One theme in The Ambitious Guest is ambition and how a person defines contentment in life.
On a stormy night, a stranger comes to the door of a small cottage that sits at the base of a mountain, welcomed inside by the family, the ambitious guest makes himself at home.
Inside the cottage is a family, mother, father, son, daughter and Grandmother, relatviely content with the quiet snug life that they lead in the remote cottage in the country. Unlike the family, the guest is a traveler who has great expectations for his life, big plans.
While the members of the family have always felt satisfied with the quiet, simple life they have led in the cozy cottage, after hearing the guest speak, the family starts to imagine all the things that they could do with a little ambition of their own. Each family member has his or her own vision of what they feel is missing from their lives.
"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 himself is portrayed as having “a high and abstracted ambition.” A solitary wanderer, his dreams of making his mark are just that—dreams, reveries removed from the concreteness of domestic life as it is evoked at the beginning of the story."