The Guest

The Guest Summary and Analysis of Part II - Daru and the Arab


Daru lies on his couch and listens to the silence. He recalls how hard the silence and solitude of the plateau had been for him when he first arrived. He thinks about how neither he nor his guest matter in this desert, yet they do not belong anywhere else.

Daru goes into the classroom and brings the Arab back into the bedroom. He sets the table for two and makes them a meal. Daru sets up a bed for the Arab after they eat. In the dark he asks his prisoner why he killed his cousin, to which the Arab responds vaguely. The Arab wants to know what they will do to him, and Daru asks him if he is afraid. He also asks him if he is sorry for the murder, but the Arab does not seem to understand. The Arab wants to know what will happen to him, and whether the gendarme will return. As they prepare for bed, Daru does not have any answers for the prisoner.

Daru has trouble sleeping; he's uncomfortable with the presence of the Arab in the room, feeling that their closeness imposed a form of brotherhood on him that he refuses to accept. In the middle of the night the Arab sneaks out of bed and leaves the room. Daru, still awake, is relieved because he thinks the prisoner is escaping. The Arab returns, however, and Daru finally falls asleep.

In the morning he wakes the Arab and they eat breakfast. He cleans the room and puts the bed away. Then he goes out into the terrace and observes the plateau. As he stands there he thinks of how he insulted Balducci. He still hears the gendarme's farewell. These memories of the previous night make him feel vulnerable. The prisoner coughs, restoring Daru to the present. Daru is furious at the Arab, and is revolted by his crime, yet he feels that turning him in to the authorities would be a dishonorable act.

Daru and the Arab put their clothing on, and Daru prepares a small packet of food. They leave the schoolhouse and begin moving east. They walk for an hour before resting at a sharp peak of limestone. They continue walking and Daru notes how nature comes alive.

After another hour of walking, they stop and Daru surveys the landscape. He hands the Arab a pack of food and two thousand francs. He tells him that he can survive for two days. The prisoner takes the gifts, but holds them at chest height as if he has no idea what they signify. Daru turns him east and points out the direction to Tinguit. Then he turns him to the south and shows him a path across the plateau. He explains that in a day's walk he will find pasture lands and the first nomads who will shelter him. The Arab has a look of panic on his face, and tries to speak. Daru interrupts him, however, and leaves before anything more can be said. He continues to look back at the motionless Arab. He feels something in his throat at the site of the solitary figure, but pushes away his emotions. When he looks again the Arab has disappeared.

Daru hesitates, but finally decides to retrace his steps and return to the spot where he left the Arab. When he reaches the little hill he sees the prisoner trudging east towards Tinguit.

A short while later he stands at the window of the schoolhouse window. On the blackboard there is written, "You have handed over our brother. You will pay for this." Daru feels desperately alone.


In the moments immediately following Balducci's departure, Daru listens to the silence surrounding him. Here, as throughout the narrative, the landscape represents Camus's idea of an indifferent universe: devoid of logic and silent to the needs of humankind. Daru listens to the silence as if it is an entity. He recalls his struggle to adjust to it, and also to the pervading solitude. His opinion of the region is an echo of Camus's philosophy of life: "No one in this desert, neither he nor his guest, mattered." Yet Daru has a logical reason for remaining here: it offers him a sense of belonging that no other place can give. Camus believes that it is the freedom to choose and an individual's experience that give meaning to life. Daru finds meaning in his life through his decision to live in this cruel landscape, and in this way he has come to terms with the pervasive silence.

The Arab however, represents the beginning of a shift in the way Daru feels about the plateau region. By the end of the narrative he no longer feels attached to it. The Arab is an extremely complicated and ambiguous character. He offers neither Daru nor the reader any answers. Daru has mixed emotions: he feels revolted by the prisoner's alleged crime, yet he does not want to lead him to imprisonment. His inability to make a clear judgment on the Arab results from a lack of knowledge, which eventually alienates him from the plateau region and leaves him in a moral no-man's land.

Daru hopes that his moral dilemma will simply go away -- that is, he hopes that the prisoner will escape. He gives the Arab many chances, leaving him alone in the classroom and hoping that the Arab has fled during the night. Daru's fear of making a decision represents his inability to acknowledge the absurd; although there is no good choice, Camus feels that the act of making a choice and standing by that choice is the most important thing a human being can do. His unwillingness to be the prisoner's prosecutor is based on logic: he has no concrete proof of the man's guilt, and it goes against his code of honor. However, justice, like nature, is an unfeeling, absurd abstraction. Though Daru proves able to face down the absurdity of the landscape, he cannot handle political and judicial ambiguity, and thus finds himself completely isolated.

Daru continually strives to imbue his essentially meaningless choice with some clear logic. He tries to learn about the Arab through conversation; however, their cultural differences (and the fact that they are strangers) precludes understanding. Meanwhile, sharing his room with the Arab imposes upon Daru a feeling of fraternity for the Arab. He is clearly unable to control the circumstances surrounding his choice; nevertheless, he must choose. Daru consistently fails to do so.

One of the cheif ambiguities in this section is the evidence that creeps up now and then that Daru and the Arab are not alone. Daru hears a rustling around the house during the night and again when he and the Arab set out in the morning. Camus suggests that the Arab's friends are circling the schoolhouse to see what Daru plans on doing with the prisoner. However, there in no way to prove this hypothesis with certainty; the sounds Daru hears may be those of animals, or simply the result of his paranoia. The feeling that a hidden society is waiting to pass judgement on Daru haunts the story. Those judges, whoever they may be, do not know the whole story of Daru's moral struggle, just as Daru does not know the Arab's story, yet (unlike Daru) they will pass judgement anyway.

On the morning of their journey, Daru cannot find a way of his complex situation. He fails to choose, instead trying to pass his choice along to the prisoner. He shows the Arab the direction east, and also the direction south, and then leaves him to decide where to go. He leaves the Arab, but returns when his anxiety to know how the Arab has chosen gets the most of him. Perhaps he believes that in allowing the Arab to choose he will find out the truth of his guilt. Yet the Arab's choice does not provide any answers for him or the reader. Indeed, it's ambiguous whether the Arab even understood Daru's explanation of the difference between going east and going south.

The end of The Guest embodies the overwhelming solitude that pervades the narrative. The landscape symbolizes Daru's isolation. However, where he once felt "at home" on the plateau -- because he chose to live there, thus embracing its absurdity -- the episode with the Arab has left him in a state of radical uncertainty. He views the Arab moving through the harsh landscape with new eyes, feeling it's desperate solitude. He no longer feels "at home" on the plateau, because the natural landscape has become associated with the moral dilemma of the Arab, and with the Arab's choice to walk toward imprisonment. In failing to make a decision, he has allowed the Arab to impose a new meaning on the landscape.

Daru's return home emphasizes this newfound despair. His window looks south, which is the direction the Arab would have taken for freedom. Thus the window reminds him both of the Arab's failure to choose freedom, and his own failure to choose the Arab's fate.

Daru's alientation from the plateau region becomes all the more concrete, and all the more dangerous, with the writing on the blackboard. Camus leaves it unclear who wrote the note. Perhaps Daru himself wrote it as an expression of his morally complex state of despair. However, the note may have been written by Daru's friends. If so, they replay the moral problem that faced Daru. Though the people who wrote it have no access to Daru's moral struggle, they are in a position to pass judgement upon him for it. We assume that they will not be as wishy-washy as Daru was.