Set in remote Algieria during civil unrest between French colonists and Arab natives, "The Guest" features Daru, a French (in exile) schoolteacher who is host to Balducci, a French gendarme (military guard), and an Arab prisoner accused of murder. Daru feeds and harbors the two guests for the night. The next morning, there is an uprising by the native Algierians against the French troops nearby, so Balducci leaves the Arab in Daru's custody while he goes to fight, thereby leaving Daru the responsiblity to deliver the Arab to the nearby priosn.
Because Daru in an Arab schoolteacher, he sympathizes with the Arabs and does not want to get involved, especially in a death penalty case. But, he is also a French colonist (by proxy) and faces chargesof treason if he does not obey Balducci's orders. So, he tries to play both sides. He walks the prisoner to a fork in the road: one road leading to prison, and the other toward a group of nomads. Thinking the Arab will choose freedom, Daru frees him. Looking back, however, Daru sees the Arab walking toward the prison.
Why did the prisoner choose death instead of freedom? Why did Daru refuse to choose another man's fate? Was Daru's decision to "wash his hands" of the prisoner an act of irresponsibility? Was it a cultural decision for the Arab to honor the wishes of his host (Daur) and thereby go to prison? Or, was it a fear of freedom? Does Camus think that most people choose death instead of freedom every day of their lives?
In the end, Daru finds a message at his schoolhouse left by the Arab's brother which says he plans to seek revenge for his brother's death. So, Daru's refusal to make a choice inevitably leads to the Arab's death and possibly his own. This predicament reflects Camus' absurdist philosophy which says the universe is chaotic and unsympathetic.