Student Question

How does "The Guest" exemplify absurdism?

Quick answer:

"The Guest" exemplifies absurdism in the free choice that Daru allows the prisoner. By giving the man the option to decide his own fate, Daru ultimately places himself in conflict with the man's allies, who promise to make him "pay" for sending their friend to Tinguit. This demonstrates the irrational tenets of absurdism.

Expert Answers

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Absurdism asserts that the universe is irrational and that attempts to bring order to that irrational world will result in conflict.

In this story, Daru desperately wishes to avoid making the decision to take the prisoner to Tinguit. After wrestling with the decision all night, he finally leaves the prisoner in charge of his own fate. Equipping the man with food and money, he stands at a fork in their path, telling him that one road leads to Tinguit, the other to freedom with some nomadic sympathizers. The prisoner chooses the road to Tinguit, where he will face the authorities for the crime of killing his cousin. While Daru might have been able to free his conscience, breathing a bit easier because he had not sentenced the prisoner to that fate himself, he returns to his schoolhouse to find an ominous message written on his blackboard: "You handed over our brother. You will pay for this." Daru's choice to allow the prisoner to decide his own fate ultimately leads to the retribution of the man's allies, and Daru has placed himself in danger because he allowed the prisoner free choice.

The prisoner's choice to turn himself in to authorities could also be considered an example of absurdism. He is given freedom in his outcome, and ultimately he decides to convict himself. When Daru questions him earlier in the story, the prisoner seems confused by questions regarding his guilt. Why, then, does he feel compelled to submit himself to authorities, if not because of guilt? His freedom to choose his path ultimately leads to the prisoner's choice to submit to punishment. Does that really make him a free man? Or is he less free because he feels compelled to punish himself?

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