Although some have called Albert Camus an existentialist, he never consented to the label. Still, he saw many things the way an existentialist sees them. Camus talks of humanity’s aloneness in the universe and their complete freedom and responsibility for their own lives, themes he pulls together with his idea of the absurd. Camus’ story The Guest powerfully expresses his thought on these prevailing ideas by his story and descriptions of an open landscape and solitary schoolhouse. In the midst of the vastness and solitude is Daru, the hero of an existentialist world who has stood up against the universe.
To be able to make sense of his characters, one must understand Camus’ philosophy of the world. As an atheist, Camus took a gloomy view of humankind’s condition. His list of favorite words, “the world, suffering, the earth, the mother, men, the desert, honor, misery, summer, the sea,” are closely tied with his understanding of life and the human condition, and nearly all of them appear in the story of The Guest (Bree 83). Profoundly aware of the “unbearable suffering of the world,” Camus believed every artist should make it her business to voice this through her art (Sprintzen vii). Although he scorned the idea of Christian hope, he wanted to show that people can take control of their own circumstances. The Guest presents Camus’ claim that humans can change their condition through acts and his belief in the power of the individual to create her own meaning in a cruel universe.
The story of The Guest tells about Daru, a lonely schoolteacher in Camus’ boyhood home of Algeria. Daru likes living in solitude, but he must learn to recognize that choices are...
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...on the plateau, more alone under the Algerian sunshine than when the story opened.
Bloom, Harold. Introduction. Albert Camus. Ed. Harold Bloom. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1989. 1-7.
Bree, Germaine. Camus. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1972.
Camus, Albert. "The Guest." Trans. Justin O'Brien. The Longman Anthology of Short Fiction. Ed. Dana Gioia and R. S. Gwynn. New Yrk: Lamar University, 2001.
Guicharnaud, Jacques. "Man and His Acts: Jean-Paul Sartre and Albert Camus." Ed. Harold Bloom. Albert Camus. New York: Chelsea House Publishers, 1989. 27-41.
Hall, H. Gaston. " Aspects of the Absurd." Yale French Studies
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Sprintzen, David. Camus: A Critical Examination. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1988.
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