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The Guest is one of the most subtly poetic short stories I have read. The relationship between the characters all hold subtle undertones and subtext that hold heavy consequences. THere are really only three characters in the story. Balducci is the old Corsican gendarme who brings a shackled Arab prisoner to Daru's doorstep. On the surface the relationship between Balducci and Daru is amiable. Baldicci greets Daru like a fellow Frenchman but an eccentric one at that,
[''Thanks,'' Balducci said. "What a chore! How I long for retirement." And addressing his prisoner in Arabic: "Come on, you." The Arab got up and, slowly, holding his bound wrists in front of him, went into the classroom. ]
THe unfortunate subtext is that Daru wants nothing to do with the prisoner or French occupation of Algeria for that matter. Balducci respects Daru's eccentricities as long as, in the end, Daru follows orders. When Daru refuses to deliver the prisoner to Tinguit, Balducci's fatherly tone changes, "No," said Balducci. "There's no use being polite. You insulted me." Daru's relationship with the Arab is even more subtle. Is the Arab Daru's prisoner, guest or neither? The rest of the story plays out in relative silence but Camus's commentary lies in the furtive glances and body language between Daru and the Arab. THere is part of Daru that feels the Arab is a prisoner in his own country being sentenced by an occupying force. Daru also loathes the violence that this Arab might have perpetrated. Camus lets us explore what might be going on in the Arab's mind ourselves. This is a quiet story that says so much.