Written by Albert Camus, The Guest is an irrational intriguing short story found in the novel Exile and Kingdom. The captivating masterwork is a reflection of the kind of politics that Algeria exercised during the colonial times.
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Camus uses Daru as the main character solely to bring out different themes like alienation, absurd, freedom and solitude among others. He speculates and examines the negative impacts of one failing to back up any party during political upheaval in Algeria. In addition, the story also explores his political stand during his stay in France.
In 1914, Albert Camus was born to Algerian parents. Unluckily, his father passed on during the World War II leaving him in the care of his mother and grandmother. As a journalist and co-founder of theatrical group, he was part of the intellect community in Algeria. He was a member of the communist party but two years later, he quitted due to differences in the Algerian nationalism.
He moved to Paris where the French actively opposed him, a scenario that fuelled his publishing of a number of novels among them The Stranger, The Plague, and The Guest besides working in a publishing company. In 1952, he fell out with his friend Jean-Paul Sartre due to differences in the communism. Due to his political stand and refusal to back up neither Algerians nor the French, he constantly received criticisms. In January 1960, his life ended prematurely due to a car accident in Villeblevin.
The setting of the Novel is in Algeria during the colonial times of the republic of France. Ethnic conflicts and fight for decolonization or freedom by the Arabs are among the problems Algeria was experiencing at the time. Daru, the schoolteacher is the main character in the story.
He lives in school quarters but due to drought, pupils are not attending school. However, the school administration confers him the role of distributing relief food to pupils. In addition, he plays the role of handing over a rebellious Arab to the authority, which he breaks by letting the Arab go free.
The second character is Balducci, who brings the Arab prisoner to Daru to hand him over to the authority for conviction. The Arab prisoner is the third and final character who is a rebellious, rude and murderer and one who is supposed to face the law.
There are different themes like absurd, morality, alienation, solitude, and freedom among others that the author vividly highlights. The theme of absurd is one of the major themes. The author describes the earth surface as inhabitable and cruel for human survival. Due to extreme drought, the land is less productive.
Despite the human suffering, they strive to survive through relief food. Camus brings out the theme of absurd when he says, “The absurd is born of this confrontation between Human need and the unreasonable silence of the world” (14). The author symbolically uses the earth’s harsh climate and human confidence to survive to bring out the theme of absurd. Although the personas brings out the theme of absurd and struggle to survival, finally he is unable to forge on as he gives up.
The second major theme is freedom. The author uses Daru to highlight this theme. Although plateaus have a harsh climate and seem inhabitable, Daru freely chose to live there. Despite the desert’s harsh conditions, he is able to live and survive there. However, Daru is to decide the freedom of the Arab and this leaves him undecided on which is the best route to chose. Finally, he leaves the Arab to decide for himself.
The author uses Daru symbolically to highlight and describe the fights between ethnic groups in Algeria. He lives in a desert plateaus and hilly environment.
The desert is a symbol of the Arabs who are struggling to survive in their harsh country because of French colonialism. On the other hand, the plateau is a symbol of the French. Therefore, the French forced the Arabs to live with them as symbolically represented by Daru who lives in the plateau because of his role as schoolteacher. This is because Daru did not always want to side with either Arabs or the French.
Balducci brings out the irony of the story in that though he is arrogant, rude and disrespectful to the Arab prisoner he does not face the law (Eberhard 6). He lives freely in the society without any form of conviction. On the other hand, Daru who appears kind and caring to the Arab faces the wrath of the fellow Arabs. This is because after freeing him he finds some scribble on the board asking about the Arab prisoner (Camus 20).
In summary, the author, Albert Camus who is a famous writer highlights the problems Algerians faced during colonialism. On the other hand, he symbolically uses the characters like Daru and Balducci to highlight the major themes of the story. Absurd and freedom are the major themes the author brings out the story. He also applies irony to show the cruelty of the Arabs and French people during the colonial period.
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Camus, Albert. Exile and Kingdom: The guest. France: Gallimard Press, 1957.
Eberhard, Greim. Albert Camus’s The Guest: A New Look at the Prisoner. Britain: Longmans Publishing, 1993. Print