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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The conflict is both internal and external. In all colonial societies, and in literature by the more progressive authors who were a part of them, there is a split between the loyalty of the "occupiers" to their own people and the underlying awareness that the whole imperialist operation is wrong...

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The conflict is both internal and external. In all colonial societies, and in literature by the more progressive authors who were a part of them, there is a split between the loyalty of the "occupiers" to their own people and the underlying awareness that the whole imperialist operation is wrong in both a moral and a practical sense. In "The Guest," Daru, the schoolteacher, is supposed to escort the Arab prisoner to a distant police station, but he instead lets the man escape, while nevertheless instructing him to go to the intended destination as the law requires. Daru clearly has sympathy for the Arab man but is internally conflicted and doesn't want to act upon his conviction directly. The ominous message left on the blackboard in the schoolroom makes it clear that no amount of sympathy shown by the "occupiers" can defuse the problem that exists when the indigenous population wishes their country returned to their own control. It is, from the standpoint of Daru and other liberals, a true dilemma. Like Flory in George Orwell's Burmese Days, Daru is a European whose home is outside Europe, and he cannot, nor does he intend to, "evacuate" the colonial "homeland." But he knows the European presence there is wrong. The conflict in these situations is external as well, because the internal "split" in the thinking of les pieds-noirs (as the French Algerians were called), or of the British colonials in India, is an extension of the collective act of imperialism their countries have engaged in. The occupying power creates a paradox, or duality, in regarding the colonized country as part of itself, even though that country belongs to other people. The contradiction inherent in colonialism is symbolized by Camus in the title of his story "L'Hôte," which in French means both "guest" and "host." Which of the two, Daru or the Arab man, is the guest, and which the host? Or do both words apply to both of them?

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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.  

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"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.

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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.

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