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'Heroes' Robert Cormier - themes

Overview of each key theme as explored in York Nothes

Mike Quirk

on 18 May 2013

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Transcript of 'Heroes' Robert Cormier - themes

Key themes Heroes - Robert Cormier Heroism is demonstrated in the behaviour of many different characters in a range of ways throughout the novel.

War heroes are portrayed as role models and worthy of admiration. the people of Frenchtown are excited by examples of heroism because they do not have to face the consequences of ware directly.
Heroes represent the bravery and patriotism.
The people are intensely proud of their very own war hero La Salle.
Cheers and applause fill the cinema when La Salle features on the Movietone News after his award of the Silver Star.
On his return home, La Salle receives a traditional hero's welcome with specches from the mayor and the whole town turns out to greet him.
He is described as a stereotypical hero - like a character who has stepped down from the cinema screen, respelndent in his lieutenant's uniform with ribbons and medals on his chest.
Young Francis admires Larry for his traditional war exploits, just as he admired all the young men when they returned home in their uniforms.
Francis and Larry were both awarded the Silver Star and are the most obvious representations of heroism but other characters are heroes in their own ways.
Cormier uses Arthur Rivier as a representative of the ordinary hero in Chapter 8, perhaphs because he wants them to be remembered most. Heroism The novel presents heroes as victims and their heroism does not bring them happiness.

Mrs Belander's face 'softened' and she calls him 'poor boy' when she meets Francis because of his injuries.
In St Jude's Club, heroes are treated with the utmost respect.
When talking about Larry La Salle, the bartender's voice becomes 'formal and dignified' (pg41)
He has the scrapbook containing their exploits but he can also see the reality of heroism right in front of him.
Arthur Rivier is surprised that Francis wishes to remain anonymous, but out of respect for Francis, he agrees to remain silent.
It is noticeable that Larry welcomes the adulation of others and is happy to be a very public hero. Respect for heroes Initially Larry is presented as an inspirational figure because of the work he does in the Wreck Centre.
He is admired for the way he develops the talents of all who go there.
it is IRONIC that on the very night he is acclaimed by the whole town for his heroism, he destroys the lives of both Francis and Nicole, two young people who regard him as hero.
Larry himself asks, does this flaw in his character destroy all the good he has done?
Francis does not see himself as a hero because of his hidden motives for enlisting.
He hates to be acclaimed a hero whether by his friend Enrico in chapter 1, Sister Mathilde and Nicole in chapters 15 and 16 or even La Salle in chapter 14.
He admits that he was 'a fake all along' (pg88).
We can see that he has the courage to challenge Larry and has every intention of killing him in order to eradicate his guilt.
Illusion of heroism:heroes or anti-heroes? The primary motivator for our characters enlisting is to confront evil however it takes on different forms. There is the obvious external evil that they all recognise in their wartime enemy but also the evil within their own community which they fail to identify until too late. Not only that but the enemy soldiers are shown to be young boys just like any other who cry out for their mother when they are killed.

Initially La Salle is worthy of admiration.
The revelation of his evil intentions towards Nicole are so unexpected that they shock both Francis and the reader.
Francis is further shocked in chapter 14 wen La Salle reveals that he has always been attracted to 'sweet young things' (pg90), a trait which Larry himself considers evil.
Francis struggles with evil throughout the novel.
Believes himself to be a coward, resulting in pain and suffering for the one person he truly cared for and loves the most.
He considers his own actions to be the most evil of all.
It is IRONIC that Francis does not act out his evil mission to kill Larry, as La Salle instead commits suicide.
Francis challenges La Salles' evil actions.
Once exposed, La Salle feels he has no option. Confronting evil Francis is consumed by guilt throughout the novel.

He feels guilt at the thought that he intends to commit murder.
His failure to save Nicole from Larry further compounds his guilt.
Francis' sense of guilt is heightened at being acclaimed a hero when he knows he only committed his act of bravery in the hope that he would be killed.
Unlike Francis, Larry does not appear troubled with a guilty conscience.
In ch14, (pg 90-91) he explains that in his view everyone sins and one sin should not be allowed to wipe away all the good things a person has done.
He regards his desire for young girls as merely a flaw in his nature.
His only regret is that Francis and Nicole no longer see him as the hero they once did.
Cormier's portrayal of Larry is a complex one and we could argue that his depression at the end of the novel comes more from self-pity than guilt. Guilt The theme of forgiveness is introduced in chapter 1 where readers observe Francis praying for a man that has done him harm. The religious element of forgiveness is emphasised here and again in chapter 12 where Francis hides in the confessional of St Jude's Church. It is as though he wants immediate forgiveness for his perceived sin of abandoning Nicole when she needed him most.

It appears to be easy for Larry to forgive himself as he does not seem to experience the sense of guilt that Francis does.

For Francis, self-forgiveness is harder to achieve.

Nicole is the character who personifies goodness and forgiveness:
Her first words to Francis are ones of forgiveness, apologising to him for the words she said to him after the attack.
It is not clear whether the words relieve Francis from his burden of guilt.
Although she forgives him, it is clear Nicole cannot forget and that she and Francis cannot be friends. Forgiveness Loneliness Many of the characters in the novel appear to be lonely, living alone or separated from their past. They often struggle to communicate their real feelings and withdraw into themselves.

At the end of the novel, Nicole is alone in the convent far away from the friends she made in Frenchtown. She tries to cut herself off from her past.
Although for the greater part of the novel Larry is surrounded by crowds of people, at the end he is seen as sad and lonely in his lodgings.
Frances chooses loneliness, refusing to reveal himself to the people he knows.
Arthur Rivier wanders the streets at night, drunk and alone.
The loneliness of the characters is often linked to the secrets they carry within them.
It is their secret of their hidden identity which sets them apart from others.
When he walks the streets of Frenchtown, Francis remains hidden behind his scarf, a visible sign of his purposeful separation from his past and society.
He embraces his loneliness because he is ashamed of his identity.
Even when he is in a crowded place he is still alone, not taking part in the action but merely observing.
This also reflects the trauma of his childhood having been brought up by his uncle. Appearance and Reality When Sister Mathilde says to Francis 'We all have secrets' (p95), she is in fact talking about everyone in the novel. There is a difference between how characters present themselves and the reality which lies beneath.

In the veterans' club Arthur Rivier hides his depression after the war.
Enrico Rucelli hides his despair behind a mask of humorous remarks.
Francis goes to great lengths to hide his identity on his return to the town.
The theme of hidden identity is exemplified in the character Larry La Salle about whom there have been rumours since his first appearance in Frenchtown.
Nicole hides her attack from her family in order to spare them pain.
The difference between appearance and reality of war is the central theme of Cormier's novel. The people in Frenchtown see a sanitised version of glory and heroism in the cinema. They are proud of the contribution they can make to a war which is taking place such a long way away. However, the survivors bring back with them th reality of their wartime experiences. Francis "I was impatient to reach the age when I could join them in that great crusade for freedom" (page 27) Francis "I could picture him storming a hillside in Guadalcanal, rifle in hand, bayonet fixed, grenades dangling from his belt, pumping bullets into the enemy" (pg 68) Francis "I saw how young they were, boys with apple cheeks, too young to shave. Like me." (pg 24) "He had been a hero to us long before he went to war." (page 68) "We love the thing that makes us evil." (page 76) When discussing the theme of guilt in his novels, Robert Cormier said, "God is always there to forgive you, but it's harder forgiving yourself." Francis is a character who is plagued by guilt. Cormier once said that, "I have always had the sense that we are pretty much alone in life, particularly in adolescence. "nothing glamorous like the write-ups in the newspapers or the newsreels. We weren't the heroes. We were only there." (page 47)
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