Je Suis L’Hote

May 13, 2008
By Cameron Charette, Braintree, MA

Often times when I read a piece of literature, I can only make vague connections between the text and my own life. However, when I read Albert Camus’ “The Guest”, I felt a strong personal connection. I liken myself to Daru in the way that I am made responsible for the punishment of another against my will. I am made to keep the punishment of my younger brother Kyle. I am to Daru as Kyle is to the Arab.
One similarity I drew between the story and my own situation was the importance of birth on worldly position. I am deemed to be Kyle’s superior based only on birth. I am older than he, and that is why I am eligible to be his keeper. Daru is made to be the Arab’s keeper because he too was born “superior”. Daru is considered to be better than the Arab because he was born French and not Arabian.
Both the Arab and Kyle are accused of crimes that they most certainly are accountable for. While the Arab is responsible for murder, Kyle’s crimes are much less severe. Kyle is well known within the family for acting up in class, failing to pass in assignments and refusing to study on a regular basis. When asked if the Arab was against his party Balducci said “I don't think so” (p11), and yet the government sees no fault in handing out extensive punishment. My parents are also not wronged by Kyle but they too have decided to punish him. In both cases, the crimes committed are not directly against the party that hands out the punishment.
The nature of the punishment itself also links Kyle to the Arab. The punishment given by both is unreasonably harsh. Kyle is sentenced after almost every transgression to be in the house, doing nothing but his work without any expected end. This is similar to the life that the Arab can expect to see in prison. Admittedly, the Arab will be punished much more severely, but Kyle is not part of a people subjugated by colonists.
Kyle’s punishment, as extensive as it is can not be enforced by my parents at all times. Because of work commitments, someone else must be appointed to stand guard. This is similar to when Balducci has to return to El Ameur. When Balducci says “I like you and you must understand. There's only a dozen of us at El Ameur to patrol throughout the whole territory of a small department and I must get back in a hurry”(p9), he is saying that the only reason that he is not going to carry out the punishment himself is because his work would interfere with it. This is the same reason my parents gave me when I was appointed with the task of keeping Kyle in his prison.
While Kyle is made the Arab by a multitude of similarities, I am as Daru for few reasons other than my position in relation to the prisoner involved. I, like Daru did not want to be in charge of another. I first started piecing together the vague allegory to myself when I read the line “I mean, that's not my job” (p8). Short of “I mean,” that is my exact quote. I did not want the responsibility of another as well as myself.
Daru is not part of either group involved. However, he feels closer to the Arabs then he does the French. This is shown by the quote “outside this desert neither or them, Daru knew, could have really lived.”(15) Similarly, I am not of the party that punishes or the party that is punished, and I too feel close to my prisoner than to the powers that be.
Every day that I am left with Kyle, I am forced to make the choice of whether or not I am going to enforce Kyle’s punishment. Sometimes I keep it faithfully while other times I will allow him to deviate from the consequences set for him. However, each way I feel guilty. Daru is faced with a similar choice. He must either deliver the Arab to prison or let him go.
Aside from the fate of our wards, our choice can also bear other consequence. If I was to be discovered for not deliver Kyle to his punishment, I too would be punished. The reader is made to understand that Daru is in much the same situation. This adds an extra layer of difficulty to our situations. We are forced to balance our conscience with our instinct of self preservation. Inevitably, the real choice is left to Kyle and the Arab.
Even though Daru and I do not have a choice, there are others who think that we do. Often times Kyle’s friends will confront me about the predicament that I have put him into. This is ironic because Kyle is punished for his own crimes, and I am only involved by the will of a third party. At the end of the story, Daru is threatened by the message “You handed over our brother. You will pay for this.”(29) This is ironic because the Arab is punished for his own crimes, and Daru is only involved by the will of a third party.
In these respects, I am similar to Daru. In the same ways, Kyle is similar to the Arab, and my parents to the French colonial government. It is strange that a story has to be such a convoluted allegory in order for me to connect to it. Even stranger still is that the one story that I can relate to is one with a plot so twisted and abnormal. Even so, the strongest connection that I can make is that our stories both have indefinite endings.

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