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What is the moral of the story "The Guest"?

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Read as a work of existentialism, the moral of "The Guest" is that neutrality is impossible for a human being to achieve. Daru, the protagonist, does not want to take a side in the political situation that surrounds him, but his actions nevertheless commit him.

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Existentialist works by Albert Camus such as "The Guest" examine questions about the way we think about the choices that we make in life. The moral in this story suggests that even when we try to refrain from making choices, we are are still, in effect, choosing.

Daru has pointedly chosen neutrality in the social and political struggles between the French and North Africans. As a schoolteacher at a remote outpost, he is able to occupy himself as a teacher living a spartan life and helping people from succumbing to hunger. Thus, he is annoyed when Balducci brings him an Arab prisoner to deliver to authorities. Balducci makes it impossible for Daru to refuse to accept the prisoner, thereby making a choice for Daru that he cannot sidestep. Camus shows how the choices that other people make sometimes direct our own paths through life.

Daru tries to take back a bit of control by turning the choice over to the prisoner. He gives him food, money, and options: walk one direction and hide with nomadic people, or walk in the other direction and turn himself in to the authorities. Just as he made the choice to kill his cousin, the prisoner makes the choice to face his punishment rather than run from it. Still, it pains Daru to know that he played a role in putting the prisoner in the position where he must make a choice. And ironically, Daru's actions are misunderstood by Arabs who assume that he has turned in their brother. Again, this is all as a result of the actions of Balducci and the prisoner, who end up altering the course of Daru's existence.

Camus seems to conclude that if one lives in the world, one can never live a life of neutrality for oneself or for other people.

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What do you see as the lesson or moral of "The Guest" by Albert Camus?

Perhaps the point of Camus's story is not so much a lesson or moral as it is an observation. We see a colonial scenario in which there is mutual alienation. Daru, a pied-noir (as French Algerians were known), does not seem in sympathy with either Baldacci or even really with the Arab man brought to him as a prisoner for transport to the police station. Yet in his way, he tries to help the Arab man by seemingly allowing him to take things into his own hands rather than escorting him as a prisoner, as he's been charged to do. It's partly an underlying sense of guilt that motivates him, though perhaps it's unnecessarily cynical to view it this way. But we don't observe any true bonding between Daru and the prisoner, though Daru flouts what is the proper duty of someone in his place. Daru is neither for nor against "his own" people or the indigenous Algerians whose country has been taken over by the colonizers.

Camus's observation is that imperialism puts everyone into an untenable position. It's a "message" similar to that of Orwell's "Shooting an Elephant." Even a person of liberal, progressive sentiments cannot effectively solve a problem that others have created. They are stuck in a dysfunctional dynamic in which, even if they know that colonialism is wrong and have sympathy for the people whose land has been occupied, no meaningful effort can be made to solve the problem. Whatever sympathy may be shown them, the indigenous population are reflexively untrusting of the "occupiers." The ominous, hostile message left on Daru's blackboard is the clearest sign of this inability to bridge the gap between colonizer and colonized.

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What do you see as the lesson or moral of "The Guest" by Albert Camus?

Albert Camus's "The Guest" details the story of Daru, a French-Algerian schoolteacher who is stationed in an isolated mountainous area of Algeria. After Balducci, a Corsican gendarme, arrives at the schoolhouse dragging an Arab prisoner behind him, Balducci informs Daru that the Arab man has killed his own cousin with a billhook over an unpaid debt of grain; Balducci demands that Daru host the man overnight in his home so he does not escape and then escort him the following morning to the police headquarters in Tinguit. Daru has no interest in performing these duties, but Balducci forces the responsibility upon him anyway.

Although initially suspicious of the Arab man, Daru eventually develops a sort of strange and unwanted sense of brotherhood with the stranger:

Men who share the same rooms, soldiers or prisoners, develop a strange alliance as if, having cast off their armor with their clothing, they fraternized every evening, over and above their differences, in the ancient community of dream and fatigue.

In the morning, Daru brings the Arab man to a fork in the road, offers him food and money, and presents him with an option: he may walk the two hours to the Tinguit police administration and turn himself in or he may flee across the plateau to take refuge in the pasturelands with the first nomads. The Arab man chooses to turn himself in, and Daru returns to his classroom alone, where he scrawls, "You handed over our brother. You will pay for this," on the chalkboard and surveys the landscape "he had loved so much" in deep isolation. 

Many critics regard this story as a metaphysical examination of the dilemma of human existence and the many moral quandaries that come with it. In the story, Daru is faced with holding the future of a complete stranger in his hands: does he condemn this man to a life in prison (or execution) despite only knowing his crime and not the context of it or the life of the man who committed it? Or does he set the man free in spite of the fact that the man took another human being's life? It is an impossible choice, and, thus, he chooses not to make it, giving the Arab man agency over his own life. Still, almost unreasonably and without true explanation, the Arab man submits himself to the forces of the law. This conflict is ultimately a question of the sometimes opposing forces of justice and freedom.

The story doesn't necessarily have a "lesson" per se, but it does bring up moral questions which the reader must consider for him- or herself. The power dynamic at play here shifts and is perhaps a reflection of the colonialist politics of the time in which an invading force unhinges the way of living in a different land. By the end of the story, Daru has had to confront his isolation, the cruelty of the situation in which both he and the Arab were placed, and the unfathomable ties that bind members of the human race who are inevitably destined for death.

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What is the moral message of "The Guest" that Camus intended to deliver to the reader?

Camus' focus in The Guest, as far as moral message or theme goes, ultimately points back to Existentialism. That is, at the core of human existence is its fundamental futility. Everyone dies eventually, and therefore life is, for all intents and purposes, meaningless. In The Guest, Camus continues this outlook and nudges the reader to think about choices and consequences and the need to live with the choices one makes. Read the story with these principles in mind. There are many sites on the Internet where you can read more about Camus and the Existentialists.

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What is the theme of “The Guest” by Albert Camus?

The theme of Albert Camus's short story “The Guest” is that people must make their decisions according to their own consciences and then must follow through with those decisions.

Daru wants nothing to do with the Arab prisoner Balducci brings him. Balducci also brings the order that Daru is to escort the prisoner, who is accused of murder, to Tinguit. Daru doesn't want to offend Balducci, but he clearly states that such is not his job. Balducci tries to argue that in wartime, people must take all “all kinds of jobs.” Daru dryly counters that he will “wait for the declaration of war.”

Daru clearly thinks that Balducci's superiors have overstepped their authority. He tells Balducci firmly that he will not hand over the prisoner. It is none of his business, and he implies that what happened among the Arabs was really none of the officials' business either. Daru's conscience is set. He will not participate in this affair.

Balducci calls Daru a fool. He admits that he doesn't like the affair either. He even says that he is ashamed to put a rope on someone even after all the time he has been doing it. But orders are orders. Balducci subordinates his conscience and follows his orders no matter how he feels.

Daru, however, will not. He feeds the prisoner and gives him a comfortable place to sleep for the night. Then he escorts the man part of the way to Tinguit. He gives the man food and money and points out two different directions. One way leads to the authorities in Tinguit. The other leads to the nomads who will give the prisoner refuge. Then Daru steps away. Though he shows compassion towards the prisoner and his situation, he also strongly dislikes being associated with one who has been accused of murder. Daru refuses to take a strong stance in one direction or the other, hating having been put in this situation to begin with. He is leaving the choice to the prisoner, who now must decide for himself which way he will go. The Arab chooses to go to Tinguit and to prison.

Ironically, in doing what Daru thought was best in this situation—gravely offending or betraying neither the French authorities nor the Arab prisoner and ultimately taking no side—he has likely done the opposite. When he returns home, he finds someone has written on his blackboard in his absence:

You handed over our brother. You will pay for this.

Just as the prisoner will face the consequences for his own actions, Daru, too, will face repercussions for his indecision.

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