Although the story is known in English as "The Guest," the alternative title of "The Host" is also appropriate, since Daru is a considerate host to the Arab prisoner and is himself a guest of the French government in the post of schoolmaster of the desert region. Daru amicably caters to Balducci and the prisoner when they enter the schoolhouse, but upon receiving Balducci's orders, he ends the exchange in a disagreeable manner, expressing his intent to defy orders to deliver the man to Tinguit. Daru extends kindness to the Arab prisoner throughout the story, hosting him comfortably as an overnight guest before depositing him in the middle of the desert the following day with directions to either prison or a new life.
Despite the availability of freedom, the Arab man chooses to take the road to prison, most likely out of a deep commitment to honor. After having treated the prisoner respectfully, defying military orders out of his own personal code of honor, Daru receives a threat from the prisoner's allies, who assume he delivered the man to Tinguit as requested. Both Daru and the Arab prisoner ultimately have their futures altered by French military involvement; these unwilling guests are at the mercy of a powerful, uncaring host with concerns far removed from their well-being.