Daru, a French Algerian schoolmaster, is assigned deliver an Arab prisoner to the nearest city. He doesn't want to do it because he doesn't feel that it's right but he has no choice. Daru was born in the rural area where the schoolhouse and the attached room in which he lives are located. His students come from poor villages nearby and have been suffering from a severe drought. To aid them, Daru has been distributing government-provided food rations. Daru first notices two men in the distance, one on horseback, one on foot, approaching the steep hill on which the schoolhouse is situated. He sees them coming and welcomes them into his home. That's when he is told that he had to take the prisoner to the closest city. He doesn't know whether to let the man go or to actually tell the guy to go to the city. Essentially he lets the guy choose his own path. He doesn't want to feel like he was the one to ruin someone's life. The guy ended up going to where he had to go anyways. He didn't want to choose to be free with no where to go.
This book is all about choices and consequences. It's all about decisions having impacts and consequences on people. It shows people that no matter what you do, there's going to be an outcome of some sort. People have to learn to face facts that life is full of decisions and some will be easy but others will be tough and they all have to deal with it. They can't say that they don't want to decide because they is no choice. Life is full of choices, good or bad, and this man had to make one of the hardest choices in his life.