Free «The Guest Albert Camus» Essay Sample

In his short story “The Guest” Albert Camus brings up a series of philosophical questions. Is a man really endowed with free will? What society expects or demands, neither, or both, are our decisions determined by? How can social and moral obligation determine decision making? An old gendarme Balducci brings the Arab to the door of Daru, an anchorite schoolmaster, who lives in the premises of the school. Balducci informs the schoolmaster that he has an order “to deliver the prisoner”, thus, getting rid of responsibility over the Arab’s further fate. Balducci is on the point of declining responsibility of the Arab’s eventual escape. Moreover, he is acting as if he has been expressly ordered so (to deliver the Arab to the school and to give the orders concerning the Arab to Daru). Furthermore, Balducci suggests that whatever happens to the Arab afterwards will not be dependent at all on anything made before. An old gendarme avoids any obligation he ought to feel. Being aware of the responsibility he should bear, Balducci knows, nonetheless, that he does not have to do so.   

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Daru ends up accepting the alien prisoner because the Arab has been delivered to him. Daru feels himself responsible to the French society and government, so he accepts the Arab. Nevertheless, the schoolmaster does not feel himself obliged to deliver the Arab to the police in Tinguit. The schoolmaster takes that order as some social duty not to let a criminal free. Daru simply cannot defy the social order being afraid of the society’s eventual sinking into chaos, he would not be able to avoid. Daru is supposed to deliver the Arab to the “police headquarters”, because the latter has killed a man in a “family squabble”, as Balducci puts it.  Had the Arab stolen corn from a public field to save his kids from starvation, then the schoolmaster would have had justification for not taking him to prison. He views the rules of society to be not applicable if the law is being broken for some, apparently, just cause. Therefore, taking the Arab to prison becomes not only a societal obligation. Daru first and foremost desires to feel safe, so to protect society he ought to have a criminal punished. If Daru fails to fulfill his duty it will mean that he denies the responsibility to society. So he is afraid of society ceasing protect him in retort. 

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Having accepted the Arab Daru has to wait till the next day to have the trip to the prison. This makes him face another choice. Daru is actually free to treat the Arab like a human being, or treat him like an animal (having him tied, not giving a prisoner a thing to be seated on or a place to have a rest). The schoolmaster chooses to treat the prisoner like human being, even though he does not consider him a man. Daru’s attitude to the Arab is obvious even to a reader. The Arab is nameless throughout the entire story. The Arab sounds somewhat like “the dog”, or “the gun” meaning that it identifies object and class it belongs to. Daru does not know the Arab’s name and he does not care about it at all looking at a prisoner like at an animal. Camus bluntly says that Daru sees nothing but the Arab’s shining eyes and “the animal mouth” as the prisoner is eating. So even while Daru actually treats the Arab humanely he goes on viewing him as an animal. Such attitudes toward the natives were very typical of the French. It was not until 1947 that native Algerians were granted French citizenship not being stipulated for renouncing their Muslim identity. Native Algerians were denied their human and civil rights unless they ceased being themselves. Muslim Algerians were actually not viewed as human beings. A reader can also witness this when the gendarme leaves the Arab at school without ensuring the schoolmaster will keep his obligations to the Arab as a man and a citizen. Although no one can live in a vacuum, Camus as a philosopher tries to explain the nature of the men, who try to hide themselves behind some shell and, thus, avoid any responsibility to the society they belong to. 

Having assumed responsibility to deliver a criminal to jail, Daru nonetheless, seems to do his best to avoid taking course of action. In fact, he displays the laissez faire attitude toward his new duties. He does not actively prevent the Arab from fleeing. The doors are unlocked; the gun is in the drawer, so when Daru hears the prisoner waking up, the custodian does nothing to prevent the Arab from fleeing. "He is running away... Good riddance!” But it seems to be inconceivable to the Arab that his custodian is so indifferent to him, so the prisoner does not welcome his chance. On the other hand, the Arab may be really as loyal to Daru as a dog may be loyal to his master. As a dog never leaves a master at any opportunity, so Daru does not presume the Arab fleeing. After all a dog would hardly have a thought of unlocking the door himself.

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Following his order, Daru sets forth on a trip with his prisoner. However, instead of taking the Arab to Tinguit, as he has been ordered, Daru, nonetheless, disobeys and stops the Arab and offers him a choice: to take money and food and go to the nomads, where no one is likely to punish him for his crime, or take that money and food and go to Tinguit, where “they’re expecting you”

However, a reader may think than Daru leaves the Arab because he assumes his prisoner has free will and, therefore, will choose freedom on his own; it looks like Daru lacks will himself. Being a wick-willed and, thus, irresponsible man, Daru tries to shirk responsibility again, in fact, imposing it upon the Arab. Daru is unwilling to concede that encountering the nomads could be far more dangerous for the Arab than going to prison. After all, desert proper is not the safest place in the world. But Daru does not care.

To a great extent the entire French society has appeared unwilling to bear the said “White Man’s Burden”. It is not a secret that there were many native Algerians, who were loyal to the French state and were unwilling to have their motherland separated from the French culture. Thousands of natives fought for France during Algerian war as harkis, not to mention thousands of the so-called Pieds-Noirs. Those ethnic French settled in Algeria in XIX century. Many of them contributed much to the development of that country, yet were betrayed by their mother country that could not protect them after it lost Algerian war. 

However, France granted native Algerians its citizenship, the former colony failed to response adequately. Both, harkis and Pied-Noirs were expelled by Algerian national government.

Likewise Camus’, Arab “took the road to prison”. Contrary to Daru and the readers’ expectations the Arab does not choose freedom. Like his entire nation failed to create a democratic society after they obtained independence, so the Arab once offered an opportunity to choose, chooses to go to jail.

Unlike Daru, who seems to have arrived to Algeria from overseas, trying to escape himself first and foremost, the Arab has always lived in that environment. He always acts in accordance with traditions of his culture and in harmony with his nature. Even the murder he has committed seems to have been perpetrated in compliance with his tribe’s traditions. Nevertheless, being rooted out of his community he realizes that he is not strong enough to survive alone in that country. Moreover, unlike Daru, he need not sneak out of life. The Arab simply wants to live and, besides, unlike Daru, he is well aware of what to do and what not to do to survive there. And to sum up we must admit that he is not only stronger and more capable of living in tropics, the Arab, unlike Daru, is a man able to assume and bear responsibility for all his acts or omissions, as it suits to a real man, regardless of his ethnical or cultural background.

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