What is the purpose of the note on the chalkboard?

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From the title and throughout the story, culminating in the scrawled threat on the blackboard, there are layers of irony that merit analysis. "La hôte" is the French title of the story, meaning either "the guest" or "the host." The fact that Daru refers to the prisoner alternately as a "guest" and a "prisoner" leads us to question how he really regards the Arab. Daru learns from Balducci that the Arab killed his cousin in "a family squabble." Daru feels then "a sudden wrath . . . against all men with their rotten spite, their tireless hates, their blood lusts."

What of the fact that the note on the blackboard is drawn where Daru has also drawn "the four rivers of France in four different coloured chalks"? Why is he not teaching his impoverished students the geography of their own colonized country? Daru admits that "everywhere else" but Algeria (where he was born), "he felt exiled." But perhaps he is also exiled here: "No one in this...

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