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Discriminating Anarchy Essay, Research Paper

Discriminating Anarchy

A Criticism in Plot of Albert Camus’ “The Guest”

Who is responsible for whom? Is a prisoner the responsibility of an uninvolved individual? Can individuals with diverse backgrounds hold the same ideals of the same crimes to identical extents? Within the pages of The Guest, Albert Camus presents to the literary world a challenge. The question put to mankind is, again, as it was with Cain of Biblical times: Am I my brother s keeper? (Genesis)

From atop his monastic quiescence Daru assumes the ideal role for his world. He is a teacher detached from the rigors of a politically dictated existence. He is free to expound upon the truths held archetype within self. His freedom is everyone s freedom. His classroom is everyone s classroom . . . until Balducci, the gendarme, arrives with a prisoner. An Arab prisoner is thrust upon Daru with instructions. Politics, ethics, and duty are placed into the same classroom as Balducci virtually drags the prisoner inside. Having been tortuously led as a sheep to slaughter, the Arab has been walking for at least one-hour covering three kilometers, three kilometers up the long winding landscape to Daru s classroom.

Upon arriving at the warmth of the school, both Balducci and the Arab enter. The gruffness of the guard is morally offensive to the reader. Nevertheless, for a murderer, is there any leniency? It depends on the world from which the responsibility originates. For Daru, his social milieu is his own. For Balducci, France is the governing body. For the Arab, the only hope is Allah.

From the conflict between Daru and Balducci s principles, or lack thereof, comes the scene in the school, as the prisoner is to receive hot tea. As the Arab s bound hands reached for the tea, Daru is forced to comment, He might perhaps be untied (Camus 1897). The savage treatment is far from the norm of Daru who sees a man as a man, not as a prisoner. Human dignity must persevere within the chambers of the schoolteacher. For Balducci, principle and dignity are as oblivious to his type of work as water to the desert.

Camus private anarchical beliefs are well founded as he weighs the laws of one culture with that of another. The Arab is a murderer. Camus presents the reader with a challenge. The challenge makes one view objectively the moral obligations to another culture. When put to the test, the reader is to ponder Camus personal philosophy. The forcing of the prisoner into Daru s care shows the unwanted and unrequested governmental obligations catapulted into an individual s life. When the order is given to Daru concerning the taking of the prisoner to Tinguit prison, Daru retorts, The orders? I m not . . . That s not my job (Camus 1898). The adage, Challenge authority comes to mind.

In the hours that follow, Daru inquires, Does he speak French? Is he against us? Why did he kill? (Camus 1898-1899) The subjectivity of the Arab to French, or Daru s for that matter, authority is in question. Balducci leaves the schoolhouse for the night, leaving Daru and the Arab to themselves. After retiring, Daru remains awake for an inordinately long time. As he lies on his mat awaiting sleep, he hears the Arab lift himself. His first thought, He s running away. Good riddance! (Camus 1903) Again, Daru hears the Arab lift himself and the door opens. Camus places the judging role in the arena of the reader. Will a murderous Arab bound for prison and death, escape? Daru drifts into a peaceful sleep in order for the reader to consider the situation.

In the morning, Daru arises only to find the Arab sleeping soundly. After being shaken awake, washing up, and preparing, Daru and the Arab begin their journey to Tinguit. The journey begins without animosity between Daru and the Arab. He has no quarrel with the prisoner. Camus is again able to present the reader with moral decisions. The invocation of honor is present at the campsite along the way. Morning comes, and Daru points, first in one direction, then the other. He holds out a package to the Arab. Take it. There are dates, bread, and sugar. You can hold out for two days. Here s a thousand francs too (Camus 1905). Albert Camus, in his ingenious method, gives the Arab, as well as the reader, the power to decide their own fate. Honor dictates the road to the prison while preservation of life directs otherwise. Avoidance to pain, suffering, and death tells the prisoner, and the reader, to go opposite Tinguit.

Daru points the directions both to freedom and to death. Camus fails to tell the reader in which direction Tinguit lies. We know that to the south is freedom. I find it fascinating, curious, insightful, and cultural that when the directions come, the Arab instinctively gazes to the east. Islamic law dictates the direction of prayers to Mecca, the birthplace of Mohammed . . . the east. As the moral decision of right or wrong, life or death is present, it appear the murderous, malicious Arab reverts to his own form of anarchism. He is an individual. He is independent. His own anarchism reigns. And in that slight haze, Daru, with heavy heart, made out the Arab walking slowly on the road to prison (Camus 1906).

Daru stands in his hideaway schoolhouse, looking out over the plateau. Behind him are the drawings of the French rivers. The words pound into his heart, You handed over our brother. You will pay for this (Camus 1906). In his sanctuary atop his mountain, he stood alone.

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