This theme can best be explored through an examination of Daru in this brilliant short story, and in patricular, the charge that he is given to be responsible for the Arab prisoner and to convey him to the nearest town. This helps emphasise the central theme of the story which is that of moral choice. As regards free will, Daru is shown to be a character who above all desires to remain neutral in a conflict that is becoming more and more tense. Daru therefore is a character who, in spite of his Arab sympathies, simply wishes to not participate and to not become involved.
The various actions he commits with respect to his Arab prisoner therefore try to achieve this aim. He tries to refuse accepting responsibility, and then leaves the prisoner untied in the hope that his prisoner will escape so he will not be burdened by responsibility. He even tries to pass on the decision to the prisoner himself, giving him the choice of two roads. The prisoner's choice of going to prison means that Daru as a consequence is implicated with the French colonial authorities and is blamed by the prisoner's compatriots. However, the story equally points out that if the prisoner had chosen freedom, Daru would have been blamed by his French countrymen. Free will is shown to be impossible in some situations, as Daru is forced to take sides in a conflict that he is desperate to avoid taking sides on. Neutrality in some situations is shown to be impossible as Daru cannot exert his free will due to the pressures that are brought against him by society.