What is the short plot of "The Ambitious Guest"?

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pmiranda2857 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The plot revolves around a family living in a cottage which occupies a dangerous position at the base of an unstable mountain.  They feel very secure in their home, sitting by the fire, having always ignored the rumbling of stones they hear coming down the mountain.

It is now winter, and an unexpected stranger appears at their door. The man is welcomed into the cottage by the family and begins to talk to them about his philosophy of life which is to take chances.  This is in direct contrast to the family who are very conservative in their lifestyle choices. 

The whole point of the story is that the guest brings a sense of dreamy adventure into the cottage and suddenly the family starts talking about doing things that seem out of character for them.

"One by one, however, the family members forsake their usual placid acceptance of things as they are and admit to various fancies, so that, as the mother says, “we’re in a strange way, to-night.”

The guest convinces the family to be more adventurous, so when danger comes, they choose a course of action contrary to what they ordinarily would have done.

"The family rushes from the cottage seeking a safer haven but, in fact, flees “right into the pathway of destruction.” The whole mountain falls on them. In the aftermath, their cottage remains intact and the circumstances of their lives are apparent to all who observe the tokens the family has left behind."