Zeitoun has trouble sleeping but then spends his days exhausted. He still feels guilty for having remained in the city, and ridiculous for having a sense that God had put him there to do good deeds. As a result he’s put his family in danger. For so long he’s been a model citizen, but he put himself out on a limb with this role.
Although Zeitoun understands that many of his difficulties have stemmed from prejudice and legal breakdown, he still, as usual, wants to claim responsibility for his own actions.
Zeitoun has always had faith that the machinery of government functioned in the United States, but now every piece of that machinery seems to be devouring anything in its path. It no longer seems like the police and military are acting on behalf of citizens, or are kept in check by regulations, laws, and decency.
At the same time, Zeitoun struggles to reconcile his idealistic view of American government and social life with his first-hand experience of the way the system has worked for him.
Zeitoun thinks of the term “bycatch,” a fishing term for the thousands of creatures that they’d pull in off the coast of Jableh along with the sardines. Sometimes they wouldn’t know until it was too late, and the creatures—one time a dolphin—were dead.
This memory serves as a metaphor for the way that the government is casting a wide net in trying to catch those they want, sacrificing many innocents along the way.
Zeitoun has been confined 23 hours a day to his cell, unable to work, read, build, or do anything else. He realizes that an unconscious part of his motivations had been to live up to his brother Mohammed—but now he thinks he risked too much. He wonders if his imprisonment is God’s way of tempering his pride. Zeitoun prays late at night for his family and for a messenger to tell his wife he’s alive.
Solitary confinement is usually considered a harsh punishment, and is now even being banned in many prisons for being overly severe. Zeitoun acknowledges the more self-serving side of his motivations in wanting to help others, as he also wonders if there is a larger purpose or meaning to his confinement.