Albert Camus was born in Algeria, which is the setting for “The Guest.” The story is told with a third person narrator who tells the story from the school master Daru’s point of view. The time of the story falls in beginning of the Algerian revolt against the French rule, probably in the late 1950s’.
Daru, the protagonist, faces a moral dilemma. Placed in an unfair position, Daru has been ordered by the French government to take an Arab prisoner to another town to be tried for the murder of his cousin. The policeman, who brought the prisoner to Daru’s school, believes in following orders and tells Daru that this is his responsibility. Daru tells him he will not hand over the prisoner.
‘But you can’t let them have their way.’
‘I won’t hand him over,’ Daru said again.
‘It’s an order son, and I repeat it.”
‘That’s right. Repeat to them what I’ve said to you: I won’t hand him over.”
Daru decides to give the prisoner the chance to escape. He leaves him alone through the night. However, in the morning the prisoner is still there. Regardless of the policeman’s opinion, the Arab understands his situation, accepts his consequences, and with honor, awaits his fate.
Daru begins to feel a connection to his guest. He does not like that the Arab has committed a crime, but neither does he like how the Arab is treated. Daru decides to treat the Arab with respect and as a guest in his house. With the language barrier, the Arab does not understood what is happening. He did not know that Daru had been given the responsibility of delivering him to the officials.
Daru faces his moral challenge: take the Arab to the authorities and risk the anger of the Algerians; or give the Arab the chance to escape and therefore going against the orders of the French government. With honor and no remorse, Daru chooses the latter. He will provide the means for the Arab to choose his own fate: to get away or go the authorities on his own. In this way, it will be the Arab’s decision and not his.
Daru lives in a precarious world. Serving as the school master and distributor of food, he has built a rapport with the surrounding Algerians. If he decides to take the Arab to the judges, Daru will not only endanger his work but even his life.
When Daru leaves the Arab and begins to walk back to his school, the Arab at first does not understand. He watches as Daru leaves. Eventually, Daru looks back, and the man is gone. At the school, an ominous note awaits him:
'You handed over our brother. You will pay for this.'
Hopefully, the Algerians will discover that Daru helped the Arab. If not, he may lose his life for following the honorable path. Daru’s relationship with his guest and the choice to let him go accentuate his position: isolated, responsible, and honorable. Daru has risen to the occasion and become the hero.