Exploring Free Will and Decision Making in Albert Camus' The Guest
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Exploring Free Will and Decision Making in Albert Camus' short story "The Guest,"
In Albert Camus' short story "The Guest," Camus raises numerous philosophical questions. These are: does man have free will?, are an individual's decisions affected by what society demands, expects, neither, or both?, and finally, how does moral and social obligation affect decision making?
Balducci brings the Arab to Daru's door, informing Daru that "I have an order to deliver the prisoner and I'm doing so," (90) thus freeing Balducci of the responsibility over wherever the Arab ultimately ended up. Balducci didn't want the responsibility of the Arab possibly escaping, and by doing only as was expressly required of him (delivering the Arab to Daru's door and giving the orders of the Arab's destination to Daru), he was also setting the story so that any decision Daru later took was an act of Daru's alone and was not directly dependent on any other decision another man had made prior. Balducci avoids the social obligation he's supposed to feel. He should follow through on the prisoner's handling, but he doesn't have to. Balducci knows this, and decides to avoid the effort and instead justifies his leaving the Arab there by simply following his orders and not reading between the lines of the order.
Daru ended up accepting the Arab, both because the prisoner was delivered to him, and because he had a sense of responsibility to the French government (or society) to at least accept him, if not deliver him to the police in Tinguit (social obligation to not let him go free, justice must be served because if it wasn't, society would turn to chaos). Daru's orders were escort the Arab there for he was "expected at police headquarters" ...
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...ome men think about decisions and some just react to their environment like a glorified plant? Do all men know they have free will and understand what that means? Daru gave a choice to the Arab, was that fair for the Arab (and society) or was it an egotistical action based on what Daru thought was right, fair or just? Why did the Arab's ultimate choice depress Daru, and why did neither Balducci or Daru want to be responsible for another man? In the end the Arab really is 'the dog' of society. No decision was ever his (from the perspective of the reader and Daru), but still, how do we know if Daru is different? By answering some philosophical questions through use of characters in a vacuum, Camus raises many more questions, which is the modus opernadi of the philosopher: not to find answers, but to ask questions that will eventually have the answers inherent in them.