How does Daru reflect France's plight? Is the story's meaning limited to the situation? What does the story tell us about good and evil and the nature of moral choice?

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Daru reflects the plight of France in the colonial conflict in Algeria by being swept up in a situation in which he wants no part. When the gendarme Balducci brings the Arab to Daru's school, he insists that Daru transport the prisoner to the police. Daru is beside himself, insisting...

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Daru reflects the plight of France in the colonial conflict in Algeria by being swept up in a situation in which he wants no part. When the gendarme Balducci brings the Arab to Daru's school, he insists that Daru transport the prisoner to the police. Daru is beside himself, insisting that it isn't his job, but Balducci tells him that many people do many jobs in wartime.

This frustrating situation in which Daru find himself is reflective of the situation of those who did not want to take a side in the conflict in Algeria. This frustration is emphasized in the climax of the story in which Daru, who simply was trying to do the right thing by giving the Arab a choice, sees the Arab going to turn himself in and finds threatening language written on his school blackboard.

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The three questions you have asked are distinct but interrelated. This answer focuses on the first question and draws on some elements of the last one, as morality is the central component of the individual and national plight that Camus presents.

Although Daru’s family is French, he was born in Algeria and thus represents the paradox of colonial identity. Daru does not want to be involved in the war and his discomfort becomes hatred of the people involved. Punishing individuals for supposedly illegal actions in the midst of a war, which means that innocent people everywhere are being killed, is nonsensical to Daru. Resisting the assignment of accompanying “the Arab” prisoner, he is furious against the military men “with their rotten spite, their tireless hates, their blood lust.”

The moral dilemma of taking the Arab to “justice” or releasing him is parallel to the colonizers’ larger question of supporting or challenging independence movements. Although Daru considers himself above or outside the war, as a Frenchman his benefits and privileges while living in the colony have of necessity come from exploiting the indigenous Algerians. Rather than taking a firm stand, Daru deludes himself that offering the Arab a choice absolves him of blame.

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Daru's plight is paralleled with France's difficulties and Camus' own sensibiities.  In the story we see Camus' concern regarding the political situation in French North Africa. Daru's refusal to bear arms or follow orders from the military are related to the dilemma for those who refused to take sides in the war in Algeria.  (Camus was strongly attached to Algeria and did not want to see it separated from France.)

The story is not limited only to this situation, but to how Camus saw the world.  He did not believe that life was useless and without purpose as some people did at the time.  It would seem as if the Arab had adopted this philosophy: that without purpose, his life had no meaning.  Without knowing what he would do if he escaped, he chose, instead to go on to the jail, for at least he saw the purpose of this: this was the goal of his trip, what he had been expecting and preparing for.

Camus would not have respected this kind of behavior.  He believed that life was important to live, regardless of what it demands of the man.

We learn from the story that making the moral choice is always the best choice, however, it is not always rewarded.  Sometimes goodness is punished and evil extolled.  In the story, Daru makes the moral choice to defy convention and help the Arab.  His goodness is not rewarded: the "guest" refuses his help, and the Arabs leave a threatening message for Daru on the chalkboard.

 

 

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