How does this story reinforce the existentialists' beliefs that people are alone in an absurd, godless universe?

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mstultz72 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Camus' short story "The Guest," he clarifies tenets of existentialism and, more specifically, absurdism.

Camus was an absurdist.  He broke with Sartre, his friend who championed atheistic existentialism.  Instead, Camus believed that the workings of the universe are random and unknowable.  He advocated that his absurd heroes should love life, hate death, and scorn the gods as a means for taking responsibility in a universe that was otherwise ungovernable.

In the short story, Daru is Camus' protagonist but not his absurd hero.  The story has none, as the characters all choose death:

  1. Balducci fails to take responsibility for his prisoner: he leaves him for Daru.
  2. Daru fails to take responsibility for his prisoner: he fails to make a choice by avoiding making a choice.
  3. The Arab prisoner fails to take responsibility for his freedeom, choosing death instead.

Camus seems to be saying that most men, when given the chance at life and freedom choose death instead.  Why?  External forces.  In the end, all three characters in "The Guest" choose death.  Balducci will be killed eventually during the Arab war.  The prisoner will be executed.  Daru will be avenged by the Arab's brothers-in-arms.

An existentialist says that man is defined from within, not from external forces  (God, country, socio-economic status, rank, privilege, friends, etc...).  Camus says that one must accept his absurd fate (freedom) and, as such, love life, hate death, and scorn the gods (external forces).

Read the study guide:
The Guest

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