What is the summary of "The Man Without a Country" by Edward Everett Hale?


Quick Answer

In Edward Everett Hale's "The Man Without a Country," U.S. Army officer Philip Nolan is tried and found guilty for treason, exiled and sentenced to life on U.S. Navy warships. Over time, he realizes how little he appreciated America and how much he truly loves his country.

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Full Answer

On trial for supporting Aaron Burr, U.S. Army lieutenant Philip Nolan denounces the U.S. and says that he never wants to hear about his country again. Exiled to U.S. Naval warships, Philip moves from ship to ship, never returning to or hearing about America.

At first he is unrepentant, but over time he becomes desperate for news of his country. He asks a young sailor for news of America and urges him to never speak ill of America. "Stand by her, boy, as you would stand by your mother, " he says, referring to America as "her," which he does each time he talks about the United States. While at a ship party, he asks a woman with whom he dances for news of America, but she refuses and walks away.

Years after his sentence, he realizes he is dying. He shows an officer named Danforth a shrine he built to America. The shrine includes a portrait of George Washington, a painted bald eagle and an outdated map. This map, he says, is proof that he has a country. He asks again for news, and Danforth gives in, sharing all of the major events that occurred since his trial except the Civil War.

After he dies, an epitaph he wrote is discovered. He describes himself as loving his country like no other man loves her but acknowledges that he deserved nothing from her.

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