What are some examples of existentialism in "The Guest" by Albert Camus?  

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Albert Camus adhered to Absurdism more than he did Existentialism. Much like his character Daru, Camus perceived a world without reason. Nevertheless, not unlike the Existentialists, Camus felt that the individual must organize in his own way the chaos and absurdity of existence.

In the short story "The Guest," Daru is placed in an absurd position. He knows that whatever he does, his actions will be misconstrued because this is a time of uprising and acts are repeatedly misinterpreted. When the old Corsican Balducci brings a prisoner to Daru and tells him to take this prisoner to Tinguit the next day because a revolt is brewing, Daru insists that it is not his job to transport prisoners; he contends that he is a teacher, not a policeman. Ignoring these words, Balducci orders Daru to do as he is asked, and he leaves the Arab with Daru. After Balducci departs, Daru lies on his couch pondering the absurdity of the situation in which he finds himself.

No one in this desert, neither he nor his guest, mattered. And, yet, outside this desert neither of them, Daru knew, could have really lived.

The next day Daru takes the prisoner to a plateau where they can see the landscape below. Handing the Arab a thousand francs, Daru points the way to Tinguit where the authorities await the prisoner; then, he points to the south, telling the man that he will find nomads after a day's walk. "They'll take you in and shelter you according to their law," Daru says. Then, he leaves the prisoner to make his own existential and moral choice. But he is disappointed when the Arab walks toward Tinguit. So, Daru returns to his classroom. There he finds a message written on his blackboard: "You handed over our brother. You will pay for this." Looking outside, Daru feels a sense of alienation: "In this vast landscape he had loved so much, he was alone." And it is the sense of alienation that comes from acting in an absurd world that overcomes Daru.

mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Camus does not explicitly reveal his existential philosophy through his narration or his character's quotes.  He sets up the story to be an existential predicament.

First, look for quotes of alienation and aloneness.  The rocky terrain.  The barren landscape.  Daru's solitary schoolhouse.  The gendarme and the prisoner out in the snow.

Second, look at the choices that each character is given, and how each character avoids choice.  The gendarme hands over the prisoner to a civilian.  Daru tries to set the prisoner free.  The prisoner could have led a life of freedom, but chose not to.  These are existential predicaments.

Camus say that there are two choices: freedom and death.  The prisoner had a chance to join the nomads (freedom); instead, he walked to the prison (death).  What's worse, Daru made no choice at all.