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One meaning is an indictment against the French, who occupied Algeria at the time of the story. Camus portrays the region throughout the story as bleak and desolate, a place where ". . . the plateaus burned to a cinder month after month . . . literally scorched, every stone bursting into dust under one's foot" (372-373).


In this case, the French did not consider the conflict created by ordering Daru to bring a fellow countryman, albeit an alleged criminal, to French authorities.
Desolation is symbolized by Daru's character. He is from the impoverished region, and as a school teacher there, he was ". . . satisfied with the little he had . . ." (373) and, "Everywhere else, he felt exiled" (373). Camus closes the story saying, "In this vast landscape he had loved so much, he was alone" (383)
A greater meaning was that Daru followed his conscience, instead of following orders, by not delivering the Arab to the authorities. This reflects his contempt for being under the French government's authority; he made it clear to Balducci by saying, "I won't hand him over" (376). However, it was "with heavy heart" (383) that he sees the Arab walking in the direction of prison instead of possible freedom, after Daru shows him the two different directions, gives him provisions for two days and leaves him. This, according to Thomas Arp, is a demonstration of ". . . the unpredictability of the consequences of human choices in unfriendly conditions" (386).
Overall, the characters are believable and the plot is realistic; it is well crafted fiction. Its success stems from its historical setting, just before the Algerian War, 1954-1962, when Algeria rebelled against French rule and won independence. ...
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