In what respect is the ending of the story "The Guest," ironic?  What kind of irony is this?  What does it contribute to the meaning of the story?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The protagonist of Camus's short story, Daru, who is French, but born in Algiers, is torn in his loyalties and his desire to not be involved in any conflicts. However, the irony is that in this inscrutable world of Daru, a time of Arab uprisings, it makes little difference what decision is made because actions are repeatedly misconstrued. Besides this, it is odd that when Daru walks with the prisoner freely, the Arab does not try to run or escape. Camus narrates,

Men who share the same room, soldiers or prisoners, develop a strange alliance if... they fraternized every evening, over and above their differences, in the ancient community of dream and fatigue.

Perhaps because they have fraternized so, Daru provides the Arab with a thousand francs and some food, pointing the prisoner to the south and telling him there are some nomads ahead who will take him in, according to their law. "Now, I'm leaving you," he says and turns his back toward home. However, when given the choice of freedom, Daru later turns and, "with heavy heart," perceives that the Arab walks along the road to the prison.

It is, then, of great irony (situational) that when Daru returns, he finds a note on his chalkboard in the classroom that accuses him, "You handed over our brother. You will pay for this."

ladyvols1 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The story's ending demonstrates situational irony.  This irony contributes to the story because it follows a "fundamental motif of Camus. The idea of the Absurd. Generally speaking, absurdism is based on the belief that the universe is irrational and meaningless and that attempts to find order or meaning will bring the individual into conflict with that absurd universe. For Camus, there is no resolution to this conflict."

For Daru the decision to refuse to turn over the prisoner has caused conflict with the French police, and even though he did not turn the Arab over, when he gets home the threat on his blackboard indicates that the friends of the prisoner believe him to be guilty of that very act.  They write on his blackboard, "You have turned in our brother, you will pay. 

How ironic that by trying to stay neutral, he is now an enemy of both sides of the conflict which is yet to come.