In "The Guest," why does Daru give the prisoner his freedom? What reasons are there for not giving him his freedom?

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Daru is in the typical position of a seemingly liberal member of a colonialist population, caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. He knows that the indigenous people of Algeria are justified in their resentment and anger toward the occupying power, the French. But Daru is of French...

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Daru is in the typical position of a seemingly liberal member of a colonialist population, caught between the proverbial rock and a hard place. He knows that the indigenous people of Algeria are justified in their resentment and anger toward the occupying power, the French. But Daru is of French background himself. Like George Orwell in Burma, he feels that imperialism is wrong, unjustifiable; yet the country in which he lives is in some sense his country too.

Daru does not wish to follow Balducci's instructions and continue to hold the Arab man as a prisoner, because, when it is a question involving the "rightness" of the system that Balducci and the gendarmerie represent, Daru doesn't believe in it himself. But the ominous message the prisoner leaves on the board in Daru's schoolroom is an indication that by helping the man—by leaving him unaccompanied and allowed to go on his way despite telling him to report to the distant station—Daru is possibly endangering himself. In a struggle against the colonial establishment, even people of an apparently progressive orientation like Daru are the "enemy." Again, this is similar to Orwell's predicament in colonial Burma. It merely shows that the dynamic created in an imperialist world is dysfunctional and insoluble. Those among the "occupiers," though they didn't start the problem and are merely inheriting it, seem to be victimized by it, despite their intentions being benign and sympathetic to the indigenous peoples.

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Daru has chosen to live in such a remote area because he wants no involvement with politics or the larger world. However, politics catch up with him when he is commanded to deliver an Arab prisoner to a nearby town. He doesn't want to do this because he knows it will make him a target. The Arab friends of this man will hold him responsible for turning the man in, even though he had really nothing to do with except to deliver the prisoner.

The prisoner tries to recruit Daru to his cause, but Daru's goal in life is to avoid such entanglements, so he refuses. Daru tries as hard as possible to give the prisoner ample opportunity to escape, including food and a thousand francs, but the prisoner won't take advantage of it.

Not giving the prisoner his freedom means Daru will have done his duty according to the French authorities. He will not get into any trouble with them.

Once Daru has delivered the prisoner, what he has feared comes true. He returns home to a threatening note on his blackboard that says he will "pay" for turning in their "brother." Suddenly, the life in a lonely spot that Daru thought would bring him safety becomes a danger to him.

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Daru allows the prisoner to choose between fleeing the law and joining some nomads, or selecting the road to the prison. He gives the man this choice because, although the man's "stupid crime revolted him," handing him over to the authorities "is contrary to honor."

Albert Camus's short story "The Guest" exemplifies Absurdism. Like Camus, Daru is a Frenchman who was born in Algeria, a North African colony of France, but his parents are French and have lived on the continent. This story exemplifies Camus's belief in Absurdism.

[Camus] thought that life had no meaning, that nothing exists that could ever be a source of meaning, and hence there is something deeply absurd about the human quest to find meaning. [https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/camus/]

The individual conflicts with this absurdity, but there is no resolution to the conflict. Because he is not really part of the police, Daru does not feel it is his responsibility to turn the prisoner over to the authorities. If he does turn the prisoner over, he risks attack by the relatives and/or friends of this prisoner, a dangerous position to be in because he is some distance from Balducci and the police. Besides, the area is his home; it is where he was born: "Everywhere else, he felt exiled." When Daru returns to his schoolhouse, he finds written on the blackboard a message threatening him for having turned over their brother. Daru realizes that "[I]n this vast landscape he had loved so much, he was alone." He feels the alienation that comes from acting in an absurd world.

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Daru is told by Balducci that the Head officer could not spare him long enough to escort the Arab prisoner all the way to the French authorities.  Balducci tels Daru it will be up to him to complete the transfer of the prisoner.  Daru does not want to do this because he doesn't feel it is his job.  Daru also does not wish to take sides against the Albanians until he has to choose to fight for France.  Daru doesn't want to be involved in this messy business.

A good reason for Daru to do as he is asked is that the French government is expecting him to follow their orders.  He is being handed a responsibility and should fulfill that responsibility even if it is an unpleasant thought.  His refusal could look like a betrayal to the French.

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