Futility of Human Existence Exposed in The Guest by Albert Camus

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“He who despairs of the human condition is a coward, but he who has hope for it is a fool” (Wyatt). As this quote by Albert Camus suggests, he was not a very optimistic writer. His gloomy look on life itself can be seen all too clearly in “The Guest”. The story itself deals with Camus’s idea of the futility of human existence: the only rational thing anyone can expect is death. Camus’s underlying philosophy is revealed from the very beginning of the story. The French title, “L’hote”, translates to mean both “guest” and “host” simultaneously, which implies that the mutually respectful relationship between the main characters in the story should be applied to mankind everywhere. The story begins on an auspicious note with the introduction of Daru, a teacher who chooses to work in an isolated school in the Algerian desert to embrace an ascetic life. Daru is content with a simplistic, rural lifestyle. Undoubtedly, Camus wrote this story out of affection for his teacher, Jean Grenier. Without Grenier, Camus would never have developed his political and philosophical ideas. In the story, Daru is an idealistic teacher who believes in just causes and free will, and is most likely a representation of Camus’s past teachers. In contrast, a soldier in the French army named Balducci first appears with an Arab prisoner trailing behind him. When Balducci orders Daru to lead the prisoner to the Tinguit jail, a clear distinction between their attitudes is revealed. Balducci is one to follow his orders, neither questioning nor disapproving of any decision by the authorities. Daru, on the other hand, is torn by his own conscience; he will be sentencing a man to his death if he follows orders. The Arab prisoner appears to be reserved; it see... ... middle of paper ... ...clysmic description of a naïve soldier almost mirrors Daru’s situation in “The Guest". Daru realizes in the end what Billy has known all along: life has no beginning, no end, no purpose; his response to any incident, bad or good, is “So it goes...” (Vonnegut). Modern writers have been profoundly affected by Camus’s writings, even forty years after he died in a car crash. Today, Camus is still highly praised for the works that he deemed "unworthy" of a Nobel Prize. Diana Festa-McCormick comments that “The Guest” "remains one of the most widely read and anthologized…a quarter of the century after the Algerian war and the fierce debates that it aroused in the French intelligentsia, it stands as one of the most deeply touching literary pieces on that war” (Knapp). Camus's legacy is admired by both Arabs and French, a goal he would have been overjoyed to see realized.

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