For the first AP Lit assignment, we read Albert Camus’ short story, “The Guest.” In short, the story is about a schoolmaster who is given custody over a murder convict, and instructed to bring him to a prison. Feeling both anger at the crime and pity for the convict, he does not know what to do.
The main conflict in the story is whether the schoolteacher should hand over the convict or not. He ultimately decides to let the convict himself decide:
Daru offered the package to him. “Take it,” he said. “There are dates, bread, sugar. You can hold out for two days. Here are a thousand francs too.”… “Now look,” the schoolmaster said as he pointed in the direction of the east, “there’s the way to Tinguit… at Tinguit are the administration and the police. They are expecting you.”…”In a day’s walk from here you’ll find pasturlands and the first nomads. They’ll take you in and shelter you according to their law.”… And in that slight haze, Daru, with a heavy heart, made out the Arab walking slowly on the road to prizon.
I felt that the climax of the story was intense, but also rather anticlimactic. Daru, the schoolmaster, basically lets go of the conflict of the story by letting the arab decide his fate. I think this is a pretty interesting point on the author’s part, because as a reader I was really excited to see what Daru would decide to do. I feel like this ending did a few things. First of all, it showed us a little bit about Daru’s character that could have been deduced earlier: He doesn’t like making big decisions. From his request to work at a simple schoolhouse, to him telling Balducci that he didn’t know what to do with the Arab at the beginning of the chapter, to him not deciding whether he should get up or not during the middle of the night, pretty much the entire story pointed to the fact that Daru wasn’t big on choosing what to do.
Another big mystery this ending solved was what was the Arab’s true nature. Although he is convicted of murder, he acts in an extremely docile manner during the entire story. Part of Daru’s dilemma is he does not know what the peaceful convict will do next. The ending where he himself chooses to go to prison to atone for his deeds, should have eased Daru’s nerves, at least a little.