In "The Guest," what disturbs Daru about sharing a room overnight with the Arab? How does it complicate his sense of duty?

In the short story "The Guest" by Albert Camus, Daru is disturbed about sharing a room overnight with the Arab because he realizes that this creates a feeling of alliance or brotherhood between them. This complicates his sense of duty, because according to duty, he is obliged to carry out the order of the police officer. Instead, Daru sets the Arab free and allows him to decide which road to take.

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In the short story "The Guest" by Albert Camus, Daru is a live-in teacher who stays at an isolated school on a hillside near a village in Algeria. Due to a snowfall, his students have not come to school. A police officer named Balducci brings an Arab prisoner to the school with orders that Daru should transport the prisoner to a nearby town. Daru refuses to comply with the order, but Balducci leaves the Arab with him anyway.

Daru treats the Arab as kindly as he can. He leaves the man unbound, he feeds him, and he prepares a bed for him. However, once they lie down for the night, Daru is unable to sleep. He feels vulnerable because he has undressed and gone to bed naked as usual, but that is not primarily what bothers him.

What mainly disturbs Daru is something more abstract and ephemeral. He has been sleeping alone in his room for a year, and now he has a guest. He recognizes that once men have shared a room together, they develop an alliance or brotherhood based upon the closeness they have shared. As Camus puts it,

In this room where he had been sleeping alone for a year, this presence bothered him. But it bothered him also by imposing on him a sort of brotherhood he knew well but refused to accept in the present circumstances. Men who share the same rooms, soldiers or prisoners, develop a strange alliance as if, having cast off their armor with their clothing, they fraternized every evening, over and above their differences, in the ancient community of dream and fatigue.

This sense of brotherhood, along with Daru's ambivalence toward the Arab and what he has done, complicates Daru's sense of duty and makes him unable to carry out the police officer's orders. It eventually causes him to leave the Arab at a crossroads, present him with alternatives, and allow him to choose his own fate.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on June 22, 2020
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