Albert Camus was born in Algeria. As a young man, Camus worked as a court reporter. He was aware of the problems facing the Algerians in their fight for freedom. Camus' characters are fictitious in his story "The Guest"; however, the events come from his experiences while working in Algeria.
The protagonist of the plot is Daru, the local school master. He lives in the school. On this day, Daru watches as a horseman leading another man comes up the mountain toward the school. When they arrive, Daru greets one of the French policemen, Balducci. Apparently, Daru and Balducci have spent some time together because they have a friendly relationship.
Balducci has brought an Arab prisoner to the school. The man is accused of killing his cousin over a family dispute. The policeman tells Daru that he has been ordered to deliver the Arab to the authorities in Tinguit. The school master cannot believe what he has heard. The policeman attempts to explain why the school master has been told to take the prisoner, but Daru does not care.
Balducci provides the school teacher with a gun. In response, Daru tells the gendarme that he will not hand the Arab over to the courts.
'I won't hand him over,' Daru said again.
'It's an order, son, and I repeat it.'
'That's right. Repeat it to them what I've said to you. I won't hand him over.'
Left with the school master, the Arab is confused. The school teacher gives the Arab every opportunity to run away, but he does not. Daru fixes them a supper which the Arab enjoys tremendously.
Daru plays the good host. Providing the Arab man with a comfortable bed and warmth, Daru leaves the Arab to sleep. In the morning, the Arab still had not run away. Daru fixes them breakfast. Reviewing the events of the last day, Daru regrets having insulted Balducci. Still, it is not his job.
That man's stupid crime revolted him, but to hand him over was contrary to honor. Merely thinking of it made him smart with humiliation.
Daru gives the Arab a coat. Daru and the Arab begin their journey walking for an hour. The school master gives some provisions to the Arab and tells him to take himself to the authorities. The Arab was unsure about what he was telling him. Daru starts back toward the school. When he looks back, the man is gone.
Returning to the school, Daru thinks the ordeal is over. When he gets inside the school, on the chalk board is written a threat:
'You handed over our brother. You will pay for this.'
Daru looks around at his circumstances. He realizes that he is all alone in his plight.
Hopefully, the Arab will find the people who have threatened the teacher and tell them about his hospitality. If not, Daru may have taught his last class.
The story is set near the Atlas Mountains in Algeria. The time is mid-October with an early snow on the ground. It is the eve of the beginning of the Algerian War for independence from France.