Albert Camus was familiar with the setting of the story "The Guest." This was his birth place. The time of the story is October in the 1950s on the eve on the French/Algerian War. The specific setting is a school house built at the base of the Atlas Mountains. It is an isolated region.
The main character/protagonist Daru is the French born Algerian local school master. The title of the story comes from life altering event for the teacher. A local policeman brings an Arab prisoner to stay the night with the teacher. This is the teacher's guest. The teacher has been ordered to take the prisoner to a town several miles away to hand him over to the authorities.
Daru refuses to accept this responsibility. It is not is job. He does not like how the prisoner has been treated despite the fact that he has killed his cousin over a petty quarrel.
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.
After the policeman leaves, Daru gives the Arab many opportunities to escape. None of which he takes. Daru treats him like a guest, providing meals for him, bedding, and warmer clothes.
In the morning, Daru decides to take the Arab part of the way, provide him with rations, and leave him to go on wherever he chooses. After leaving the Arab on the road and when the school master returns to the school, he finds a threatening note written on the blackboard because of his part in holding the criminal.
Ironically, Daru has provided the means for the Arab to escape. He has done everything in his power to help the man. Feeling alone and betrayed, it is likely that Daru will lose his life because of this incident.
Another exanple of irony, comes from the control that the government has had on the life of Daru. He has been forced to take a job that he does not like in a place he does not want to be. The irony comes when he is forced to do something against his conscience; then, Daru stands against the government. Understanding that his life has meaning only if he stands against the officials, he decides to treat the Arab humanely and allow him to choose his own destiny.
Two conflicts come to light for Daru. The first is his stance against society. The government has ordered him to follow their rules despite the fact that Daru does not believe in them. He chooses to go against the orders and stand alone in an hostile environment.
'But you can't let them have their way.'
'I won't hand him over,' Daru said again.
'It's an order, son, and I repeat it.'
'That's right. Repeat to them what l've said to you: I won't hand him over.'
Secondly, Daru does struggle with his distaste in what the Arab has done. Of course, he does not agree with the murder. However, he believes that this should be taken care of by the locals and their customs. Again, he chooses to take his own path to solve the problem.