Albert Camus was born in Algeria, the setting of his story “The Guest.” More specifically, the actual setting for the story is a desolate region near the Atlas Mountains. Told in third person point of view, the narrator is a reliable voice.
The three characters in the story represent a different aspect of society:
Balducci, a French policeman, delivers the prisoner to Daru.
The Arab has been arrested for killing his cousin and brought by the policeman to the schoolhouse.
Daru, the protagonist, is the schoolmaster. He is ordered by the French Headquarters to deliver the Arab to another town to be tried.
Daru’s moral dilemma comes when is told by Balducci that he is to take the prisoner to another town. The French headquarters drafted orders and Balducci had the responsibility of delivering them to Daru. Daru is the schoolmaster. He strongly believes that this is not his responsibility. Daru tells the policeman that he will not take him. The schoolmaster does not like how the Arab has been treated, nor does he feel that this is his responsibility. Fighting in a war is one thing; but doing someone else’s dirty work he would not do.
Daru said suddenly, "every bit of this disgusts me, and first of all your fellow
here. But I won't hand him over. Fight, yes, if I have to. But not that."
"I won't hand him over," Daru said again.
To himself, Daru declares that to turn the prisoner in would be contrary to honor. Daru believes imprisoning the Arab is wrong, and thus allows the prisoner every opportunity to escape during the night. In the morning, they set out toward the town. The Arab believes that Daru is carrying out the commands of the police. When they have traveled for a while, Daru provides the Arab with food and money and shows him the way to the other town. The schoolmaster refused to be a part of something that was not his responsibility. Later even though he treats the prisoner hospitably and provides him a way to escape, he is threatened by the other Arabs and may lose his own life.
The Arab killed his cousin over a family squabble. Honor is important in the Arab culture; consequently, Daru thinks that there may have been more to the killing than he or the policemen understand. The Arab has the chance to escape; however, he remains with the impression that he will be taken to jail. He could have killed Daru in the night. Because Daru treats him with civility, the Arab respects him. When Daru leaves him with the provisions and money, he does not immediately run away. It takes a few minutes for him to decide what he will do. When Daru looks back, the Arab is gone. In which direction, Daru does not know.
Listening to one’s conscience guides a person down the right path. Following a code of conduct that is honorable and upright leads to the right decision. This story explores how two men solve the problem of honor and freedom.
Both men face moral decisions. Daru follows his conscience and allows the Arab to go free. The Arab, offered the opportunity to get away, chooses that option. Daru believes imprisoning the Arab is wrong, and thus allows the prisoner the chance to escape. Choosing to let the prisoner go is the only way that Daru will be able to live with himself. The Arab had already shown himself to be honorable by not trying to escape. Both men made the right decisions.