What is the central conflict of "The Guest"? Is it external or internal? Can it be defined in terms of dilemma?

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thetall eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"The Guest" is a short story about a French-Algerian schoolmaster who is expected to deliver an Arab prisoner to French authorities. The Arab prisoner is handed to Daru by Balducci, a policeman. Balducci informs Daru that the Arab prisoner murdered his own cousin, and he is to be escorted to Tinguit. At first, Daru thinks it’s a joke, but when reality dawns on him he protests. Balducci eventually leaves Daru with the prisoner. Daru has a restless night and the next day he sets off with the prisoner towards Tinguit. However, Daru leaves the prisoner along the way and informs him that he should make the decision to either escape or walk to prison. From a short distance, Daru sees the prisoner continue on his path towards the authorities.

The story’s central conflict is the internal conflict suffered by Daru, who seems reluctant to be involved in the issues between the French and the Arabs. His situation is made worse when Balducci delivers the Arab prisoner and put him to the task. He suffers from mental agony which is evident from his restless night, and, further, he is unable to make a decision and leaves the prisoner along the way. He is conflicted about whether to escort the prisoner to the authorities or to freedom. His indecision can also be interpreted as a dilemma between what is expected of him by the French authorities and what he wants to do as an individual.

kmj23 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In "The Guest," the central conflict relates to the main character, Daru. Specifically, Daru is asked by Balducci (a police officer and representative of the French government) to take an Arab prisoner to the prison in Tanguit. Given the political situation in which the Arabs are revolting against the French, Daru has no intention of taking sides. However, Balducci does not give Daru an option about completing the task. He tells him he must do it, even though he does not want to. 

This internal conflict, between man and society, can be categorized as a dilemma because Daru does not want to be drawn into this situation between the French and the Arabs. This dilemma is clearly shown by the following line:

And he cursed at one and the same time his own people who had sent him this Arab and the Arab too who had dared to kill and not managed to get away.

To solve this dilemma, Daru decides to give total control to the prisoner when he leaves him at the plateau. Daru tells the prisoner that he can go east to Tanguit or south to return to the Arabs.  

ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main conflict in the story is Daru's internal struggle with having to turn the Arab prisoner over to French authorities.  He does not want to take sides.  He does not want to turn the prisoner in but he has been ordered to do so.  His dilemma is whether or not to do as he is told, or to do as he wants.  If he does as he is told he will escort the prisoner to the French for a trial, if he does as he wants he will remain neutral and let the prisoner go.