Anarchism in Albert Camus' Short Story, "The Guest"
[[ "The Guest" is a small story which can usually be found in a
compilation of Camus' works or in a World Literature
anthology. Here, I have used the translation of "The Guest"
found in the Norton Anthology of World Literature, 5th
Edition. Since this is a critical essay on a particular
story, it assumes that the reader has read the story.
I do not believe that it will be nonsensical if you have
not read "The Guest" yet, but I do encourage you to read
the story so the ideas I put forth can be understood better
in their context. ]]
It is my firm belief that the individual is the key to understanding
human existence; further, anarchy is the key to living human existence.
I call it Individual Anarchism. After all, in the view of society, is
there anything more chaotic than for one single person simply to be him-
self? And is there any more individual philosophy within the theories
of politics than to say that there is no need for government?
I have thought about anarchism for some time, but I could not see
how it could really work. It always seemed that mankind and the world
would have to have an epiphany or Utopic conversion before people could
be free of government and societal restrictions. Then I read a small
story by Albert Camus called "The Guest". It did not really seem to say
anything novel to the world which it addressed; however, it did say
something novel to me. It opened my eyes and allowed me to understand
that Anarchy is personal; it is not a collective possibility. It rests
upon the idea of a person acting within a sphere where his existence is
not intrusive upon the existence of another human being unless invited
to be so. Should a person find that he has uninvitedly trespassed upon
the serenity of another, Individual Anarchy points that man toward ac-
cepting the responsibility for his own actions while not condemning the
failure of others to own up to the things they may have done wrong.
For example, the very fact that Daru has separated himself from
society by taking the teaching post in the desert demonstrates the idea
of Individualism. He must free himself from the constraints of a smo-
thering civilization by moving to a region which is completely open,
bounded only by the horizon and the sky. Camus wishes to show that only
when a man realizes that he can be distinct and separate from the whole
of humanity is he capable of becoming whole within himself.
The forcing of the prisoner into Daru's care shows the unwanted and
unrequested obligations which governments thrust upon individuals. When
Balducci tells him that he must take the Arab to the prison in Tinguit,
the teacher can hardly believe the officer is telling him the truth.
After he realizes that the people in power expect him to follow their
orders, Daru is almost Cain-like in his objection, "'The orders? ...