Host And Guest Essay Definition

SOURCE: Storey, Michael L. “The Guests of Frank O'Connor and Albert Camus.” Comparative Literature Studies 23, no. 3 (fall 1986): 250-62.

[In the following essay, Storey finds similarities between Frank O'Connor's “Guests of the Nation” and Camus's “The Guest.”]

To the casual reader of fiction, the works of Irishman Frank O'Connor and those of Frenchman Albert Camus must seem worlds apart. The heavy, existentialist stories of Camus—The Stranger, The Fall, “The Guest,”—fix him as the serious writer of twentieth-century exile and alienation, whereas the light, humorous stories that O'Connor is best known for—“First Confession,” “The Drunkard,” “My Oedipus Complex,” among others—mark him in the public's eye as the masterful comic writer of Irish realism. All the more odd it is, then, to find two stories—one by each of these writers—that are remarkably similar in theme, setting, plot construction, character portrayal, and tone, as well as in title: O'Connor's “Guests of the Nation” and Camus's “The Guest.”

These two stories have appeared frequently in short-story anthologies, even at times in the same anthology, and yet no critic has ever remarked on the great resemblance that they bear to one another. This lack of critical notice, however, can be explained by the fact that, despite their extensive similarities, “Guests of the Nation” and “The Guest” remain essentially different kinds of stories—a point that I will return to after I have described the similarities in the stories.

Although they take place in different countries and at different periods of time, the two stories have similar backgrounds and settings. O'Connor's story takes place in Ireland during the 1919-21 Anglo-Irish war, one of several Irish uprisings fought to achieve independence from English colonialists. “The Guest” is set in Algeria in the late forties or early fifties, just before the outbreak of hostilities between Algerian nationalists and French colonialists in which Algerian Arabs sought independence from France. Furthermore, both stories are set on or near bleak and isolated terrain, which serves to emphasize the loneliness that the protagonists feel in facing their moral dilemmas. Camus's characters move “on the vast expanse of the high, deserted plateau”—a “solitary expanse where nothing had any connection with man.”1 The climax of O'Connor's story occurs “out in the middle of a blasted bog” that renders the characters “still and silent.”2 Against the bleakness and isolation of plateau and bog, the characters find some refuge in human habitations—a schoolhouse in “The Guest” and a boarding house in “Guests of the Nation.” That neither “house” is just a one-person or a one-family dwelling, that both are designed to serve a broader human community, emphasizes the loneliness and isolation of plateau and bog upon which the protagonists must work out their moral dilemmas.

The two stories are also similar in that their plots are constructed upon the same theme: the development of a relationship between captor and captive from formal hostility to intimacy, resulting in a moral dilemma in which the captor is faced, in dealing with the captive, with choosing between his sense of brotherhood for the captor and his sense of duty toward an authority.

In “The Guest,” a gendarme named Balducci brings an Arab murderer to Daru, the French Algerian schoolmaster, and charges Daru with the duty of delivering the Arab to police headquarters in Tinguit, 20 kilometers away. Daru's initial feelings toward the Arab are mostly hostile, partially because the Arab might be a potential rebel against the French Algerians but mostly because of the Arab's act of murder (“Daru felt a sudden wrath against the man, against all men with their rotten spite, their tireless hates, their blood lust,” p. 93). Before leaving for Tinguit the next day, Daru must administer to the Arab's basic needs: he makes him tea and cooks his dinner; he sets up a folding bed for the Arab to sleep on during the night; he feeds him breakfast in the morning. Camus dwells on these seemingly insignificant details in order to emphasize their significant role in changing Daru's relationship to the Arab from hostility to intimacy. “Eat,” Daru tells the Arab after placing his dinner in front of him. When the Arab hesitates because he is not used to being served by a Frenchman, Daru tells him politely, “After you. I'll eat too” (p. 99). The intimacy of the meal leads Daru to ask intimate questions of the Arab: “Are you afraid?” “Are you sorry?” (p. 100). The change from hostility to intimacy creates a moral dilemma in Daru, for now he must make the painful choice between duty—delivering the Arab to police headquarters in Tinguit—and brotherhood—allowing the Arab his freedom.

The situation in “Guests of the Nation” is quite similar. Two members of the Irish Republican Army, Bonaparte (the narrator/protagonist) and Noble, are given the responsibility of guarding two English prisoners, Belcher and Hawkins. Although formally hostile adversaries, the Irishmen and Englishmen soon become intimate friends through living together in a boarding house. Besides living, eating, and sleeping in the same house, the four men play cards together and two of them—Noble and Hawkins—argue incessantly about the two favorite and timeworn topics of religion and politics. In addition, Hawkins has learned several Irish dances, and Belcher voluntarily helps the old woman who runs the boarding house in her daily chores. The effect of all of this is the same as in Camus's story: hostility dissolves and an intimacy grows between Irishmen and Englishmen. Then Jeremiah Donovan, Bonaparte's and Noble's superior, brings orders that Belcher and Hawkins are to be shot in retaliation for the executions of Irish prisoners by the English. Bonaparte experiences Daru's moral dilemma of having to make a choice between duty—shooting Hawkins and Belcher—and brotherhood—granting them a more humane fate.

The two stories also resemble one another in their character portrayals of both the protagonists and the minor characters. The protagonists, Daru and Bonaparte, respond in much the same way (although there is at least one important difference) to the situations in which they find themselves. Each man is reluctant to perform the duty required of him; each regrets, because of the dilemma that the intimacy creates, that he has become intimate with the prisoner; each hopes that the prisoner will escape, thereby dissolving the moral dilemma; and, finally, each finds himself at the end, after having made his moral choice, with an extreme sense of aloneness and insignificance.

When Balducci brings the Arab to Daru and explains what is required of the Frenchman, Daru takes on an “obstinate look” and twice tells the gendarme, “I won't hand him [the Arab] over” (p. 95). Despite Daru's refusal to perform his duty, Balducci leaves the Arab with Daru. Daru then goes to his room to lie down, leaving the Arab alone in the classroom with the obvious opportunity for escape. When Daru gets up from his couch, there is no sound coming from the classroom, and the narrator states that Daru “was amazed at the unmixed joy he derived from the mere thought that the Arab might have fled and that he would be alone with no decision to make” (p. 98). But in fact the Arab is still there, and so is Daru's moral dilemma.

During the night, Daru lies awake, realizing that he is bothered by the Arab's presence because he is used to being alone and because the Arab's presence “impos[ed] on him a sort of brotherhood he knew well but refused to accept in the present circumstances” (p. 102). In other words, the sense of brotherhood is unwelcome because it creates in him a moral dilemma. Later in the night, Daru sees the Arab get up, and although his first response is to “act at once,” he merely observes the Arab and thinks, “He is running away. … Good riddance!” (p. 103). The prisoner, however, has simply gone outside to relieve himself, and he soon returns to bed. Daru is thus still left with making the moral decision of what to do with the Arab.

Bonaparte is also reluctant to perform the duty required of him, although he is not as adamant as Daru, and he regrets the intimacy with the prisoners into which he and Noble have been drawn. Although he and Noble at first accept “with a natural feeling of responsibility” (p. 17) the task of guarding the two Englishmen, he is very upset when Donovan explains to him that Belcher and Hawkins are being kept hostages and will be shot if the English execute any of the Irish prisoners. “Shoot them?” Bonaparte asks Donovan in astonishment. “Wasn't it very unforeseen of you not to warn Noble and myself of that in the beginning?” (p. 21). His point is that, had they known of this possibility, he and Noble would not have become friendly with the prisoners, just as “[i]f it was only an old dog that was going to the vet's, you'd try and not get too fond of him” (p. 21).

When Donovan brings the orders to execute Belcher and Hawkins, Bonaparte reluctantly joins in. But as they are escorting the prisoners to the bog where they are to be shot and buried, Bonaparte wishes that Belcher and Hawkins would either fight or run. “I knew,” he says, “if they did run for it, that I'd never fire on them” (p. 24). Like the Arab prisoner in “The Guest,” however, the Englishmen neither fight nor attempt to escape. Instead Belcher silently acquiesces to his fate, while Hawkins maintains a steady barrage of questions and arguments that intensify Bonaparte's awareness of his moral dilemma. Bonaparte tells us that Hawkins asks, “Weren't we all chums? Didn't we understand him and didn't he understand us? Did we imagine for an instant that he'd shoot us for all the so-and-so officers in the so-and-so British Army?” (p. 24). Bonaparte is so sickened by his moral dilemma that he cannot answer Hawkins's questions, and he desperately wishes to be relieved of his moral burden: “I was hoping that something would happen; that they'd run for it or that Noble would take over the responsibility from me” (pp. 24-25). Like Daru, however, Bonaparte is not relieved of making his own moral choice in this matter.

An important difference in the responses of Daru and Bonaparte is in the choices they make. Daru figures out (he believes) a way to avoid the moral decision. He takes the Arab to a point on the plateau that slopes to the east and the south. He gives the Arab food and money and tells him that he can choose to walk either east to Tinguit and prison or south to nomads who are bound by their laws to provide him with food and shelter (and thus freedom). He then leaves the Arab and heads back to the schoolhouse. When he lasts sees the Arab, the man is walking eastward, having chosen prison over freedom. Bonaparte, on the other hand, chooses to carry out his duty to his superior, despite the strong feelings of brotherhood for the Englishmen. Although it is Donovan who first shoots Hawkins and Belcher, Bonaparte has to finish off the dying Hawkins with a second shot and thereby participates fully in the execution, even though as he does so, he says, “I didn't seem to know what I was doing” (p. 26).

Despite the different choices that Daru and Bonaparte make, the consequences of the choices are similar in terms of the emotional impact on the protagonists. When Daru looks to see which road the Arab has taken, he sees “with heavy heart” (p. 109) that it is the road to prison, thus suggesting that Daru cannot fully escape feelings of moral responsibility for the Arab's fate. Later, back in the schoolhouse, he reads a chalked message on the blackboard: “You handed over our brother. You will pay for this” (p. 109). The implication is that the Arab rebels hold Daru responsible for the Arab's fate. The story then ends with two sentences that describe the emotional impact of his moral choice on Daru: “Daru looked at the sky, the plateau, and, beyond, the invisible lands stretching all the way to the sea. In this vast landscape he had loved so much, he was alone” (p. 109). Daru's moral choice has led to feelings of aloneness and insignificance in a vast universe.

Such also is the effect on Bonaparte. When the Irish soldiers return from the bog, the old lady of the boarding house tells them that she knows what they have done to the Englishmen, and she and Noble fall to their knees to pray. But Bonaparte leaves them and stands “at the door, watching the stars and listening to the shrieking of the birds dying out over the bogs” (p. 28). The story ends with Bonaparte attempting to describe his feelings. Noble, he says, saw everything enlarged,

but with me it was as if the patch of bog where the Englishmen were was a million miles away, and even Noble and the old woman, mumbling behind me, and the birds and the bloody stars were all far away, and I was somehow very small and very lost and lonely like a child astray in the snow. And anything that happened to me afterwards, I never felt the same about again.

(pp. 28-29)

Bonaparte's moral decision has led him, like Daru, to experience feelings of aloneness and insignificance in a vast universe.

The minor characters also bear remarkable similarities. Balducci, the “old Corsican” gendarme who has brought the Arab prisoner from El Ameur to Daru's schoolhouse, resembles Jeremiah Donovan, who brings to Bonaparte and Noble the orders calling for the death of the English prisoners. Both Balducci and Donovan insist on the precedence of duty over personal or human considerations, while at the same time claiming a sensitivity to such considerations. Balducci believes that orders must be carried out because of the threat of Arab rebellion. He has done his duty by bringing the Arab to Daru, and he expects Daru to do his by taking the Arab to police headquarters. When Daru balks at the task, Balducci tells him,...

For other uses, see Hospitality (disambiguation).

This article is about the social concept and practice of hospitality. For the commercial activity of travel services, see Hospitality management studies and Hospitality industry.

Hospitality refers to the relationship between a guest and a host, wherein the host receives the guest with goodwill, including the reception and entertainment of guests, visitors, or strangers. Louis, chevalier de Jaucourt describes hospitality in the Encyclopédie as the virtue of a great soul that cares for the whole universe through the ties of humanity.[4]

Hospitality ethics is a discipline that studies this usage of hospitality.


Derives from the Latin hospes,[5] meaning "host", "guest", or "stranger". Hospes is formed from hostis, which means "stranger" or "enemy" (the latter being where terms like "hostile" derive). By metonymy the Latin word 'Hospital' means a guest-chamber, guest's lodging, an inn.[6] Hospes is thus the root for the English words host (where the p was dropped for convenience of pronunciation), hospitality, hospice, hostel and hotel.

Historical practice[edit]

In ancient cultures hospitality involved welcoming the stranger and offering him food, shelter, and safety.[7]

Global concepts[edit]

Ancient Greece[edit]

In Ancient Greece, hospitality was a right, with the host being expected to make sure the needs of his guests were met. The ancient Greek term xenia, or theoxenia when a god was involved, expressed this ritualized guest-friendship relation. In Greek society a person's ability to abide by the laws of hospitality determined nobility and social standing. The Stoics regarded hospitality as a duty inspired by Zeus himself.[4]

India and Nepal[edit]

In India and Nepal hospitality is based on the principle Atithi Devo Bhava, meaning "the guest is God". This principle is shown in a number of stories where a guest is revealed to be a god who rewards the provider of hospitality. From this stems the Indian or Nepal practice of graciousness towards guests at home and in all social situations. The Tirukkuṛaḷ, an ancient Indian work on ethics and morality, explains the ethics of hospitality through its verses 81 through 90, dedicating a separate chapter on it (Chapter 9).[8][9]


Judaism praises hospitality to strangers and guests based largely on the examples of Abraham and Lot in the Book of Genesis (Genesis 18:1–8 and 19:1–8). In Hebrew, the practice is called hachnasat orchim, or "welcoming guests". Besides other expectations, hosts are expected to provide nourishment, comfort, and entertainment for their guests,[10] and at the end of the visit, hosts customarily escort their guests out of their home, wishing them a safe journey.[11]


In Christianity, hospitality is a virtue which is a reminder of sympathy for strangers and a rule to welcome visitors.[12] This is a virtue found in the Old Testament, with, for example, the custom of the foot washing of visitors or the kiss of peace.[13][14] It was taught by Jesus in the New Testament. Indeed, Jesus said that those who had welcomed a stranger had welcomed him.[15] Some Western countries have developed a host culture for immigrants, based on the bible.[16]


One of the main principles of Pashtunwali is Melmastia. This is the display of hospitality and profound respect to all visitors (regardless of race, religion, national affiliation or economic status) without any hope of remuneration or favour. Pashtuns will go to great lengths to show their hospitality.[17][18][19]

Celtic cultures[edit]

Celtic societies also valued the concept of hospitality, especially in terms of protection. A host who granted a person's request for refuge was expected not only to provide food and shelter for his/her guest, but to make sure they did not come to harm while under their care.[20]

Current usage[edit]

In the West today hospitality is rarely a matter of protection and survival and is more associated with etiquette and entertainment. However, it still involves showing respect for one's guests, providing for their needs, and treating them as equals. Cultures and subcultures vary in the extent to which one is expected to show hospitality to strangers, as opposed to personal friends or members of one's ingroup.

Anthropology of hospitality[edit]

Jacques Derrida offers a model to understand hospitality that divides unconditional hospitality from conditional hospitality. Over the centuries, philosophers have devoted considerable attention to the problem of hospitality.[21] However, hospitality offers a paradoxical situation (like language) since inclusion of those who are welcomed in the sacred law of hospitality implies others will be rejected. Julia Kristeva (1991) alerts readers to the dangers of “perverse hospitality”, which consists of taking advantage of the vulnerability of aliens to dispossess them.[22] Hospitality serves to reduce the tension in the process of host-guest encounters, producing a liminal zone that combines curiosity about others and fear of strangers.[23] In general terms, the meaning of hospitality centres on the belief that strangers should be assisted and protected while traveling.[24] However, not all voices are in agreement with this concept. Professor Anthony Pagden describes how the concept of hospitality was historically manipulated to legitimate the conquest of Americas by imposing the right of free transit, which was conducive to the formation of the modern nation-state. This suggests that hospitality is a political institution which can be ideologically deformed to oppress others.[25]

See also[edit]

Look up hospitality in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.


  1. ^Wade, William Cecil (1898). The Symbolism of Heraldry. London: G. Redway. pp. 31, 67. 
  2. ^Lower, Mark Anthony (1845). The Curiosities of Heraldry. London: J.R. Smith. p. 73. 
  3. ^Guillim, John. "A Display of Heraldry" 1724
  4. ^ abJaucourt, Louis, chevalier de. "Hospitality." The Encyclopedia of Diderot & d'Alembert Collaborative Translation Project. Translated by Sophie Bourgault. Ann Arbor: Michigan Publishing, University of Michigan Library, 2013. Web. [fill in today's date in the form 18 Apr. 2009 and remove square brackets]. <>. Trans. of "Hospitalité," Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 8. Paris, 1765.
  5. ^C. Lewis, Elementary Latin Dictionary (Oxford Univ. Press, 2000), p. 371.
  6. ^Cassell's Latin Dictionary, revised by Marchant, J & Charles J., 260th. Thousand
  7. ^Pohl, Christine D., Making Room: Recovering Hospitality as a Christian Tradition, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1999ISBN 9780802844316
  8. ^TirukkuṛaḷArchived 2014-12-16 at the Wayback Machine. verses 71-80
  9. ^Pope, GU (1886). Thirukkural English Translation and Commentary(PDF). W.H. Allen, & Co. p. 160. 
  10. ^Kagan, Yisrael Meir (1888). Ahavath chesed : the Love of Kindness (2nd, rev. ed.). Warsaw: Feldheim. p. 284. ISBN 0873061675. 
  11. ^Babylonian Talmud Sotah, 46B
  12. ^Alain Montandon, L'hospitalité au XVIIIe siècle, Presses Universitaires Blaise Pascal, France, 2000, p. 12
  13. ^Walter A. Elwell, Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Baker Academic, USA, 2001, p. 458
  14. ^Lawrence Cunningham, Keith J. Egan, Christian Spirituality: Themes from the Tradition, Paulist Press, USA, 1996, p. 196
  15. ^Gideon Baker, Hospitality and World Politics, Springer, UK, 2013, p. 159
  16. ^J. Olaf Kleist, Irial Glynn, History, Memory and Migration: Perceptions of the Past and the Politics of Incorporation, Palgrave Macmillan, USA, 2012, p. 113
  17. ^Banting, Erinn (2003). Afghanistan the People. Crabtree Publishing Company. p. 14. ISBN 0-7787-9335-4. Retrieved 2010-10-29. 
  18. ^Schultheis, Rob (2008). Hunting Bin Laden: How Al-Qaeda Is Winning the War on Terror. New York: Skyhorse. p. 14. ISBN 978-1-60239-244-1. 
  19. ^Hussain, Rizwan (2005). Pakistan and the Emergence of Islamic Militancy in Afghanistan. Aldershot: Ashgate. p. 221. ISBN 0-7546-4434-0. 
  20. ^Charles MacKinnon, Scottish Highlanders (1984, Barnes & Noble Books); page 76
  21. ^Derrida, J. (2000). “Hospitality”. Angelaki: Journal of Theoretical Humanities,5(3), 3-18.
  22. ^Kristeva, J. (1991). Extranjeros para nosotros mismos, trad. de X. Gispert, Barcelona, Plaza & Janes Editores (Hombre y Sociedad).
  23. ^Graburn, N. H. (1983). “The anthropology of tourism”. Annals of tourism research, 10(1), 9-33.
  24. ^Lashley, C. (1995). Towards an understanding of employee empowerment in hospitality services. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 7(1), 27-32.
  25. ^Pagden, A. (1995). Lords of all the worlds: ideologies of empire in Spain, Britain and France c. 1500-c. 1850. Yale University Press.

Further reading[edit]

  • Danny Meyer (2006) Setting the Table : The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business
  • Christine Jaszay (2006). Ethical Decision-Making in the Hospitality Industry
  • Karen Lieberman & Bruce Nissen (2006). Ethics in the Hospitality And Tourism Industry
  • Rosaleen Duffy and Mick Smith. The Ethics of Tourism Development
  • Conrad Lashley and Alison Morrison. In Search of Hospitality
  • Hospitality: A Social Lens by Conrad Lashley and Alison Morrison
  • The Great Good Place by Ray Oldenburg
  • Customer Service and the Luxury Guest by Paul Ruffino
  • Fustel de Coulanges. The Ancient City: Religion, Laws, and Institutions of Greece and Rome
  • Bolchazy. Hospitality in Antiquity: Livy's Concept of Its Humanizing Force
  • Jacques Derrida (2000). Of Hospitality. Trans. Rachel Bowlby. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  • James A. W. Heffernan (2014). Hospitality and Treachery in Western Literature. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.
  • Steve Reece (1993). The Stranger's Welcome: Oral Theory and the Aesthetics of the Homeric Hospitality Scene. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
  • Mireille Rosello (2001). Postcolonial Hospitality. The Immigrant as Guest. Stanford University Press.
  • Clifford J. Routes (1999). Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  • John B. Switzer (2007). "Hospitality" in Encyclopedia of Love in World Religions. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO.
  • Immanuel Velikovsky (1982). Mankind in Amnesia. Garden City, New York: Doubleday.
  • Christian Hänggi (2009). Hospitality in the Age of Media Representation. New York/Dresden: Atropos Press.
  • Thomas Claviez, ed. (2013). The Conditions of Hospitality: Ethics, Politics, and Aesthetics on the Threshold of the Possible. Bronx: Fordham University Press.
Bringing in the boar's head. In heraldry, the boar's head was sometimes used as symbol of hospitality, often seen as representing the host's willingness to feed guests well.[1] It is likewise the symbol of a number of inns and taverns.[2]
Trestles in the medieval De Stratford coat of arms:
The trestle (also tressle, tressel and threstle) in heraldry is also used to mean hospitality, as historically the trestle was a tripod used both as a stool and a table support at banquets.[3]

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