What does the story tell us about good and evil and the nature of moral choice?

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sagetrieb | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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Camus was an existentialist, but his form of existentialism emphasizes the meaninglessness of existence, a situation he described as “absurd.” No choice is necessarily the right choice, because the universe itself is irrational. While it might be incumbent upon us to choose, doing so might result in further alienating us. For him, a person might achieve authenticity in choosing, but will deepen his sense of alienation—a lack of connection to life-- nevertheless. Nevertheless, taking responsibility for our actions is imperative to live an authentic, moral life. This is the dilemma that Camus explores in “The Guest.”  Daru believes it is wrong to turn the prisoner over to the authorities, yet he is not willing to take a political stance against a system he knows to be wrong. He tries to avoid a real decision, a real moral choice, by leaving the prisoner untied and hoping he just escapes. He tries to give the prisoner the responsibility for choosing. Daru is in a no win situation, for if the prisoner goes to freedom (returning to his compatriots), Daru will be held responsible by the French authorities, but if the prisoner chooses to stay, Daru will be held responsible by the Arabs. As the criticism in enotes points out, “The ultimate result of Daru’s decision is misunderstanding and a profound alienation from the world.”

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