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Camus' short story, "The Guest," is set in colonial Algeria during a harsh winter drought in an area that is very poor. The barren landscape is difficult for travel and farming. New shipments of wheat from France are long overdue. Daru shelters a few chickens, and he barely has enough grain to feed them. All are hungry: the animals, his students, himself.
The Algerian schoolteacher Daru is said to have "lived like a monk" there, teaching the Arab children almost as a mission of mercy. To make matters worse, there is an Arab revolt against the French colonists. The lean Daru refuses to take sides in the dispute; instead, he attempts only to tolerate the physical and political conditions. As such, Daru's lean physicque mirrors his setting and these geo-political conditions. This literary device, known as a pathetic fallacy, is used by Camus to connote the difficult choice Daru must make later in the story when he decides to let the Arab prisoner go. After Daru lets him go, the Arab ironically goes to prison anyway. Like Daru, the Arab prisoner has chosen death over freedom.
We must infer that his Arab brothers will take revenge against the lone schoolteacher. Alientated, Daru will die alone, hungry, with barely enough dirt to cover his body--all because he refused to take sides in the colonial war and in deciding the Arab's fate for him. Placed in an absurd world, Daru is a little, meaningless man who whose shallow grave will barely cover his face.
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