s right to live.
Living in the same cottage, eating together, playing cards, and discussing views on life, it’s not too hard to see why the four soldiers, regardless of their differences, became friends. All except Donovan were open to the invitation of a friendship; he chose to follow his duty. Donovan was adamant about carrying out his role as guard and did not socialize with the other men.
The motto of war, and the rules of engagement painted a vivid image in Donovan’s head, and he was determined to keep it that way. Staying loyal to his country, he believed that duty was how life was to be executed.
Following what your duty is or what you’re expected to do is not always bad. As a matter of fact, it’ll help one organize his life, by doing what he is required to do to live.
But when it comes to something ethical, one must choose between morality and duty. On the other hand, the two Irish soldiers Noble and Bonaparte were intrigued by the thoughts of the two Englishmen, Belcher and Hawkins. The four men became companions, and chose to see past each other’s differences. These men preferred to compete with words or a game of cards instead the exchanging of gun fire.
Here, a choice was made by these four men to live together as one and push their political differences aside. A choice is what one does when acting with the intentions of his own thoughts and his own heart, rather than duty, acting by order of authority. Anyone can agree that choices range in importance. Such as choosing what to shoes wear or where you’re going to eat for dinner tonight, are pretty miniscule decisions. But when it comes to something a little more serious, such as deciding whether another man can continue breathing or not, the weight of importance rises immensely.
This is when a man must seriously think of what he must do. That internal that struggle forms inside one’s stomach, the feeling of guilt before the deed, hoping the relief that the decision hasn’t been made yet may relieve a slight bit of pressure. Here in this situation the truth behind a man’s morality and or his duty is questioned. The answer to that question isn’t always clear. When Donovan is informed that four Irish soldiers were killed by British Forces, his duty is to retaliate by murdering the two hostages, Belcher and Hawkins.
When the men gathered at the site of where the executions would take place, the situation was explained. Belcher and Hawkins were in disbelief, would their “friends” really take their lives like this? The answer was no. Noble and Bonaparte recalled on their experiences with their British comrades, the arguments over religion, the card games, and discussions over politics. With these memories of a friendship on their heart, the two Irish soldiers declined Donovan’s request when he asked of their participation in the shooting. Donovan is faced with a choice.
A choice to carry out his duty and seek revenge for his lost soldiers, an eye for an eye—or to follow his morality and realize the wrong in the duty he is “required” to carry out. Sadly, even after a slight hesitation, Donovan chooses his duty over the value of his own morality and kills the two Englishmen. In a harsh reality, O’Connor’s intention of this story was to highlight the value of life and what it means in the wake of war. O’Connor showed that the duty of war is not always the best situation for one’s morality and ethical code.
Everything starts with a choice, and everything ends with some kind of result. However, even with a choice being its own, it is still influenced by the voice of morality and the voice of duty. It is one’s own choice on which voice to listen to. Not knowing the outcome until a choice is made, is the beauty of a decision. Pretention and indecisiveness is nothing more than the guilt of the wager or decision you are about to make. But by following one’s morality… that is the way to evade to cruel torment of an everlasting guilt.