GCSE Study Guide - Heart of England School

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GCSE Study Guide - Heart of England School
Assessment 2012
Heroes
2010 spec
onwards
GCSE Study Guide
ALISS LANGRIDGE
ILLUSTRATIONS BY LEWIS GILLIARD
[email protected]
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Contents
Thank You for Choosing ZigZag Education ...........................................................................................................iii
Teacher Feedback Opportunity.................................................................................................................................. iv
Terms and Conditions of Use....................................................................................................................................... v
Teacher’s Introduction .................................................................................................................................................. 1
The Assessment Objectives .........................................................................................................................................................................2
Specification Information ............................................................................................................................................. 4
A Short Biography of Robert Cormier ....................................................................................................................... 5
The Context of Heroes .................................................................................................................................................. 6
Literary Context.........................................................................................................................................................................................6
Historical Context ......................................................................................................................................................................................7
Different Cultures and Heroes ..................................................................................................................................................................8
Plot Overview .................................................................................................................................................................. 9
Character List ................................................................................................................................................................14
First Impressions of Characters................................................................................................................................. 15
Analysis of Major Characters .....................................................................................................................................18
Francis Cassavant................................................................................................................................................................................... 18
Larry LaSalle ......................................................................................................................................................................................... 20
Nicole Renard ......................................................................................................................................................................................... 23
Comparison/contrast of Francis and Larry ........................................................................................................................................ 24
Minor Characters .................................................................................................................................................................................... 26
Chapter 1 Analysis ........................................................................................................................................................30
Discussion Points .................................................................................................................................................................................... 31
Useful Quotations and Analysis ............................................................................................................................................................ 32
Chapter 2 Analysis ........................................................................................................................................................34
Discussion Points .................................................................................................................................................................................... 34
Useful Quotations and Analysis ............................................................................................................................................................ 35
Chapter 3 Analysis ........................................................................................................................................................36
Discussion Points .................................................................................................................................................................................... 36
Useful Quotations and Analysis ............................................................................................................................................................ 37
Creative Writing Task ........................................................................................................................................................................... 38
Chapter 4 Analysis ........................................................................................................................................................39
Discussion Points .................................................................................................................................................................................... 39
Useful Quotations and Analysis ............................................................................................................................................................ 40
Chapter 5 Analysis ........................................................................................................................................................41
Discussion Points .................................................................................................................................................................................... 42
Useful Quotations and Analysis ............................................................................................................................................................ 43
Activities linked to Chapters 1–5 .............................................................................................................................. 45
Chapter 6 Analysis ........................................................................................................................................................46
Discussion Points .................................................................................................................................................................................... 46
Useful Quotations and Analysis ............................................................................................................................................................ 47
Chapter 7 Analysis ........................................................................................................................................................48
Discussion Points .................................................................................................................................................................................... 49
Useful Quotations and Analysis ............................................................................................................................................................ 49
Chapter 8 Analysis ........................................................................................................................................................51
Discussion Points .................................................................................................................................................................................... 51
Useful Quotations and Analysis ............................................................................................................................................................ 51
Chapter 9 Analysis ........................................................................................................................................................52
Discussion Points .................................................................................................................................................................................... 52
Useful Quotations and Analysis ............................................................................................................................................................ 53
Different Cultures and Chapter 9: America’s response to the bombing of Pearl Harbour ..................................................................... 53
Chapter 10 Analysis......................................................................................................................................................54
Discussion Points .................................................................................................................................................................................... 54
-i-
Useful Quotations and Analysis ............................................................................................................................................................ 55
Activities linked to Chapters 6–10............................................................................................................................ 56
Chapter 11 Analysis......................................................................................................................................................57
Discussion Points .................................................................................................................................................................................... 57
Useful Quotations and Analysis ............................................................................................................................................................ 58
Chapter 12 Analysis......................................................................................................................................................60
Discussion Points .................................................................................................................................................................................... 60
Useful Quotations and Analysis ............................................................................................................................................................ 60
Chapter 13 Analysis......................................................................................................................................................61
Discussion Points .................................................................................................................................................................................... 61
Useful Quotations and Analysis ............................................................................................................................................................ 61
Chapter 14 Analysis......................................................................................................................................................62
Discussion Points .................................................................................................................................................................................... 63
Useful Quotations and Analysis ............................................................................................................................................................ 63
Chapter 15 Analysis......................................................................................................................................................66
Discussion Points .................................................................................................................................................................................... 66
Useful Quotations and Analysis ............................................................................................................................................................ 66
Chapter 16 Analysis......................................................................................................................................................67
Discussion Points .................................................................................................................................................................................... 68
Useful Quotations and Analysis ............................................................................................................................................................ 68
Chapter 17 Analysis......................................................................................................................................................70
Discussion Points .................................................................................................................................................................................... 70
Useful Quotations and Analysis ............................................................................................................................................................ 70
The Ambiguous Ending of Heroes ............................................................................................................................ 71
Activities linked to Chapters 11–17 ......................................................................................................................... 72
Big Questions ................................................................................................................................................................73
Answering a Big Question ............................................................................................................................................................. 74
Themes ...........................................................................................................................................................................75
Cormier’s Techniques ..................................................................................................................................................89
Use of Language ..................................................................................................................................................................................... 89
Symbolism ................................................................................................................................................................................................ 92
Imagery..................................................................................................................................................................................................... 93
Cormier’s Narrative Structure .............................................................................................................................................................. 94
The Setting and its Importance to the Novel ....................................................................................................................................... 96
Writing in Role Exercises...........................................................................................................................................97
Use of ‘Point Evidence Explain’ when Describing Characters ............................................................................ 98
Writing Activity ...................................................................................................................................................................................... 99
Revising PEE ...............................................................................................................................................................101
Exam Preparation .......................................................................................................................................................102
Exam Information ................................................................................................................................................................................ 102
General Guidance on Writing Essays ................................................................................................................................................ 103
Sample Exam Questions ............................................................................................................................................106
WJEC
WJEC
Edexcel
Edexcel
Higher ................................................................................................................................................................................. 106
Foundation ......................................................................................................................................................................... 107
Higher ................................................................................................................................................................................. 108
Foundation.................................................................................................................................................................... 108
Sample Essay Answers ...............................................................................................................................................109
Edexcel
WJEC
Higher ........................................................................................................................................................................... 109
Foundation ......................................................................................................................................................................... 114
Exam Answer Practice...............................................................................................................................................119
Edexcel
WJEC
Foundation Question ......................................................................................................................................................... 119
Higher Question ................................................................................................................................................................. 120
Revision Checklist ......................................................................................................................................................121
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This publication is designed to supplement teaching only. Practice questions may be designed to follow the
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-v-
Teacher’s Introduction
This GCSE study guide can be used as a ‘companion’ to Robert Cormier’s Heroes in class, with sections to
support the reading of the text after every chapter. It can also be used to aid planning for teachers.
Students can take the guide home, nearer to the exam, and use it as a revision aid – the exam preparation
section will particularly help with this.
The beginning focuses on the literary and historical contexts of the text. It also looks at Heroes as a text
from a different culture. The historical context section looks at war veterans and at America’s
involvement in World War II. There is also:
• A short biography of Cormier
• A plot overview
• A generic help sheet for studying characters
• A detailed character analysis for each major character
• A detailed section analysis for each chapter which all include important quotations with analysis,
discussion points and writing tasks when appropriate.
After the detailed focus on each section, the study explores Cormier’s themes including heroes, isolation,
disfigurement and disability, war, love, loss, religion and identity, and more. There are also sections
about language and narrative style, the setting and its importance to the novel, symbolism and structure.
The exam preparation section has PEE activities and there are also three ‘writing in role’ activities for
pupils to explore and empathise with the characters.
In terms of differentiation, at the beginning of the guide the Assessment Objectives are also presented in
‘pupil speak’ as an aid to pupils who may need extra support. There are also character-based ‘first
impression’ sheets for pupils who may need further help, particularly when being introduced to the
three leading characters. There are also sections for pupils who are ‘more able’ with the text – sections on
Cormier’s imagery, a comparison and contrast of Francis and Larry, ‘Big Questions’ and the ambiguous
ending. These sections encourage pupils to explore Heroes on a deeper level.
The guide is especially relevant to the Edexcel and WJEC specifications: there is a section which
specifically describes how each exam board presents the section for Heroes. There is also general
guidance on essay writing, sample responses for Higher and Foundation papers, a range of questions for
exam preparation and timed responses which can be used and adapted to suit the needs of the
individual and group as seems best to the teacher. There is also a focus on the exam criteria, an activity
to practise answering an exam question and a revision checklist.
The edition referred to throughout this guide is Heinemann, New Windmills (1998).
Aliss Langridge, April 2010
Acknowledgement
ZigZag Education would like to thank Lewis Gilliard for providing the original character and scene
illustrations.
Heroes GCSE Study Guide
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© ZigZag Education, 2010
The Assessment Objectives
The examiner who marks your essay will be looking for reasons to give you marks, but can only do this if
you succeed in fulfilling the following objectives:
AO1
Respond to texts critically and imaginatively; select and evaluate relevant textual
detail to illustrate and support interpretations.
AO2
Explain how language, structure and form contribute to writers’
presentation of ideas, themes and settings.
AO4
Relate texts to their social, cultural and historical contexts; explain
how texts have been influential and significant to self and other
readers in different contexts and at different times.
AO1 and AO2 are important to all exam boards. You can impress the
examiner by showing an awareness of the historical and literary
contexts which link to ‘Heroes’ – but not too much!
So, what
do these
mean?
The Assessment Objectives: ‘pupil speak’
AO1
You will respond to texts in a critical and imaginative way; you will select and
evaluate the text’s language to support what your points are.
AO2
You will explain how the language, structure and form of a text all
contribute to a writer’s different ideas, themes and settings.
AO4
You will link texts to their social, cultural and historical contexts;
you will explain how they have influenced and been important to
yourself and other readers at different times.
Key words defined
Critical
Showing careful judgement or evaluation
Structure
The way in which something is constructed or organised
Form
The shape or structure of something as distinguished from its content
Influence
The act, power or capacity of producing an effect on somebody or something
Heroes GCSE Study Guide
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© ZigZag Education, 2010
Breaking down the Assessment Objectives
AO1:
Candidates respond to texts critically: this means you must say what you think about the novel
and why. You should evaluate it: show your awareness of the writer making choices and give
your opinion on how effective these choices are.
Evaluate the text’s language: this means that you should comment on the writer’s choices of
language and use it to support your own points. Also can you ‘read between the lines’ and
come up with your own ideas about the text.
Support what your points are: This means that you should select short quotations to support
your points and ideas. Remember to comment on the effects of the language in the quotes
which you have selected.
AO2:
How the language, structure and form of a text all contribute to a writer’s different ideas,
themes and settings: ‘Language’ refers to the writer’s choices of words to express his ideas;
‘structure’ is the shape of the novel in its entirety. The form is the way that he has chosen to
use the form of a short novel.
AO4:
Link texts to their social, cultural and historical contexts: this means showing an
understanding of the context in which the writer has placed the novel, and also the context of
where the novel is set. The historical context is vital in relation to the themes and ideas behind
Heroes. For the social and cultural context it is important to consider the type of novel the text
is, and where its place in young people’s literature is.
You should avoid:
Retelling the story of Heroes. The question you choose will ask you to focus on a particular aspect of
Heroes, and you will focus your writing around this. In terms of examiner’s mark schemes, a feature of
the lowest grades is ‘retelling the story’.
Over quoting – quoting long passages. This wastes time and is unnecessary. Instead, use short, direct
quotations (think of Cormier’s writing style!).
Giving your opinions without supporting them. You should always support your points with short
quotations from the text. Also use reasonable arguments in your writing.
Heroes GCSE Study Guide
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© ZigZag Education, 2010
Specification Information
Different Cultures
Under the new Edexcel specification, Heroes has been placed as a Different Cultures text. The study of
Different Cultures texts allows students to explore aspects of the text that are specific to that culture as well
as universal ideas. The sections of this guide which are particularly relevant to this are on pages 8 and 50,
although the contexts and themes sections (pages 6–8 and 75–89) may also be useful.
Literature Notes
This study guide adheres to the requirements of the new specifications for GCSE Literature. Heroes is
prescribed for an exam for both Edexcel and WJEC Literature.
The summary grid below indicates which units allow for the study of Heroes and methods of assessment:
English Literature
English Language
Unit 1: Understanding Different
Cultures
Unit 2: The Writer’s Voice – Section A: Studying
written language (reading)
Unit 2: The Writer’s Craft – Section B:
Reading (prose)
Exam: one question from a choice
Exam: one reading response and one writing
response. Reading response will either be based on
an extract from a Different Cultures prose text or an
extract from a non-fiction text.
Exam: two reading responses (based on extracts
from a Different Cultures prose text and a
Shakespeare text) and one writing response.
Unit 1: Section A Different
Cultures Prose
Unit 3: Literary reading & creative writing:
studying written language: extended literary text
Exam: two questions. First
question (a) will require close
reading of an extract; second
question (b) or (c) will require
relating to the text as a whole.
Controlled Assessment: one assignment which is a
sustained response to an extended text. The text
must either be a Shakespeare play or one from the
GCSE English Literature external assessment set text
lists, excluding poetry.
Edexcel of two.
WJEC
English
Language and English Notes
Heroes can be used as a text for controlled assessment tasks in WJEC Language, and is prescribed for an
exam in Edexcel Language and English. This guide has been written to meet requirements for Literature,
although Language and English teachers will find it useful as it explores:
• Characterisation and voice
• Ideas, themes and settings
• Language, structure and form
Heroes GCSE Study Guide
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© ZigZag Education, 2010
A Short Biography of Robert Cormier
Robert Cormier (pronounced Cor-mi-ay) was born in 1925 in the small town of Leominster,
Massachusetts, USA, where he lived throughout his life. In Heroes Leominster became Monument;
details about places in Monument and the day-to-day life of its residents are based on Cormier’s real
experiences in Leominster. It is the setting for some of his novels. The Cormiers’ home was in French
Hill, which features as Frenchtown in Heroes. His family were French-Canadian immigrants. Robert was
the second of eight children and he remembers his childhood as a happy time.
He was brought up as a Catholic and attended St Cecilia’s Parochial Grammar School. He was taught by
nuns, like Francis and the other children in Heroes. Some of the nuns gave Robert a terrible time.
Similarly, the nuns are very strict in Heroes. Like Francis, he was a solitary boy who loved reading and
writing. He said that his favourite place to go was the library – like Francis. He started to write poetry
whilst at school. From a young age his writing talent was obvious and was noted by his teachers. He
went on to attend Fitchburg State College, where one teacher was so impressed by one of his short
stories that she secretly sent it to the Catholic magazine, The Sign. The story The Little Things That Count
was published, earning the young Robert the grand sum of $75. His first work of fiction was published
when he was twenty.
From 1946–8 Robert worked as a scriptwriter for a local radio station. After this he went on to become a
journalist, initially for a local paper, the Worcester Telegram. In 1955 he became the political reporter
for the Fitchburg Telegram. He was a very successful journalist, winning praise and acclaim from many
sources. However in 1978 he gave up his job to concentrate on his writing.
Robert Cormier’s first novel Now and at the Hour was published in 1960. He continued to write adult
fiction until 1974, when his first novel aimed at a younger audience was published. It was called The
Chocolate War and was about exposing corruption in a school. This novel was followed by two others, I
am the Cheese and After the First Death, which quickly established Cormier as one of the leading
authors of teenage fiction. He continued to produce teenage novels and Heroes was published in 1998.
Despite the success of his teenage fiction, Cormier has been criticised for the subject matter of his
novels. He does not shy away from difficult issues and his novels question the nature of good and evil,
often exploring the darker aspects of the human psyche. For this reason they are not always easy
reading, forcing readers to consider moral questions while leaving them to come to their own
conclusions. In some ways this challenges the accepted norms of children’s fiction, which often imposes
the author’s own ideas on the reader, but this is probably what makes Cormier’s novels so compelling
and why they continue to be bestsellers.
Robert Cormier died in 2000, leaving behind a wife, Connie, four children and ten grandchildren.
To do
Write down how Cormier’s writing in Heroes is influenced by his life and background.
Remember to include: how Cormier’s background influenced the setting, his experience at school and how it links to
Francis’s school life, and any similarities between Cormier and Francis.
Heroes GCSE Study Guide
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© ZigZag Education, 2010
The Context of Heroes
In terms of literature, the context of a novel is the
circumstances in which it was written, and the social history
and literary factors which influenced what the author wrote.
Other words for
‘context’ are
background,
connection, relations,
meaning.
Literary Context
Controversial
He was a controversial author who regarded glossing over the harsh realities of life, however
disturbing, as a betrayal of his young readers
About the Author: Heroes (Heinemann New Windmills)
Cormier did not plan to write for a young audience specifically, but his books are suitable for young
adults. However, his work is controversial because his books tend to explore darker themes. He uses
adult themes and ideas, and focuses on asking the reader challenging questions which are provoked by
the subject matter. His protagonists tend to deal with very challenging obstacles, which they would not
necessarily overcome. His characters experience evil, sin, betrayal and corruption of innocence. His
protagonists are teenagers who often face distressing events.
Cormier explores the emotional conflicts and issues with morality which his characters face, and he does
not necessarily provide the reader with a happy ending, or answer. Overall his writing is gripping and
essentially dramatic; the reader is drawn into the characters’ predicaments.
To do
Due to its challenging content, some readers may think that Heroes is unsuitable to read.
When you read the text, consider what might make a reader think that it is unsuitable to read.
Does it pose difficult questions? Does it present distressing events? Make a note of what might make Heroes
controversial.
Cormier’s career and influences
Cormier worked as a newspaper reporter before he became a full-time novelist. The style of writing of a
newspaper columnist may have influenced his writing style. To write for a newspaper, a writer’s style
would be clear, simple and direct. This is Cormier’s writing style in his novels. Also, writing for a
newspaper is generally structured, another style of writing which Cormier shows through his novels;
Heroes is well structured as the progression of the plot builds suspense. It is unusual because it does not
follow a linear plot line where events unravel in a logical order. Instead, Francis (the narrator) reveals
information to the reader when he chooses to. We are reliant on Francis’s perspective. Heroes also has
lots of short, dramatic scenes which have an impact on the reader. These scenes benefit from a direct
writing style which uses simple language.
Another influence on Cormier’s writing is Ernest Hemingway. He also wrote using simple language with a
direct style. Cormier admired his writing, and Francis (the protagonist in Heroes) reveals that A Farewell
to Arms is his favourite novel (Chapter 9, p. 50).
Heroes GCSE Study Guide
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© ZigZag Education, 2010
To do
We know that Ernest Hemingway influenced Cormier, and was Francis’s favourite novelist.
Find out as much as you can about this writer:
• Which time period was he writing in?
• What can you discover about his background?
• What is the plot line to A Farewell to Arms?
• How does it link to Heroes? (If you have not read Heroes yet leave this last question until later.)
Cormier is also a visual writer; when reading Heroes you will see his visual style in some scenes in
particular. In Chapter 3 one of Francis’s wartime experiences is vividly brought to life by Cormier’s
writing style; the dream seems almost real, because of the way in which Francis recalls details.
Historical Context
America’s role in the Second World War
World War Two began in 1939. The USA joined the Allies in the
Second World War in December 1941 after the Japanese
bombed Pearl Harbour (the US fleet base in the Pacific). The
attack was a surprise and it killed 2,350 Americans. The
Japanese did this because they were challenging America’s
authority in the Far East / Pacific. President Franklin D.
Roosevelt declared that America was at war with Japan. Within
days, Germany and Italy declared war against America.
National feelings ran high about the attack and offices of
recruitment were bombarded with calls from Americans
wanting to join up with the armed forces. Cormier shows this
American feeling in Chapter 9, when Larry LaSalle becomes
one of the first men in Frenchtown to enlist. Chapter 9 is a
focus in relation to the historical context. It refers to
America’s involvement in the Second World War after the
Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour. In the context of Heroes, this
happened on the same day as the Wreck Centre production
and party.
To do
1.
2.
3.
4.
Heroes GCSE Study Guide
President Franklin D. Roosevelt
signing the declaration of war
against Japan, on 8th December
1941
Test your knowledge:
When did World War Two begin?
When did the Americans get involved?
Why did the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbour?
Why did lots of Americans sign up to join the army?
Page 7 of 121
© ZigZag Education, 2010
Veterans
A war veteran is a person who has served or is serving in the armed forces, or a person who has had
long service or experience in an occupation or office.
For the most part, war veterans are treated with respect and honour by their fellow countrymen, for
their contribution to the country. Many countries have traditions and holidays to honour veterans. Most
have a holiday such as Veterans Day to honour them, including those who died as a result of a war. In
America, a war veteran is someone who has served in the armed forces, especially in combat. It
especially applies to someone who has served for their entire career, but can be applied to someone
who has served one tour of duty too.
American veteran experience after World War Two
After World War Two veterans groups were set up like the ‘American Legion’ that pushed for and gained
the enactment of the GI Bill. The GI Bill was officially entitled Servicemen’s Readjustment Act, and
provided college or vocational education to returning veterans.
The enactment of the GI Bill gave veterans access to free or subsidized education and health care. This
was beneficial for veterans and their families. In Chapter 4 the veterans of Frenchtown discuss the
future possibilities which the GI Bill has opened up to them.
‘College for me,’ Joe LaFontaine announces, holding up his beer and studying the way the light strikes
the glass. ‘The GI Bill. The government’s willing to pay, so I’m going...’
(Chapter 4, p. 23)
To do
Research into some war veteran experiences, maybe focusing on
a particular war veteran you find.
Find out as much about their experiences as possible. Did they have positive
experiences? Any negative experiences? Any particularly shocking experiences?

Different Cultures and Heroes
Many aspects of Heroes present America as a different culture to the reader. With regards to the details
focused on in this section, it is important to look at these particular areas when reading Heroes as they relate to
America during the period of World War Two as a ‘Different Culture’:
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
How veterans were treated/regarded
Veterans who returned from war either psychologically or physically injured
The promising hope that the government provided for able-bodied veterans
Whether or not there was hope for injured veterans
Veterans and how the GI Bill affected them
Veterans and the Silver Star
How veterans were perceived in the media and treated by the community
How war affected all members of a community
How war was presented in the public eye
How war was in reality
The war in relation to appearance and reality
Feelings of isolation and loneliness created by war
The respect which veterans gave each other but the lack of ‘deeper’ talk about their experiences
Frenchtown’s reaction to Pearl Harbour as depicted through Larry LaSalle (public outrage at the attack)
Feelings of patriotism within Frenchtown
How Frenchtown contributed to the Second World War
What the veterans talked about at St Jude’s Club in relation to their future prospects
America’s role in World War Two
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Plot Overview
Chapter 1
– present, moving into flashback
Francis describes in brutal detail, and with a matter-of-fact tone, his injuries
from the war. He has lost his face and suffers with breathing. He has returned
to Frenchtown, his home town, in disguise. He lodges with Mrs Belander, who
is suspicious of him at first, possibly due to his concealed appearance. After
he has seen his lodgings he goes to St Jude’s Church, where he lights a candle
and prays for people who have been an important part of his life, and we are
introduced to some major and minor characters: Enrico, his parents who are
both dead, Nicole Renard and Larry LaSalle. Tension is created at this point, as
we learn that Francis plans to kill Larry LaSalle – it is his mission in
Frenchtown, and the reason why he is in disguise. He does not want anyone
to learn about his identity. We are in suspense, as we do not know why Francis wants to kill Larry, but he
has clear intent. A flashback to the war introduces the theme of heroes and heroism; Francis has gained a
Silver Star medal, but ironically, he does not believe himself to be heroic. Again, we do not know why he
thinks this. He also reveals his deep love for Nicole.
Chapter 2
– flashback
Leading on from Chapter 1, Francis reminisces about the first time he met Nicole when she came into
the classroom. He reveals his feelings for her, and how he desperately wanted to talk to her, but felt too
shy to approach her. He also describes his childhood in Frenchtown in some detail.
Chapter 3
– moving between the present and flashbacks
Francis, in disguise, walks through Frenchtown but fears being recognised by anybody. He visits the
building where Nicole used to live. In a flashback, he remembers talking about Nicole with a soldier who
was also from Frenchtown. They are at war, but Francis is inexperienced at this stage. The soldier
reveals that Francis used to date Nicole. We discover more about Francis: he joined the army when he
was fifteen having forged his birth certificate so that he could lie about his age. At this point, we do not
know why Francis chose to do this. Back in the present, Francis discovers that Nicole and her family left
the building a long time ago. Again, we do not know why.
Back in his lodgings, Francis talks more with Mrs Belander. She feels sorry for him because of his severe
injuries. This chapter finishes with Francis having a dark flashback to the war in a nightmare – it is the
day before he loses his face – and he describes how he killed two young German soldiers. For this scene
graphic detail is used.
Chapter 4
– the present
Francis introduces the reader to the Wreck Centre, a key place in his childhood and a setting of great
importance in the novel. Francis meets Arthur Rivier and they go to the St Jude Club. Francis listens to the
Frenchtown veterans reminisce about the old days before the war. There is some talk about their new career
opportunities, made possible by the GI Bill. Francis is unrecognised and the men do not question him about
his wish to conceal his identity. Francis talks very little; he feels that he has nothing in common with the other
veterans, and feels isolated. However, he knows that he should listen for any news of Larry LaSalle, and
whether he has returned to Frenchtown or not. He leaves and heads for the Wreck Centre, even though he
told himself that he will not go there. This makes us wonder what significance the Wreck Centre has for him.
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Chapter 5
– moving from past to present
Francis describes the Wreck Centre, and how it got its name. It is boarded up and dilapidated. He
describes the tragic story which led to talk in the Frenchtown community. The story involves jealousy
and a love triangle; this may have some significance later, and foreshadows the events which we are
going to discover involving Francis, Larry and Nicole. The ‘Wreck’ Centre was named after the shortened
version of recreational centre, and the title suggests ruin and the idea of spoiling something. Again, this
is a significant foreshadowing of future events. Francis reveals how the centre was restored by workmen
and how one day Larry LaSalle showed up. He was an inspirational teacher and helped all the children
there to develop their talents. We are surprised by the positive descriptions of Larry as we are aware of
him through Francis’s eyes as someone he plans to kill. What could he have possibly done? The way in
which the story is told – without chronology – creates suspense for the reader. Larry concentrates on
bringing out the best in all the pupils, but there is a darker side to Larry which creates tension and
foreshadows trouble; there are rumours which reveal that Larry was in some sort of trouble in New
York, which is why he came back to Frenchtown. However these rumours only seem to add to his
mystery and glamour. The reader wonders about his past and whether this links to Francis’s motive to
kill him. Back in the present, Francis recalls how Joey LeBlanc felt a sense of doom about the Wreck
Centre and how he died in the war. By finishing with this ominous tone, Cormier creates a feeling of
tension and suspense in relation to Nicole, Larry and the Wreck Centre and how they fit together. The
reader asks a lot of questions.
Chapter 6
– the present
Francis has been in Frenchtown for a month and is constantly
watching for Larry. He asks about him in the St Jude Club, and the
reader discovers more about Larry’s heroism during the war and
how he too, gained a Silver Star (a medal awarded for heroism) as
he saved the lives of a platoon. The theme of heroes arises again as
Arthur declares that Francis is also a hero for his own actions in the
war. The theme of appearance and reality is also explored during
this chapter; we know that Francis wishes to keep his identity a
secret. The two characters contrast as Francis wishes to be
unknown but Larry featured in headlines for his heroic act. Chapter
6 finishes with introducing how good Francis is at table tennis.
Chapter 7
– flashback
Francis recalls his low confidence and how Larry helped him to develop his esteem through becoming
skilled at table tennis at the Wreck Centre. Larry allows Francis to win the table tennis tournament in a
selfless (if manipulative) act. The table tennis tournament builds up tension as we watch the two
characters play against each other in front of an audience. There is the game which everybody sees, and
the subtle game in which Larry lets Francis win. Cormier creates suspense throughout the match with his
simple, direct style. Francis knows that Larry has let him win and sees it as a gift to him. He experiences
applause and attention. Larry reveals that both Francis and Nicole are ‘special’ to him. She is delighted
when Francis wins and she calls him her ‘champion.’ By the end of this chapter we see that Francis and
Nicole are growing closer.
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Chapter 8
– the present
There is a sombre mood in this chapter and Cormier echoes this by using pathetic fallacy (when the
weather reflects the mood) as the weather is cold. In this chapter Francis finds Arthur slumped and
drunk in Pee Alley. Arthur relieves his frustrations to Francis about how nobody really talks about the
war – the reality of war, that is. Through Arthur’s words Cormier reveals how there is a big difference
between the appearance of the war on newsreel and in the headlines, and the reality of the horrors of
war. Arthur also says that there were no heroes in the war – just homesick, scared boys. This links with
Francis’s nightmare in Chapter 3 which shows how the soldiers were scared and confused, a far cry from
the images on screen at the Plymouth cinema, Francis reveals.
Chapter 9
– flashback
In the past we learn more about the character of Larry, who was one
of the first men to enlist in Frenchtown for the war. He sets standards
for the other men, as others follow in his footsteps soon after. The
reader may question Francis’s motives for planning to murder Larry,
as he is presented in a positive light again. This idea also links with the
theme of appearance and reality, as we question Larry – all we have
to go on is that there are dark rumours about his past. Does this
foreshadow future events? The reader is kept in suspense by
Cormier’s technique of withholding information, and gradually
releasing it to the reader. The Wreck Centre closes after Larry has
gone and the children go back to their usual hangouts. However,
Frenchtown is different as preparations and roles are changed as a
result of the war. Rumours again circulate, this time about the
possibility of spies and wartime secrets in Frenchtown. Young people
and women take over some of the jobs. Francis works part-time after school in Mr Laurier’s shop.
Gradually he and Nicole are becoming closer, and begin dating. At the end of the chapter, Nicole tells
Francis about Larry’s heroic act – he saved the lives of a platoon, and the residents of Frenchtown
packed into the Plymouth to see his gaunt face on newsreel. This visual image contrasts with Francis’s
disguise.
Chapter 10
– the present
In the present Francis describes how he came to hide his face. When he was in London for treatment, he
saw how people reacted to his face. He covered it up and feels that he does not blame strangers for
looking at him this way. He also reveals that he does not care about healing – an ominous suggestion
that it does not matter to him for a reason. He is obsessed by his mission to kill Larry. He reveals how he
only sees a stranger in the mirror – a changed face. This suggests that Francis has not come to terms
with his facial injuries, nor how he has changed as a person on the inside as well as out. His bandages
also hide his true self to the others in the community, because he has not come to terms with his
changed self. This chapter links with the themes of appearance and reality, identity and war. This is
another dark chapter as Francis reveals that Enrico made a decision to commit suicide as a result of his
extensive injuries. The chapter finishes when Francis creates tension as he reveals that Larry’s
Homecoming changed lives forever. We know that Larry’s Homecoming is going to reveal why Francis
wants to kill Larry and that it is a pivotal event.
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Chapter 11
– flashback
We know that this is an important chapter as it is the Homecoming of Larry LaSalle from the war on his first
leave. The community has prepared celebrations for him, he is greeted by the Mayor, and he makes a
modest speech. He is described in a heroic way and with great respect from all members of the community.
Nicole asks Francis to stay close and he tells her that he will never leave her. Larry reveals that he has
arranged a special get-together for the old Wreck Centre group – he has arranged to have the Centre
opened, and even for the table tennis to be set up, and some candy be laid out. They play table tennis in a
relaxed manner, and listen to music. Soon everybody leaves, until it is just Francis, Larry and Nicole. Larry
tells Francis that he needs to be alone with Nicole as he has some news for her. He subtly manipulates
Francis, who reveals that everybody did what Larry said. Despite Nicole asking him not to leave, he waits
outside. He hears music, and the song that Nicole danced to at the Wreck Centre’s musical, ‘Dancing in the
Dark.’ Through the muffled sound that he hears, Francis becomes aware that Larry is raping Nicole. She
sees him as she leaves, and has betrayal in her eyes. Francis reveals that his heart broke that night.
Chapter 12
– flashback
Francis waits to see any sign of Nicole outside her home. He waits for three days, and reveals his strong
feelings of guilt and suffering about his lack of action. He is devastated that he did nothing to protect her
from Larry. When he sees her, she is cold towards him. She reveals that she is disgusted with him and
she tells him to leave. In despair, he goes to the steeple of St Jude’s Church, planning to jump off.
However he contemplates how this act of suicide is regarded as a sin in the Catholic faith, and how his
death would bring shame on the name of his family. Instead, he thinks of those who die with honour on
the battlefield. We now know his motive for enlisting at such a young age. The end of the chapter is
important with regards to the concept of heroes – Francis’s decision is governed by the public
perception of what a hero is. The themes of love, loss and guilt feature heavily within this chapter.
Chapter 13
– the present
Francis finally learns that Larry is back in Frenchtown. He does this by overhearing a conversation
between Mrs Belander and her neighbour.
Chapter 14
– the present
This chapter presents the confrontation between Francis and Larry, which the tension has been
mounting towards. We know that Francis is now driven to killing Larry. He finds and confronts him
immediately. Larry is pleased to see him at first, then they discuss the idea of heroes. Larry praises
Francis for his actions in the war. He calls him a hero. However, Francis becomes more open – not only
has he been honest about who he is for the first time, but he dismisses the idea of him being a hero. He
says that he’s a fake hero. He then confronts Larry, telling him that he was there on the night that he
raped Nicole; he was standing outside. He even reveals his own feelings of guilt at his lack of action to
defend Nicole. Larry attempts to explain himself, revealing that he has done a lot of good deeds, and
asking if his sin should cancel out all those good deeds? Francis tells him to ask Nicole what she thinks.
Larry does not redeem himself as he refuses to show remorse for his actions, only acceptance of his sin.
He says that people love their sins. Francis does not accept what Larry says and tells him to say his
prayers as he pulls out his gun. However he does not kill him, as Larry reveals that he too has a gun and
contemplates suicide regularly. However this is not because of remorse, but because (like Francis) he
has suffered physically and psychologically, and reveals that he will never be the person that he was.
Francis leaves, hearing a gunshot before he leaves the building.
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Chapter 15
– the present
This short chapter presents a break from the dramatic interactions between Francis and Larry in Chapter
14, and Francis and Nicole in Chapter 16. Francis attempts to discover where Nicole is now and he goes
to see Sister Mathilde at the Convent. Again, we see that he is revealing his identity; however he lies
about the severity of his injuries to her. She gives him Nicole’s new address.
Chapter 16
– the present
This chapter presents another emotional climax – this time between
Francis and Nicole. He goes to visit her at her new school, revealing who
he really is. He still conceals his appearance, however. Again he lies
about the severity of his injuries, telling her that he will send her a
photo of his future improved face. Their meeting is tense, but Nicole
reveals that Francis was part of the good times. She also tells him that
he is a hero, and that she now forgives him for his lack of action that
night. Like Francis and Larry, Nicole is changed and she looks physically
different. Francis tells her that Larry is dead, and she reveals how she
told nobody about the rape because nobody would have believed her.
She is damaged by her experience but reveals that she is trying to find
herself. Francis again denies that he is a hero, and tells her that he does
not know what a hero is any more. She urges him to write about it. They
part, and Francis knows that he will not see her again.
Chapter 17
– the present
After both confrontations Francis is leaving Frenchtown. He watches people at the train station. He
considers positive future possibilities such as ringing his old doctor for cosmetic surgery. He watches
soldiers and reminisces about his old platoon. He considers who the real heroes were – those who were
frightened and received no honours. The novel ends ambiguously as we do not know Francis’s intention
for the future – he still carries the gun in his bag, and the weight feels comfortable. Does this suggest
that he still needs the gun to commit suicide, or that he is now more accepting of his emotional burden
after receiving forgiveness from Nicole? Cormier leaves it for the reader to decide whether the novel
finishes on a negative or a positive note.
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Character List
Major
Characters
Francis Cassavant
Larry LaSalle
Nicole
Renard
Enrico
Rucelli
Marie
LaCroix
The nuns
Dr Abram
Joey LeBlanc
Minor
Characters
Louis Cassavant
Mrs Belander
War veterans
Arthur Rivier
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First Impressions of Characters
To do
Francis
Francis after the war / at the start of the novel (aged eighteen)
As Francis is the narrator of the story, we are introduced to him at the
very start; the story is told from his perspective throughout. He is
romantic in his outlook on the world by nature and his story uses
description; yet his injuries are presented in a ‘matter-of-fact’ manner.
Through his descriptions of his face, we see the devastating effects of war
with dramatic impact. Francis’s description is understated, and this makes
it worse, as he describes his injuries with understanding and acceptance.
Passage 1
1. Read this passage about Francis’s appearance at the start of the novel.
2.
Write down the descriptions of Francis’s face (Chapter 1, p. 1). What is particularly shocking about
these descriptions? Does this make him different from typical narrators in novels?
I have eyes because I can see and ear-drums because I can hear but no ears to speak of, just bits of dangling flesh
[...] If anything bothers me it’s my nose. Or rather, the absence of my nose. My nostrils are like two small caves
and they sometimes get blocked and I have to breathe through my mouth. This dries up my throat and I find it
hard to swallow. I also become hoarse and cough a lot. My teeth are gone but my jaw is intact and my gums are
firm so it’s possible for me to wear dentures. In the past few weeks, my gums began to shrink, however, and the
dentures have become loose and they click when I talk and slip around inside my mouth.
I have no eyebrows, but eyebrows are minor, really. I do have cheeks. Sort of. I mean, the skin that forms my
cheeks was grafted from my thighs and has taken a long time to heal. My thighs sting when my pants rub against
them. Dr Abrams says that my skin will heal in time and my cheeks will some day be as smooth as a baby’s arse.
That’s the way he pronounced it: arse.
(Chapter 1, p. 1)
3.
Write down the simile Francis uses to describe his nose. What is the effect of the simile?
4.
What difficulties does Francis have because of his appearance?
5.
What encouragement does Dr Abrams use?
Passage 2
1. Write down details about Francis based on his second description (Chapter 1 p. 2). How does he try
and make the description sound more romantic and descriptive?
I wear a scarf that covers the lower part of my face. The scarf is white and silk like the aviators wore in their
airplanes back during the First World War, over the battlefields and trenches of Europe. I like to think that it
flows behind me in the wind when I walk but I guess it doesn’t.
There’s a red sox cap on my head and I tilt the cap forwards so that the visor keeps the upper part of my face in
shadow. I walk with my head down as if I have lost money on the sidewalk and am looking for it.
I keep the bandage on the space where my nose used to be. The bandage reaches the back of my head and is kept
in place with a safety pin.
2.
Write down the description Francis uses about how he wears his scarf. What are your first impressions
of Francis based on the language he uses?
3.
How does Francis use his cap, and why?
4.
What else does he do to hide his face?
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To do
Young Francis
Francis before the war / as a child growing up in Frenchtown (Chapter 5, pp. 27–28):
The Wreck Centre became my headquarters in the seventh and eighth grades, a place away from the sidewalks
and empty lots of Frenchtown. I had never been a hero in such places, too short and uncoordinated for baseball
and too timid to join the gangs that hung around the street corners.
I had no best friend, although Joey LeBlanc, who lived on the first floor of my three-decker, often went with me to
the Plymouth on Saturday afternoons. He kept up a steady commentary during the movie, like a radio announcer
describing the action. He didn’t like to read and I loved roaming the stacks of the Monument Public Library, where I
discovered Ernest Hemingway and Thomas Wolfe and Jack London and rushed home with an armful of books.
Home was now the tenement where I lived with my Uncle Louis, my father’s brother, a
silent giant of a man who was a yardman at the Monument Comb shop. He took me in
after my dad died, cooked our meals and cleaned the apartment. He drank three bottles of
beer every night while listening to the radio, volume turned low, until his bedtime at eleven
o’clock. He seldom spoke but I never doubted his affection.
1.
Read the passage above and consider what Francis might do on a typical Saturday.
Write two paragraphs as if you are Francis at the end of your Saturday.
2.
Remember to include life in the tenement with Uncle Louis, a visit to the
public library and the books which you have chosen, how you feel when
you are out around Frenchtown and/or a possible visit to watch a film with
Joey LeBlanc in the afternoon.
To do
Nicole
Nicole is first introduced by Francis on in Chapter 2, p. 8. The first time we see her is on her
first day at Francis’s school. He describes her in a typically descriptive and romantic way:
...followed by the most beautiful girl I had ever seen.
‘This is Nicole Renard. She is a new student here, all the way from Albany, New York.’
Nicole Renard was small and slender, with shining black hair that fell to her shoulders. The pale purity of her face
reminded me of the statue of St Therese in the niche next to Father Balthazar’s confessional in St Jude’s Church. As
she looked modestly down at the floor, our eyes met and a flash of recognition passed between us, as if we had
known each other before. Something else flashed in her eyes, too, a hint of mischief as if she were
telling me we were going to have good times together. Then, the flash was gone and she was St
Therese once more, and I knelt there like a knight at her feet, her sword having touched my
shoulder. I silently pledged her my love and loyalty forever.’
1.
Look at the words Francis uses to describe Nicole:
small
slender
shining
pale
2.
What kind of pictures come to your mind when you read these words?
3.
What does he compare Nicole to? What effect does this comparison have?
4.
What does he think passes between them? Do you believe him?
5.
Francis uses a simile, comparing himself to a knight at her feet. What does this
simile show you about Francis? What images does it conjure to mind?
6.
Which lines show you that Francis has very strong feelings for Nicole straightaway?
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To do
Larry LaSalle
The first time we read about Larry is in the church when Francis prays for his sins and reveals that he is
going to kill him. However, the first description changes our perspective of him. In this sense, Larry links
with the theme of appearance and reality.
Larry appears seemingly from nowhere on the day of the reopening of the Wreck Centre (Chapter 5, p.
27). He addresses the local children who have gathered there.
Here is how Cormier presents him (through Francis’s eyes):
A tall slim man stepped into view, a lock of blond hair tumbling over his forehead, a smile that revealed dazzling
movie-star teeth.
‘Good morning,’ he said. ‘My name is Larry LaSalle.’
‘Is that his real name?’ Joey LeBlanc asked in a whisper that carried over the crowd. He was often punished by the
nuns for talking out of turn.
‘That’s right – it’s real,’ Larry LaSalle said. And for some reason, the crowd applauded.
Larry LaSalle had the broad shoulders of an athlete and the narrow hips of a dancer. He was both. He swung the bat
with authority as he hit home runs in games at the sandlot next door and later led us through vigorous callisthenics.
He was also a dancer, with a touch of Fred Astaire in his walk, his feet barely touching the floor. He could tap-dance
with machine-gun speed and make daring leaps across the stage. But he was most of all a teacher, leading classes in
dancing, arts and crafts, organizing a choral group, directing musical shows.’
1.
Larry LaSalle is presented as being attractive. Write down the words and phrases which show this.
Now read your list. Can you think of any modern actors whom he might resemble?
2.
What do the crowds do and what does this show
about his immediate effect on people?
3.
What two things does Francis say that Larry is?
How do Larry’s physical attributes help him?
4.
List the different activities that Larry leads the
children in. Now list his different talents.
5.
Which actor does Francis compare him to?
Find out more about this actor. Why is he
suitable to be compared with Larry?
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Analysis of Major Characters
Although first impressions are significant we
learn more about the characters as the story
progresses. There are three important
characters, but the minor characters are also
functional as they help to move the plot
along. It’s important to understand who the
major characters and minor characters are.
The major ones are important as they will be
used by Cormier to explore his different
themes and ideas.
To do
It is important to read the character
information (main and minor), perhaps
highlighting important points in class. You could use
them as the basis for a note-making activity or use
them as a revision guide before the exam.
Francis Cassavant
Young Francis
Francis is a gentle boy who loves to read and watch films. He suffered the loss
of both parents at a young age. He is romantic yet of a dutiful nature and is
influenced by his religious upbringing. His character only develops as the
narrative unfolds, revealing a complex character who has changed as a result
of the course of events.
His mother died when he was six, giving birth to a boy who survived only for
a few hours, and his father died of a heart attack when Francis was 13 years
old. He does not present the deaths as tragedies, and this subtle
underplaying runs throughout the narrative, especially when dramatic events
occur. Francis lived with his Uncle Louis, who looked after him after his parents died. He remembers
Louis, who fed and looked after him, fondly.
Francis is a solitary character. He hangs around with Joey LeBlanc and
they go to see films together, but they have little in common. He is timid
and his ambition is to read all the books in the local library. He is good at
writing and won an award at school for composition. However, he is
reserved and can’t pluck up the courage to speak to Nicole, whom he
adores. It’s only at the Wreck Centre that he becomes closer to her, and
this is through his developing confidence encouraged by Larry LaSalle.
Larry also encourages him with his developing talent at table tennis; this leads to his victory over Larry in
a tournament, which helps boost his confidence.
Francis is also a romantic figure; he loves art, books and films. He
has romantic feelings for Nicole. He also creates a romantic image
of the scarf he wears. His ideas of London are based on the books
he reads: stories about Jack the Ripper and Arthur Conan Doyle’s
Sherlock Holmes.
He is also strongly influenced by his Catholic religion and
upbringing. This may have contributed to his strong sense of duty.
He describes the strictness of the nuns and how he obeys the rules
of the Church.
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Francis after the war
Francis returns to Frenchtown an 18 year old veteran of World War Two.
During the war he fell on a grenade and became horribly disfigured. His face
is badly burned and there is little left of his features. He wears an army
jacket, a white scarf to cover his face and a baseball cap which he pulls down
to maintain his cover. He also carries a duffel bag which contains a gun.
Francis is on a ‘mission.’ He wants to kill his childhood hero, Larry, and is
committed to doing so. As the story continues we discover that Larry raped
Nicole, a girl whom Francis loves. Although Francis knew about it as it was
taking place, he did not stand up to him. Ever since, he has carried the
burden of guilt and responsibility for what happened to Nicole. Initially he
contemplated suicide, but instead decided to sign up for the army, hoping
that he would be killed in action. However, he survived and is determined to
gain revenge on Larry, then kill himself.
He continues to suffer with a poor self-image. We know that in his childhood he was shy and a bit of a
loner. His shyness caused his inability to speak to Nicole for many years.
He enjoys a brief, happy period when he attends the Wreck Centre. Larry works hard to instil a sense of
self-worth into Francis. This is so successful that he finally develops the courage to ask Nicole out. It is
ironic that Larry destroys the happiness which he helped Francis to achieve.
Francis accepts responsibility for what happens to Nicole, without question. He suffers from feelings of
guilt and depression. He finds it hard to accept that there can be any good left in him, and is constantly
self-depreciating.
At the end Nicole seems to be damaged by the experience, but she forgives Francis for his part in what
happened and apologises to him for turning on him. She has attempted to move on, and away from
Frenchtown. However at the end of the novel it’s ambiguous whether or not Francis will move on.
Nicole encourages him to write about his experiences, and he considers this and the prospect of
recovery in the future. However, Francis is alone.
Francis has strong moral principles, which he tries to live by. His motive for killing Larry is to try and
make right the wrong which was committed before the war. He does not want personal glory for this –
he does not even tell Nicole when he visits her. Perhaps his mission was for forgiveness for his part in
the rape of Nicole, which is why he does not kill Larry.
Francis and Nicole
Francis is besotted with Nicole from the start. She is the object of his affections. His describes her in an
idealistic way, physically. His feelings are contradictory; he longs for her to notice him yet is scared that
if she does he will make a fool of himself. Again, his lack of self-belief leads to his low confidence. When
she does finally speak to him, he later agonises over it.
They see each other at the Wreck Centre. There, Nicole dances, which gives Francis the opportunity to
study her. When she supports him at the table tennis tournament he is ecstatic. However his feelings of
encouragement are dampened by his jealousy of the relationship between Larry and Nicole.
When Larry leaves for the war they start dating. They have dates at the movies. Francis is relaxed with
Nicole and they talk about books and movies. This all changes when Larry returns from the war. Larry
rapes Nicole. Francis feels guilty as he left Nicole alone with Larry, despite her pleading with him to stay.
It is his guilt about his part in this event which leads to him signing up for war.
When he finally tracks Nicole down, she apologises to him about the way she treated him, and tells him
she forgives him. She also encourages him to write about his experiences.
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Francis and Larry
We learn more about Francis’s feelings towards Larry as the narrative
develops. Larry is the children’s hero at the Wreck Centre, and Francis
is part of the group that admires him. Both he and Nicole are given
special attention – Francis and his table tennis, Nicole and her dancing.
They look up to Larry and are influenced by him. Larry ‘opens doors’ to
Francis, encouraging him to overcome his lack of self-belief. He helps
Francis to develop his talent at table tennis, and with this boost,
Francis’s confidence develops. This is evident in the table tennis
tournament, which Larry lets Francis win.
Tension is created through the relationship between Francis, Larry and Nicole. Francis looks up to Larry
as a mentor. He admires him, like all of the others. However, he’s also aware of Larry’s closeness to
Nicole and jealousy grows within him. The changing language which Francis uses to describe Larry
reflects his different attitudes towards him before and after the war. He describes him with admiration
at the Wreck Centre, but changes to words of hatred as the story progresses.
When Larry returns from the war, he is a hero – he attracts the residents of Frenchtown with the same
movie-star smile, but he seems hardened by his experiences. Francis is soon caught up with Larry again
and participates in the Homecoming celebrations. When Larry later asks him to leave Nicole with him,
Francis does so. He doesn’t want to, but he also doesn’t want to challenge Larry. He even thinks that
Larry might have some news for Nicole which he wants to share in private.
Later, Francis feels guilty about following what Larry tells him to do. When he hangs around outside it is
not because he thinks that Nicole might be at risk, but because he is jealous as Larry dances with Nicole.
It doesn’t cross his mind that Nicole might be in danger. It is only when the song finishes that he realises
what is happening. He sees Nicole’s face as she leaves, and remembers the look in her eyes – anger at
his betrayal. This is the turning point for Francis: when he enlists.
Larry LaSalle
Francis introduces Larry as being somebody he plans to kill. At the start of the book we know him as the
person whom Francis plans to murder. Larry is described through Francis’s eyes and we don’t get a
description of his appearance and character until further on. Tension is created – we do not immediately
know the reason why Francis plans to kill Larry, and we are shocked that he plans to do so, despite his
dutiful, sensitive nature and his faith. Francis is aware that what he plans to do is a sin.
After our speculation about what kind of person Larry must be, it comes
as a surprise when Francis describes the day of the reopening of the
Wreck Centre. Larry speaks to the children. He resembles a movie star:
tall, slim, blond hair and a dazzling smile. He is presented in an appealing
way. He has charisma. This is shown straightaway when the crowd
applaud after he has spoken. However Cormier’s language alerts us to
something a little disturbing about him straightaway – to be a movie star
is to have an image that is not real, and this links with the theme of
appearance and reality.
On the surface level lies one of Larry’s strengths: his physique. He is good at sports and leads the children
in this area, as well as being an effective teacher. In this role he is also successful as he encourages the
children, and brings out the best in them. A talent is that he can bring out strengths from all the different
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children in the community. He believes in the potential of them all. Larry has gifts as both a teacher and a
leader; because he believes in the children he encourages, they develop self-belief. He is full of energy and
is always active at the Wreck Centre. The children grow to admire and respect him as a role model.
Larry’s past
Larry is an enigmatic character, who appears to have two sides. On the one hand he is the respectable
and charismatic youth worker, sensitive and dedicated. He comes from a show business background,
although the mystery surrounding his arrival in Frenchtown is the first hint of the darker side of his
character. We learn that he was born in Frenchtown and took dance lessons there, before winning a
talent contest at a young age. The rest of his life is a mystery. Rumours circulate about his past as a night
club performer in New York and Chicago. Larry does not talk about his past. The mystery is tainted with
a dark edge when other rumours spread that he had been in some sort of trouble in New York. These
rumours do not stop him from being popular within the community, however. He pleases the crowds,
children and older members alike. The mystery actually helps his glamorous image.
Larry’s complexity
He is popular with children for the work he does in the Wreck Centre. Although he is a little larger than
life, Larry LaSalle’s public persona is hugely likeable. He cares about all the children and is careful to
include them all in the life of the centre. He works to provide for them and to make them happy.
However, the other side of Larry is much darker. We discover that he is an abuser, who uses his position
of power to take advantage of young girls. Nicole is not the only one he has harmed. When Francis finds
him, he describes his victims as ‘sweet young things,’ indicating that there have been other girls. He is
also clever enough to know how to maintain his reputation and use it to keep the young people in his
charge at his mercy.
What, then, should we make of him at the end? He asks if his sin cancels out all the other good things he
has done, and this question is crucial to our understanding of him. Whatever you think, Cormier has
created a character who challenges our moral assumptions about what is right and what is wrong. We
soon see that there are grey areas in morality, and that every individual must take responsibility for
their own actions and behaviour, and consider how they will affect those around them.
Larry and Francis
Larry takes a special interest in Francis and is aware of his sensitive nature. He approaches Francis with
care. He knows that Francis lacks self-belief and works on developing his confidence, firstly by
encouraging him with table tennis. The support Larry gives him encourages Francis to become a skilled
player and worthy of winning the table tennis tournament. Larry gives up his time to provide Francis
with the extra lessons so that he too becomes an expert at the sport.
Tension mounts during the tournament when Larry and Francis go up against each other. We know that
Larry lets Francis win, however we don’t know his definite motive for doing so. Is it to boost Francis’s
confidence? Or is it simply to protect Francis from the humiliation of losing the match? In this sense, Larry’s
motives are ambiguous, just like his character overall. Cormier’s opening descriptions of Larry create
slightly uncertain, uneasy feelings which the reader feels now, based on the uncertainty of his motives.
His relationship with Francis before Nicole’s rape is close. He looks after him and helps him to develop
more confidence. As Francis is an orphan, Larry can be seen as being like a father figure whom Francis
can turn to for emotional support.
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War hero
Despite maintaining the image of a hero, Larry returns from the war a different man, who has been
affected by his experiences. He is no longer the saviour of the Wreck Centre, but a heroic soldier, taking
his first leave. He was one of the first men to enlist and modestly says that he is doing the same as
millions of other men.
Larry is shown in the Movietone news looking gaunt and
unshaven, with eyes deep in their sockets. He is presented as a
hero; he has saved the lives of a platoon of men. When he
returns Cormier uses language which shows that he is changed;
his appearance suggests that he is threatening, his body hard.
But he is the same, and still a hero. This is apparent when he
provides a party for the children at the Wreck Centre.
Before Larry’s return as a war hero, he was known as a
teacher, performer and dancer. He’s also athletic. When
Francis finds him, he moves slowly and uses a crutch. These
physical changes reveal that Larry’s physical strength and
appeal has now gone.
Larry and Nicole
Nicole catches Larry’s attention and he prepares for the Wreck Centre production by developing her
ability as a dancer. She becomes the star of the show. However, there is a growing sense of uneasiness
about their relationship, which has sexual undertones, revealed when they dance together intimately.
Ultimately it is only Francis and Nicole who come to know Larry’s dark side, in the novel. It is not clear
how far the rape was premeditated but Cormier’s language suggests that it could have been when he
first sees her in the crowd. From Francis’s naive perspective, we discover that Larry’s ‘affection’ which
he feels towards her is apparent in his face. Francis is unaware of Larry’s intentions, due to his innocent
nature.
Larry insists on a last dance with Nicole, manipulating Francis into leaving them alone together.
Ultimately the reader discovers that there is a dark secret behind the rumours and that Larry does have
something to hide. This could be the reason why he left New York. He is a flawed character due to his
lust for young girls.
Larry’s sin
Despite the nature of his sin, Larry does not feel the need to show any remorse. He accepts it. We know
this when Francis confronts him about his actions. Larry does not regret what he has done to Nicole.
However, Larry’s life as it was is now over. The war has damaged his legs so much that he will never be
able to dance again. He is also damaged by the war on a general physical and psychological level.
Before he kills himself, he does try to make Francis feel better – a gift which he uses one last time. He tells
Francis that he would have fallen on top of the grenade at war anyway, because it is in his nature to do so.
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Nicole Renard
Young Nicole
Like Larry, Nicole is presented through Francis’s eyes, therefore the descriptions
he uses show his love for her. The first description shows her to be a picture of
innocence. She wears a white dress which suggests purity; she has a pale face
and he links her with the statue of St. Therese, suggesting saintliness. However
Francis also acknowledges her to be human as he describes her as having
mischief in her eyes as she laughs with Marie LaCroix. She also seems to tease
Francis when she first acknowledges him – she warns him not to fall off the
banister and then greets him as she leaves the Wreck Centre with a teasing
tone in her voice. Like Francis, she seems to be a solitary character who is fairly
reserved. When she starts dance classes at the centre, she goes straight there
and then leaves when they are over.
Francis also reveals that she’s a good dancer and becomes Larry’s dance
partner. A dance scene suggests sexual tension between them – they dance
closely, lips almost touching. He makes her a star at the Wreck Centre and they
seem quite close.
Francis comes to her attention when she sees him playing table tennis. She compares table tennis with
dancing, admiring his movements. When he wins the tournament she names him her champion. Tension
mounts as she watches Francis and Larry contend – they are like two suitors vying for her.
When Nicole and Francis date, we discover that, like him, she likes books and films. She has hopes for
the future and also encourages Francis to write. However when the war begins and Larry leaves, her
dreams to be a dancer seem to be forgotten. Instead she reveals that she would like to help in the war,
perhaps by becoming a nurse. She spends time with the nuns at the convent, then becomes a volunteer
with the Monument Red Cross. Her good nature is shown through her work. She eventually lives at the
convent of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit, where Francis discovers her towards the end of the story.
As Nicole grows older, her good looks and talent as a dancer mark her out as attractive. Francis
comments on her appearance and is also aware of how closely Larry LaSalle holds her when they dance.
She is becoming more of a sexual being and her relationship with Francis becomes slightly more
intimate. Nicole, too, is probably aware of the attraction men feel towards her, as she is desperate not
to be left on her own with Larry LaSalle. However, her reliance on Francis to protect her is perhaps her
downfall. When she is attacked by Larry she is violated and nothing can restore her innocent state.
Nicole and Larry
Nicole seems to be wary of Larry when he comes home for his first leave from the war. She asks Francis
to stay close to her, which suggests that she feels vulnerable. When Larry manipulates Francis into
leaving them alone together for a last dance, Nicole still seems unsettled. She asks him not to go, but
Larry’s hold over Francis seems to be stronger than Nicole’s.
Betrayal
Nicole is betrayed by both Larry and Francis. In this sense she is presented as an innocent victim of other
people’s actions. She is not only abused by Larry, but Francis did nothing. Afterwards she feels that Francis
has betrayed her. She is filled with pain and anger. She wants nothing to do with Francis. This event robs
Nicole of her childhood as the pain stays with her for a long time. Before this she was open and friendly,
and she made the most effort to establish a relationship with Francis. It was some years after she met
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Francis that she finally began to date him, and their relationship is based mainly on friendly conversation.
Her innocence at this time is emphasised by her love of butterscotch bits.
After the rape, she withdraws from society, almost completely isolating
herself. She does not tell anybody about what happened but tells her
parents that she wants to leave Frenchtown. It is only in her new
environment and after a long period of time (three years) that Nicole is
prepared to think about what happened in Frenchtown. She starts to reply
to Marie LaCroix’s letters. She also starts to discover herself.
Nicole after the war
When Francis visits Nicole years later, he is hoping that things can be the
same between them once again. Nicole, however, is mature enough to
realise that the damage cannot be reversed. While Francis thinks revenge
will put things right and constantly dwells on the past, Nicole finds the
strength to look forward to the rest of her life. Over time, she has
changed and she has forgiven Francis for his part in what happened. His
visit gives her the opportunity to tell him that she is sorry for blaming him
for not helping her. Her forgiveness of Francis is part of her healing
process. She suggests that he should do something positive to help
himself and he considers her idea about writing at the end of the novel.
Comparison/contrast of Francis and Larry
Cormier presents similarities and differences between Francis and Larry, particularly in relation to the
theme of heroes.
Similarities
Larry LaSalle has returned to Frenchtown, he walks slowly as if his legs hurt...
(Chapter 13, p. 71)
Both Larry and Francis return to Frenchtown as war heroes. They have each gained a Silver Star because
they have saved their platoons. They are also similar because they are both affected by their wartime
experiences on a physical and psychological level. We know that Francis has suffered severe facial
injuries and plans to kill himself. We also know that Larry reveals to Francis that his legs were damaged
in the war and he too considers suicide regularly. They both keep a gun close to them. They have both
lost their lifestyles as they were prior to the war. The war has ultimately changed their lives.
Differences
I had never been a hero in such places, too short and uncoordinated for baseball and too timid to join the gangs that
hung around the street corners.
(Chapter 5, p. 28)
The contrast between Francis and Larry is evident when we learn more about Francis’s personality. He is
a reserved boy who looks up to Larry who is confident in the public eye. Francis trusts him. When Larry
goes to war, he is a respected figure who is one of the first to enlist in Frenchtown. He goes because he
is angry, unlike Francis, whose motive is suicide.
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The contrast between the two at war can also be
considered. Whereas Larry makes headlines and
even appears on the Silver Screen at the
Plymouth, Francis returns to Frenchtown in
disguise and wishing to remain anonymous.
Cormier uses a strong visual contrast to show the
differences: Francis’s face wrapped in bandages
is a strikingly different image from Larry’s image
on the Silver Screen for the public to see:
‘Captured an enemy machine gun nest. It was on
the radio...’ (Chapter 9, p. 53).
Larry accepts himself as a flawed hero, but Francis does not see either of them as being heroes due to
the rape of Nicole. ‘I don’t know what a hero is anymore, Nicole. I think of Larry LaSalle and his Silver
Star. And my own Silver Star, an act of cowardice’ (Chapter 16, p. 88). Francis reveals his complicated
thoughts about what a hero is. There seems to be a divide between the public labelling them Silver Star
heroes, and the reality behind it.
Their differences in thoughts and behaviour can also be seen
after the rape. When Larry LaSalle comes out, Francis hides
away from him. He is whistling a tune and shows no sign of
remorse for what he has done. In contrast, Francis has to face
the consequences of what he has done. He goes to the top of St
Jude’s steeple, planning to jump off. In contrast to Larry, Francis
takes on great feelings of guilt and responsibility for his lack of
action in defending Nicole.
Similarities between Francis and Nicole
Francis and Nicole can be compared because their lives change
as a result of the same event; they become isolated by it. Also
their lives are strongly influenced by the Catholic faith. The
younger Nicole spent time with the nuns at the convent, then
became a volunteer with the Monument Red Cross.
Francis planning to jump
from the steeple
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Minor Characters
We know that minor characters tend to be functional. There are many characters in Heroes with only a
small part in the action. Together they emphasise the community spirit that characterises Frenchtown.
This is often a positive support network, but sometimes it creates a situation where people feel outside
the group and are unable to challenge the accepted ‘norms’ and beliefs.
Marie LaCroix
Marie is one of Francis and Nicole’s peers; she is a friendly girl, who enjoys
gossiping and good times. She has good intentions and is well liked in the
community. Although it’s typical that boys and girls of twelve do not
communicate, Francis and Marie are neighbours, and become friends.
Francis is comfortable enough to admit his feelings for Nicole to Marie. We
don’t know if Marie told Nicole, and if Nicole spoke to Francis as a result of
finding out about his feelings. She contrasts with Nicole, who is more
reserved. She tells jokes and does imitations of Sister Mathilde burping and
farting. She eventually decides to be a nun, in spite of her outgoing nature.
Joey LeBlanc
Joey is the closest Francis has to a best friend and bits of information
are shared about him from Francis. He is an outspoken and slightly
cheeky boy; he enjoys action and attention. He sometimes annoys
Francis with his ‘mucking around’ but in general it’s clear that Francis
likes him. He is the friend who calls to Nicole, showing off. Francis
tells hi m that he’s got a big mouth. We also know that he was
punished by the nuns for talking out of turn.
He goes to see films with Francis but talks all the way through.
Joey’s jokes are sometimes very perceptive, especially when he
suggests that Larry LaSalle may have a murky past. In this sense,
his comments are somewhat true as he indicates that Larry may
not be what he seems. He also says that he can feel the old doom hanging over the Wreck Centre. He
likes to circulate the rumours about Larry, repeating them with a knowing look. Joey is eventually killed
in action and Francis describes him as a real hero.
Mrs Belander
She is Francis’s landlady and an experienced businesswoman. A nononsense lady, she is nevertheless kind to Francis when she realises
he is a war veteran. When he first arrives, she is quick to pick up on
the fact that he knows her name, and she also wants a month’s rent
in advance. Although he remembers her from his childhood when
she was generous, she doesn’t recognise him, and her coldness
towards him shows the contrast between the way members of the
community are treated in comparison to outsiders. However, she is
also suspicious of him because of the way he looks; it is only when
he reveals that he is a war veteran that her suspicion changes to pity.
On a functional level, Mrs. Belander becomes an important part of the plot in Chapter 13: Francis learns
about Larry’s return to Frenchtown after eavesdropping on her conversation with a neighbour.
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Dr Abrams
Dr Abrams is the doctor who treated Francis’s injuries. He encourages
Francis, telling him that his injuries will heal with time. He has a sense
of humour and tries to make Francis feel positive about his treatments
in the future. He tells Francis to contact him after the war is over, and
he will arrange to do cosmetic surgery on his face. However, Francis
destroys Dr Abrams’ address and phone number, which suggests that
he is not prepared to consider it. However by the end of the novel
Francis brings it up again as a possibility. He could try and find Dr
Abrams.
Enrico
Enrico is a fellow war veteran whom Francis met in hospital. He is clever
and knowledgeable about worldly things, like love and money. He talks a
lot, and has something to say about every topic. Francis listens to his
advice, an example of which is to forget about Nicole. He comments that
men are attractive to women as war heroes, but then jokes that Francis
will need a blind girl to love him. These jokes are bitter.
Both of his legs and his left arm were blown off in battle,
but his determination is shown as he learns to shuffle
cards one-handed. He occasionally displays a similarly
grim humour to Dr Abrams, but is depressed. He plans to
kill himself. Enrico’s plight illustrates the emotional
trauma inflicted on young soldiers who suffered such
horrific injuries. In this sense he is a functional character;
he shows the devastating effects of war. He also illustrates
the suffering of physical pain, which is always there; he gets
sensations which cause him agony from his legs which are no longer there. He tells Francis that he will
stay in hospital until he finds the best way of disposing of himself.
Arthur Rivier
Arthur is another, slightly older war veteran, also damaged by the
war. He turns to alcohol for comfort. Although he has no physical
scars he is traumatised by his experience and the lack of
understanding and support when he returned home. His support
and respect for Francis illustrate that Francis is indeed regarded as
a hero.
Through Arthur we gain more insight into the concept of heroism
when he says that they weren’t heroes in the war, but just scared
and homesick boys from Frenchtown. On a functional level, Cormier
challenges the concept of heroism in war through what Arthur says
to Francis. He states that the Frenchtown men who went to war
were not heroes and insists that they were all scared kids who were
there.
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War Veterans
A veteran is a
Big Boy Burgeron, Armand Tellier, Joe LaFontaine and George
former
Richelieu are all minor characters in the text. Through them, Cormier
member of
presents a picture of veterans who are different from Francis. They
the armed
forces.
contribute to various themes in the novel such as heroes and help us
to understand what it must have been like to be a soldier who
immediately returns to his home town after the war. They display camaraderie and resilience after their
wartime experiences; their attitude is that they have done their time and survived.
The war appears to have opened the doors of opportunity to them. Unlike before, there is provision for
veterans to get free college education and they are encouraged to get jobs within the public sector. An
example of this is Joe LaFontaine who, despite not having graduated from high school, reveals his plan
to go to college and train to become a teacher. Similarly Armand Tellier plans to become a member of
the police force.
However there are times when the war comes back to haunt them. This is apparent when Arthur Rivier’s
mouth twitches and Armand stares into the distance, thinking of some haunting horror.
The Nuns
Francis was taught by the nuns for eight years. They are
central to the Roman Catholic community of Frenchtown.
Francis was strongly influenced by them during his
developing years. Their strict routines were accepted by
the students. Joey was punished for regularly speaking out
of turn, and he and Francis joke about this when they are
war veterans. Although the nuns teach moral guidelines
and provide support and stability, their ethos of sin and
redemption sometimes alienates Francis and he feels he
cannot turn to them for help when he is so distressed he
doesn’t want to live.
Louis Cassavant
Francis’s uncle upholds some of the values which Francis honours, such as duty. He gives Francis a home
after the loss of his parents, and treats him well. His life follows a routine which impacts on Francis: each
evening he asks him how his school day went. Louis is quiet, but this does not seem to bother Francis
who is comfortable in his presence.
To do
Character revision
Whom do the two following quotations describe and what do they suggest about the character?
1.
2.
‘The pale purity of her face’ (p. 8)
‘The broad shoulders of an athlete and the narrow hips of a dancer’ (p. 27)
Find some suitable character quotations for Francis and write down what they suggest about him.
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Character’s names
Sometimes a character’s name can
provide relevance about who they are.
The character’s physical appearance
When you complete the section on ‘first impressions,’ it
will develop your knowledge of the character’s physical
appearance. Most writers tend to use physical description
to suggest a character’s personality. This is particularly
apparent with Larry as his physical appearance presents
him as looking like a movie star, which ties in with his
glamorous yet mysterious image.
What to
Look For in
Characters
What other characters say about a character
First impressions are sometimes conveyed through other
character’s words. These characters can create a picture of a
character which may not necessarily be true. Nevertheless
we may take them at face value.
The best example of this is with the first impressions of Larry
LaSalle. Although we know that Francis plans to kill Larry, we
cannot understand why due to the descriptions of Larry as
being multi-talented and a leader. This creates tension.
What a character says and does
A character’s personality is conveyed through what they say and do. We learn more about characters
through their interactions with each other. An example of this is when Cormier uses the table tennis
championship to show a game on two levels – the obvious one which everybody watches, and the subtle
rivalry for Nicole’s affections – at least, through Francis’s eyes.
Overall, just as a character’s words and actions are important in conveying what they are like, their
interactions with other characters are also particularly important in revealing information. An example of
this is when Mrs Belander is used to further the plot. If she had not been gossiping about the return of
Larry LaSalle with a neighbour, then Francis would not have found out about his whereabouts.
Dialogue, or speech between two or more characters, makes characters seem more lifelike. It also helps
readers to learn more about characters such as their plans and what they think and feel about other
characters. An example of this is in the confrontation with Larry. We finally see Larry questioned about his
actions, and his words reveal that he feels no remorse for what he has done.
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Chapter 1 Analysis
There is a detailed chapter analysis for all chapters, followed by discussion points and quotations and
analysis. It is a good idea to read each analysis, consider the discussion points and be aware of the
quotations and analysis section ready for revision. There is a Creative Writing task which links with
Chapter 3. There are also some activities after Chapters 1–5, 6–10 and 11–17.
In the first chapter we are immediately introduced to the central character, Francis Joseph Cassavant.
He is the narrator and addresses the reader directly so that they are immediately drawn into his story.
He speaks in a friendly, intimate yet matter-of-fact tone, sharing his story with the reader. We learn a lot
about Francis in this chapter. At eighteen he’s an American war veteran, who has earned the Silver Star
(a medal for heroism in war). We are not told why but we suspect it may be connected to the fact that
Francis has been horrifically disfigured. He describes the burns on his face which have left him without a
nose and lips. He uses detail to describe his appearance and he also describes the physical problems
which it causes him too – such as sometimes he has trouble breathing through his nose, so has to use
his mouth, which dries up his throat and makes it hard to swallow. The descriptions of skin grafts detail
the extent of his injuries. His cheeks are made from the skin from his thighs.
Obviously he experiences physical discomfort, as his pants sting as they rub against his sore thighs. He
seems to be able to make light of this. He describes how Dr Abrams, the doctor who helped him, had
said that his cheeks would one day be smooth, and used humour to try and make him feel more positive
about his situation. However Francis does not give the impression that he is feeling very positive. He
reveals that he has money which he got when he was discharged, and also that he was in hospital in
France and England.
Francis has returned to his hometown of
Frenchtown, the French-speaking district of the
town in New England. He plans to kill a man called
Larry LaSalle, although we do not know why, yet.
For this reason, (as well as to hide his
disfigurement), he covers his face with a white scarf.
He describes the scarf in a romantic and descriptive
way, which shows his capacity to use his
imagination. He also wears a baseball cap and
carries a duffel bag containing a gun. He keeps his
head down in public. He keeps a bandage over the
space where his nose used to be and fastens it at
the back of his head with a safety pin. He wears an
old army fatigue jacket.
He does not want to be recognised and when he arrives at his tenement, he isn’t identified by his
landlady, whom he has known since he was a child. He is confident that this means nobody else will
recognise him, and pleased that Mrs. Belander fails to do so. He deliberately calls her by her name and
she does not recognise his voice, which we learn is hoarse, and has been damaged by a grenade. She
softens towards him, when she realises that he is a war veteran. This reveals how well regarded
returning veterans are in the community.
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Francis goes to St. Jude’s Church to pray for different people. Francis remembers incidents and people
from his past throughout the chapter: his friend Enrico, who lost his legs and left arm in the war; his
parents who are both dead; Uncle Louis, who gave him a place to live and supported him until he joined
the army, and Nicole Renard, a girl from his past, whom he still loves. He thinks that he may never see
her again.
Tension is created when Francis prays for Larry LaSalle, as he reveals his intent to kill him. He reveals his
reluctance to pray for the man he plans to kill, but he does it out of duty – he is heavily influenced by
the teachings of the nuns at his old school, who taught him to pray for his enemies. He then feels guilty
for praying for him.
Back at the tenement he describes Dr Abrams’ descriptions of cosmetic surgery and how he has given
him his address. Through flashback we learn more about Enrico’s condition. Enrico reveals how Francis
gained a Silver Star, presented to veterans for gallantry in action. However, we learn that Francis does
not think that he is a hero at all.

Discussion Points
•
How do you think Francis gained his injuries? Is there any information in this chapter which
indicates what happened to him?
•
Describe Francis’s injuries. What is his attitude towards them? What does this tell us about him?
•
Discuss how Mrs Belander’s attitude changes when she realises Francis is a war veteran. What
does this tell us about the way veterans were regarded?
•
Francis seems to be totally alone in the world. He has some money, but no support. What does
this tell us about the way war veterans were treated?
•
Discuss the role of humour in this chapter. Why do you think Enrico and Dr Abrams make such
grim jokes? Write some of them down and an explanation about why they were used.
•
What is your first impression of Francis?
•
Why do you think Cormier chose to write this novel in the first person? What effect does this
have?
•
Discuss Francis’s attitude to religion. Is he a hypocrite to say prayers whilst thinking about killing
someone?
•
What kind of impression do you have of the town of Monument?
•
Discuss the way war is presented in the opening chapter.
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Useful Quotations and Analysis
Quotation
Page 1
Page 2
Page 3
Analysis
I have no face
Cormier introduces Francis’s simple yet matter-of-fact
tone at the start of the novel.
...just bits of dangling flesh
The reader is introduced to Francis’s shocking injuries
in more detail.
He was trying to make me laugh
This line shows Francis’s awareness of other
characters’ motives – here, he is aware that Dr
Abrams is trying to make him feel better.
like two small caves
Francis uses a simile to describe his new nose. The
word ‘caves’ suggests a certain mystery which could
link to how he feels about his new appearance,
perhaps.
cheeks was grafted from my thighs
Francis’s descriptions give us a fuller picture of the
extent of his operations.
my skin will heal in time
Dr Abrams has used positive comments to encourage
Francis to carry on and look to the future.
But not having much success
Francis reveals how he is not feeling in a very positive
frame of mind, understandably.
I wear a scarf that covers the lower part of my
face. The scarf is white and silk like the
aviators wore in their airplanes back during
the First World War [...] it doesn’t
This line reveals Francis’s ability to use his imagination
and suggests that the romantic images that are to
follow in other descriptions. However this image is
tainted with negativity – he guesses that the scarf
does not flow behind him. In reality he uses it to cover
himself up.
I walk with my head down as if I have lost
money on the sidewalk and am looking for it
This line shows the lengths that Francis goes to so that
he remains unnoticed.
...if I am still around
This is the first subtle indication that Francis maybe
contemplating suicide.
I am like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, my
face like a gargoyle and the duffel bag like a
lump on my back
As the novel progresses we discover that Francis likes
to read and uses descriptions regularly which refer to
books. This description shows that he feels that he
looks like a monster and he does not blame people for
moving away from him.
hide the ugliness of what used to be my face,
but to hide my identity
This line reveals how the disguise is important to
Francis for two reasons – not just to hide his face, but
to keep his identity a secret. This links to the theme of
appearance and reality.
My larynx [...] had also been damaged by the
grenade
Slowly we learn more about how Francis gained his
injuries in the war.
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“”
Useful Quotations and Analysis (continued)
Quotation
Page 4
Page 5
Page 6
Page 7
Analysis
slanted roof of the Wreck Centre [...] hours
This description is brief, but it refers to Nicole
Renard and the Wreck Centre, therefore
foreshadows the story to come.
I was really anonymous [...] Frenchtown
This line makes us realise how important it is to
Francis to keep his identity hidden and it makes
us wonder what his motives are.
I thought of the gun hidden away in my duffel bag
and knew that my mission was about to begin
The reader is aware that he has a gun and
suspense is introduced – what for?
I remember the days [...] memorizing
This line shows that Francis was involved with the
church as a boy and he took his duties seriously.
I also pray for the souls of my mother and father
Francis reveals that he is an orphan and then
goes into more detail about the events which
took place.
And finally I pray for Larry LaSalle
Tension is created when Francis says this as we
want to know who he is. We discover that he
finds it hard to pray for Larry, but he feels that he
should as part of the duty of his faith.
‘He also gave me his address’ [...] Enrico said
This passage reveals Dr Abrams’ encouragement
with regard to cosmetic surgery.
...you could see the pain flashing in his eyes
Francis reveals the pain which Enrico regularly
suffers and, through him, we learn the extent of
the suffering that many veterans had experienced
after the war.
You get out of the army [...] like you
Enrico’s words reveal how he uses dark humour
to deal with difficult issues. The bitterness with
which he speaks gives away his feelings.
You’re a big hero. A Silver Star hero...
It is also through Enrico, and flashback, that we
learn that Francis gained a Silver Star from his
part in the war.
I am not a hero of course...
We learn that Francis has reasons to believe that
he is not a hero at all.
It’s still Nicole, isn’t it?
This line reveals that Enrico is intuitive: he’s
aware that Francis still has feelings for Nicole.
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Chapter 2 Analysis
In this chapter Francis reminisces about the first time he ever saw Nicole
Renard. Through flashback we learn more of Francis’s childhood in the
seventh grade at St Jude’s Parochial school. He was 12 years old, and she had
just moved to Monument from Albany, New York. When she was brought into
the classroom at school Francis reveals how he thought that she was the most
beautiful girl that he had ever seen. He also describes her as being pale and
pure. This reminds us that the narrative is from his perspective. They
exchanged a look which Francis took to be conspiratorial – to him it suggests
that they will have good times together. He reveals that he has fallen in love
with her and that he pledged his loyalty to her forever.
However as time progresses they do not exchange looks again, and Francis
feels that she ignores him, even questioning whether or not that first look
was only in his imagination. Nicole befriends Marie LaCroix, a girl who lives in
the same tenement as Francis; but he is too shy to talk to Nicole. Her visits give him the opportunity to
see her though. He speaks to Marie now and again, and eventually confesses to Marie that he likes her.
He is uncertain whether or not Marie will tell Nicole, but feels relieved at having revealed his feelings to
someone. He is a very intense boy and says that he wants to shout his love for her from the rooftops. He
also wanted to tell Nicole that he loved her. Shortly afterwards she speaks her first words to him, telling
him not to fall from the banister. He doesn’t reply but is delighted to discover that she knows his name.
However he also tortures himself for not having replied. Later he is annoyed with his friend, Joey
LeBlanc, for making a silly comment to her. He is committed to Nicole.
The use of flashback helps us to know more about Francis and understand him. He is different in this
chapter, prior to the war. The contrast between the past and the present stands out to us because they are
juxtaposed. We see the innocence of the past contrasted with the darkness of the present. We also see the
contrast between the community living Francis describes in the past and his isolation in the present.

Discussion Points
•
Francis describes Nicole when he sees her for the first time. Write down the descriptions he uses
and explain what they show about her.
•
Francis describes evenings in the piazza when he was younger. How does this contribute to your
impression of Monument?
•
Describe Marie LaCroix. Why does Cormier include her, do you think?
•
Do you think Francis’s interest in Nicole is reciprocated? Why?
•
What clues are given in this chapter about the importance of religion in the Frenchtown area of
Monument?
•
How important is Nicole Renard to Francis? How do we know this?
•
Are there any differences in the tone of the two chapters you have read so far? Why is this?
•
In what ways has Francis changed in the six years since he first met Nicole?
•
Describe Joey LeBlanc’s actions towards Nicole. Why do they annoy Francis so much?
•
What are Francis’s schooldays like?
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Useful Quotations and Analysis
Quotation
Page 8
Page 9
Analysis
We were always eager to keep [...] like a weapon
Francis describes how the nuns maintained
control and also how the students wanted to
keep on their good sides.
Followed by the most beautiful girl I had ever seen
The narrative reminds us that this is from
Francis’s perspective, and his feelings are
revealed for her immediately.
...small and slender, with shining black hair that fell
to her shoulders [...] in St. Jude’s Church
Francis describes her beauty and compares her to
the statue of St Therese in St. Jude’s Church. This
heightens her to a level of purity which seems to
be above ordinary girls of the same age.
modestly
This simple word presents Nicole as being
uncertain and shy in front of the class, despite
the beauty which Francis describes.
as our eyes met and a flash [...] other before
This line reveals that Francis immediately feels a
connection to Nicole.
a hint of mischief...
This shows that Francis thinks that she is giving an
encouraging look – remember that the narrative
is from his perspective, and he could be
remembering the moment through ‘rose-tinted
spectacles’. However, he is right as they do have
good times together, and this look foreshadows
their brief dating relationship.
I silently pledged her my love and loyalty forever
This reveals the level of commitment Francis is
willing to make.
Was the look that passed between us that first day a
wish of my imagination?
Here Francis reveals his doubts about whether
Nicole actually gave him the enticing look on her
first day, as she has ignored him ever since.
Standing at the banister in an agony of love and
longing, like a sentry on lonely guard duty
This is an example of Francis’s romantic, dramatic
language.
Yet deep within me was the knowledge that I
wanted her to tell Nicole Renard that I loved her
Francis’s intense feelings for Nicole are revealed.
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Chapter 3 Analysis
In the present, Francis describes how people look at him out of pity or curiosity. Francis visits Nicole
Renard’s old house, even though he knows that her family have moved away. They left without warning
in the middle of the night. Nobody recognises him and nobody speaks to him unless he addresses them.
He remembers how he learnt that Nicole had left Monument. While he was a soldier in France, he met
another soldier from Monument, Norman Rocheleau, who he recognised. They talked about home and
he made enquiries about Nicole. Norman remembered that Francis and Nicole used to go out together,
so we learn that their relationship must have developed. Francis describes his memories of their times
together: holding hands and their lips meeting. He tells Francis how Nicole became a ‘hermit’, only
leaving the house to go to mass, and how she became the subject of rumours, until eventually the family
left town. Norman also comments on Francis’s age, thereby informing the reader that Francis was only
15 when he joined up. He forged his birth certificate.
Back at his tenement Francis is forced to lie to Mrs Belander to protect his identity. He gives himself his
brother’s name and tells her that his parents are in Canada. At this point there is no going back on his
‘mission’. We learn that Francis finds it difficult to drift off to sleep so he recites the names of the
different men in his platoon. He reveals how he wishes that he could forget what happened in France.
That night he has a nightmare, which we learn is usual for him. The dream is like a flashback, giving us an
indication of the experiences which he had at war. The dream captures the realities of war which Francis
contrasts with the films at the Plymouth. He dreams of killing two young soldiers, who died dramatically
and bloodily. Shocking language is used. When he explodes into wakefulness, he recalls the real
incident. He did indeed kill some soldiers, but they died simply. Francis was shocked to discover they
were as young as he was. One cried ‘Mama.’ This incident occurred on the day before he was injured.
They also lost members of their platoon. He reveals that the next day, the grenade blew his face away.
As morning comes, Francis becomes more positive, and focuses on his mission to kill Larry LaSalle.
Cormier again creates tension at the end of this chapter, as Francis anticipates when he will confront
Larry LaSalle.

Discussion Points
•
Why do you think that Francis returns to Nicole’s tenement?
•
How is new information about Francis’s past revealed?
•
Why do you think Francis joined the army at such a young age?
•
How did he get into the army?
•
How did Francis and his fellow soldiers feel about going into battle?
•
What kind of reception does Francis receive on the streets of Monument?
•
How does religion affect Francis’s thinking?
•
How has the author created suspense in the novel? Think about what Francis discovers about
Nicole, and his line, ‘I had not yet killed anybody’. (p. 15)
•
Describe the nightmare which Francis has. How does it make you feel about the nature of war?
Comment on the language which Cormier uses to present the scene.
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Useful Quotations and Analysis
Quotation
Analysis
Page 13
I feel like a spy in disguise as I walk the streets
of Frenchtown, hidden behind the scarf and
bandage...
Francis continues to describe his appearance and how
people react to him using descriptive language to
show his isolation. It also shows his perceptive nature,
and he can understand why people react this way – in
Chapter 1 he says that he doesn’t blame them.
Page 14
like the heroes in a Hemingway novel...
Again we know that Francis likes to read, and his
romantic nature leads to him imagining his
situations by comparing them to scenes from books
which he has read.
Page 15
...because we didn’t think of ourselves as soldiers
but only two Frenchtown boys in uniform [...]
killed anybody
This line reveals how the two boys saw themselves.
Francis also creates tension with the statement
about not yet killing anybody.
Page 18
I silently recite the names of the guys in my
platoon...
Francis has trouble sleeping, and his war experiences
are clearly on his mind as he uses the names of the
platoon members to send him to sleep.
We are all tense and nervous and scared
Even though it is a dream, it captures the real
feelings of the platoon members.
grunts and hisses and farts, not like the war
movies at the Plymouth, nobody displaying
heroics or bravado
This line is effective in capturing the reality of war,
all the more effective with the contrast of the films
at the cinema.
...at the same time artillery shells – theirs or
ours? – boom in the air and explode around us
Another line which captures the reality of war and
the confusion around what is happening.
the head of one of the soldiers explodes like a
ripe tomato and the other cries Mama as my
gunfire cuts him in half, both halves of him
tumbling to the ground
Shocking language is used to describe the realities of
war – Francis is tormented by his experiences.
In the alley that day, I encountered [...] Like me
Francis describes his emotional trauma at killing two
German soldiers. He discovers that they were young,
like Francis.
The next day, the grenade blows my face away
Francis simply describes the sequence of events but
this makes us wonder – he kills the two soldiers,
then the grenade destroys his face. Again, tension is
created as we want to know more.
Page 18–19
Page 19
Page 20
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To do
Creative Writing Task
Reread the end of Chapter 3 beginning ‘I can never trace the moment...’ to ‘...blows my face away’.
You are part of the platoon which Francis is in. You are in the abandoned village in France, moving in
groups through the streets and past the empty homes. Your rifle is poised and ready, the village is quiet.
You are scared and don’t really know what’s going on.
Part 1
Where you are
 Describe the village – your surroundings. The empty homes, the silent streets.
 Is it ominously silent? Are you waiting for the explosion of gunfire? Are you afraid of possible snipers?
 Where do you go?
 What is the weather like – bad weather usually helps to create a dark atmosphere. Perhaps there is a storm.
 Use your senses – what do you see, hear, smell? What can you touch? Use different sentence lengths
for effect.
Part 2
Your feelings
 Are you awaiting orders or do you know what you are doing?
 Who are you with?
 Has anyone been injured or killed in your platoon? How do you feel about the injuries/deaths?
 Are there any particular experiences which haunt you?
 Write about your feelings so far – is anyone displaying heroics or bravado?
 Do you feel like you know what is going on? Are you scared to die?
Part 3
Your thoughts
 Time is passing slowly and tension is mounting up.
 Describe the others around you – is Francis there?
 As time passes reveal more about yourself – what was your motive for signing up? Were a lot of
others doing it? Did you sign up with friends or family?
 Have you spoken to Francis before? Why did he tell you that he signed up?
 What do you think about war in general?
 Do you think that your comrades are all heroes? Do you behave like them?
Part 4
The attack
 Your platoon is given the order to attack the enemy. They may be in the village. You move around –
who are you with? What weapon are you using?
 Suddenly there is confusion; artillery shells boom and explode around you. You run for cover, hitting
the dirt, trying to become part of the buildings.
 What do you see happening around you? Is anyone in your platoon fighting the enemy? What do you
do? Describe the fight.
Part 5
After the fight
 What casualties are there?
 Are there any prisoners?
 What has happened overall? Have you been rounded up? What happens next?
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Chapter 4 Analysis
Francis is trying to resist the urge to visit a place called the Wreck Centre, as he knows that visiting
Nicole’s only brought feelings of loneliness and regret. The introduction of the Wreck Centre raises
questions in the reader’s mind. We know that it’s a place which is associated with past events, and we
wonder if there is a connection between it, Nicole and Larry LaSalle.
Arthur Rivier, another war veteran, stops him in his tracks. He does
not recognise him as anything than a war veteran. He questions
Francis and finds out that the grenade caused his injury. Francis is
reluctant to talk about what happened and it is clear that he is not
proud of his performance in the war. Arthur does not recognise
Francis, but Francis remembers him as Frenchtown’s best baseball
player, whom he knew as a child. Arthur insists on buying Francis a
drink. In the bar lots of war veterans discuss what they will do in the
future. Their reaction to Francis confirms his status as a war veteran
deserving of respect and sympathy. Francis recalls how he looked up
to men like Arthur as war heroes after they returned from the war.
They were role models for Francis.
Now the war is over, they look forward to an improved life. At this
point, Cormier presents a different view of the effects of war. Rather
than diminishing opportunities, it seems to increase them. The men
talk about the choices available to those who are physically able to
do them. They do not seem to have been affected mentally or
physically. They discuss possibilities in the police service, or as a
teacher. We discover that opportunities have increased for them.
Arthur Rivier
Francis feels isolated and he contrasts with these war veterans, who seem to have benefited from the
war. He wants to ask about Larry LaSalle but doesn’t want to draw attention to himself. Cormier builds
tension as we see his obsession with his mission to get Larry. He does not feel part of their group and he
leaves the bar, heading for the aforementioned Wreck Centre.

Discussion Points
•
How is Francis set apart from the other war veterans?
•
How does Arthur treat Francis?
•
Why do people let him remain anonymous, do you think?
•
Why does he feel isolated from the others, do you think?
•
What kinds of things do the veterans talk about doing with their lives?
•
How does Cormier present a different view of life after war, through the veterans?
•
What physical and mental state does Francis seem to be in at this point?
•
Why is Francis so reluctant to discuss his injuries?
•
How does tension build at the end of this chapter?
•
What do you think the Wreck Centre is?
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Useful Quotations and Analysis
Quotation
Analysis
Page 21
I wanted to be like them, these heroes, fighting
the Japs and the Germans, going off to battles on
land and sea
At this point, Francis recalls the romantic adventure
which is how he perceived the men going off to war.
He also saw them return as heroes and wanted to be
like them. This is, again, effective as a contrast to the
reality of war.
Page 23
creating a camaraderie in the bar, a fellowship
that I wish I could be part of
This line reveals Francis’s isolation; he wishes that he
could be like these men who have survived their
wartime experiences.
I want to ask about Larry LaSalle, if anyone
knows when and if he’s coming back but I don’t
want to call more attention to myself
This line creates tension as we know that Francis is
completely involved with his mission.
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Chapter 5 Analysis
Francis’s arrival at the Wreck Centre provokes a stream of revealing memories. Firstly Francis describes
the tragic history of the building, once called Grenier’s Hall. There is a pun in the Wreck Centre’s name:
its original name was the ‘Frenchtown Recreational Centre’, which was shortened to ‘rec’ and then
became ‘Wreck.’ This play on words makes us think of wreckage of some kind – perhaps a place where
lives are wrecked.
The tragic status of the centre is based on rumours circulating throughout the community. Back then it
was hired out for celebrations of all kinds. It was closed after a wedding party that went horribly wrong.
The bride had broken off her previous engagement. Her ex-fiancé arrived at the wedding party and shot
both her and her husband. She was killed outright, while the groom was permanently paralysed. The
jilted lover then hanged himself. After this the building was closed for a long time, considered by all in
Monument to be jinxed.
When the building was re-opened as the Frenchtown Recreational Centre some years later, its
reputation as an unlucky place persisted. Practical problems arose when the workmen started to
resurrect the building. Cormier subtly uses language to create tension as he uses the Wreck Centre to
foreshadow inevitable trouble in the future. It was dubbed the Wreck Centre after the sign was
vandalised on the first night it was erected. As mentioned, the word ‘wreck’ makes us think of damage,
and we wonder whether this can link somehow with future events at the Wreck Centre.
The Wreck Centre is a place of immense significance for Francis, and
it is here that we first meet Larry LaSalle, the man whom he is now
intent on murdering. Larry LaSalle is the youth leader at the Centre,
and has considerable talent. He turned the centre into a place for
young people’s activities. Not only does he have movie-star looks,
charisma and a winning way with all the children and adults in the
town, but there is an air of mystery about him, intriguing to all.
Cormier shows us that he can dazzle the crowd when they applaud
him immediately, out of the blue. He is excellent at all the classes he
leads the children in – from callisthenics to ball games. He is
described by Francis as having a touch of Fred Astaire about him: he
is an excellent dancer and a good teacher too. He tap dances well,
leads classes in dancing and directs musical shows. In contrast
Francis describes himself as a bit of a loner in his youth, who did not
fit in with gangs and wasn’t good at baseball. He also didn’t have a
best friend. He went to the Wreck Centre a lot because of his
loneliness.
It seems Larry was once famous in New York and Chicago, but
Fred Astaire
nobody knows why he has returned to his hometown, after
leaving as child. Rumours that he was involved in some
trouble are treated lightly, and everyone loves Larry LaSalle.
However the rumours are present and circulate, particularly
with Joey LeBlanc who likes to spread them with a knowing look. The rumours are that he has a dark
past and had got into trouble in the city. We become suspicious when Francis reveals how Larry
discouraged any questions about his past.
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When the Wreck Centre opened, Francis was living with his caring but quiet uncle. He spent most of his
free time at the centre, seeking the company of others of his age. He tries to be as inconspicuous as
possible, as he lacks confidence in his ability to join in with anything. He eventually takes part in
callisthenics, but stands at the back. He says he was not a ‘hero’ in the boisterous world of sport or
gangs. From Francis’s description we can assume that he is already something of a loner. We discover
that Larry is a hero at the Wreck Centre, bringing children out of themselves and making them see
different sides of each other. He is an inspirational leader. He tells them that they are all stars and seeks
to develop a talent within them. Francis also reveals how the rumours add to Larry’s glamorous image,
rather than tainting it.
He is described by Francis as being the children’s champion. Nicole Renard also attends the Wreck
Centre, where she is given dancing lessons by Larry LaSalle. She instantly captures the attention of
Francis. She acknowledges him yet he mumbles, embarrassed. He now sees her as a sexual being, and
watches her body during her dance moves.
At the end of the chapter we learn that Francis’ friend, Joey LeBlanc, prophesies that the Wreck Centre
is a place of doom and that something bad will happen. The mood darkens when we discover that he
was killed in action.

Discussion Points
•
How does Cormier set up a sense of doom when he describes the Wreck Centre?
•
Describe the tragic story which led to the Centre getting its name and reputation.
•
What is your first impression of Larry LaSalle? Use the descriptions in your answer.
•
What is the effect of introducing him in this way, when we know Francis wants to kill him?
•
Discuss the role of superstition in Monument.
•
What is the effect of the Wreck Centre on Francis in this chapter?
•
How does Cormier present Larry as a hero in this chapter?
•
Discuss the developing relationship between Francis and Nicole.
•
How does the author emphasise Francis’s isolation at this point?
•
Why is it ironic that the building is named the Wreck Centre?
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“”
Useful Quotations and Analysis
Quotation
Page 25
Page 26
Page 26–27
Page 27
Analysis
The Wreck Centre is boarded up and abandoned
now
The description shows that the building is run down
and isolated from the rest of the community.
It’s a bad place, people had said. A place of
doom, others added
This part sets up tension as the reader is aware that
a bad event or bad events must have taken place
there.
...often heard its tragic story
We discover that there is a tragedy linked to the
centre, but we don’t know whether it’s true or
community gossip.
Until the wedding of Marie-Blanche Touraine
Francis’s description of how the former hall became
a place associated with doom is marked with this
sinister sentence.
The doors were sealed and the windows
shuttered
This reveals how the hall became shut off from
everyone in the community.
But the work was haphazard [...] hidden bottles
These short descriptions show how, even though the
hall is being transformed, practical things going
wrong could foreshadow more problems to come,
and link with the idea of a curse.
didn’t completely cover the dark patches of
mildew [...] the windows
Cormier’s subtle use of language again captures the
sense of things not being quite right.
the sign which read FRENCHTOWN REC.
CENTRE slid from its place [...] door
The falling of the sign is also an example of the way
that Cormier uses language to foreshadow doom.
...crossed out the words on the sign and replaced
them with Wreck Centre in bright red paint
Again an ominous feeling is established as we
associate the word ‘wreck’ with damage. Could this
link in some way with future events?
A tall slim man [...] a lock of blond hair
tumbling over his forehead, a smile that revealed
dazzling movie-star teeth
Francis describes the man he plans to kill for the first
time. He looks like a movie-star with his perfect
teeth, slim build and blond hair. Immediately tension
is created as we want to know how events lead to
Francis wanting to kill him.
the crowd applauded
Cormier immediately shows us the dazzling effect
Larry has on the crowd.
Larry LaSalle had the broad shoulders of an
athlete and the narrow hips of a dancer. He was
both
Cormier continues our first impressions of Larry,
showing that his physique sets up his physical
abilities which he shows when he’s with the children
at the Wreck Centre.
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Useful Quotations and Analysis (continued)
Quotation
Analysis
He swung the bat with authority [...]
callisthenics
This description immediately shows all the hard
work which Larry does with the children as they take
part in different activities.
He was also a dancer, with a touch of Fred
Astaire in his walk, his feet barely touching the
floor
The link with Fred Astaire presents Larry in a
glamorous way. It also suggests that he is of a
professional standard as a dancer.
He could tap dance [...] musical shows
This description reveals the different skills which
Larry has, from directing musical shows to teaching
the children.
I had never been a hero in such places, too short
and uncoordinated for baseball and too timid to
join the gangs that hung around the street corners
Francis describes himself as a bit of an outsider as a
youth, which seems to contrast with Larry’s many
strengths in the public eye.
Page 28–29
Larry LaSalle was everywhere in the centre [...]
Autumn Leaves
Francis’s description presents Larry as a hero at the
Wreck Centre. He even tames the schoolyard bully, if
only for a musical production
Page 29
‘You are all stars,’ Larry LaSalle always told us
Cormier’s use of language presents Larry in a positive
light as a hero to the children who brings out the best
in them. This again creates tension as we wonder
what has driven Francis to want to kill him.
Rumours told us that Larry LaSalle had also been
a star, performing in night-clubs in New York and
Chicago. Someone brought in a faded newspaper
clipping [...] trouble in New York City
This whole passage is crucial to our understanding of
Larry LaSalle. It hints at a darker past, which is
mysterious. Also, the fact that he ‘discouraged
questions’ showed that he was not prepared to talk
about it. However rumours circulate that he had got
into some sort of trouble in the city.
the air of mystery [...] added to his glamour
This line shows that all the community loved him,
and the rumours do not taint his reputation.
instantly caught the attention of Larry LaSalle
This line shows a link immediately between Larry
and Nicole.
drops of perspiration on her forehead like
raindrops on white porcelain...
Again we follow Francis’s romantic, descriptive
version of events as he continues to love Nicole.
‘Doom,’ he pronounced. ‘Wait and see.’
Again we know that Joey’s description sets up a
foreshadowing of future events; the tension lies in
not knowing what it is.
Page 27
Page 28
Page 30
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Activities linked to Chapters 1–5
To do
1.
Based on the five chapters which you have read, find two different points about Francis’s character.
You can set it out like this:
Francis Cassavant
Chapter 1
Point:
Quotation:
Explanation:
By the end of this task you should feel like you know more about the main character.
2.
The following words are important in relation to Heroes and the choices which Cormier has made when
writing the text. Find out what each of them mean:
First person
Flashback
Narrative
3.
Read the following quotations from what you have read so far. For each one write down why it is
significant. For example, does it reveal something about a character? You may need to look at the
page in the text again, so that you know where it has come from.
People glance at me in surprise and look away or cross the street.
(p. 2)
Was the look that passed between us that first day a wish of my imagination?
(p. 9)
And I had not yet killed anybody.
(p. 15)
I saw how young they were, boys with apple cheeks, too young to shave. Like me.
(p. 19)
‘You are all stars,’ Larry LaSalle always told us.
(p. 29)
Remember that it is important to read each chapter analysis, ideally after each chapter. It is also important
to work through the discussion points and look at the quotations and analysis for each chapter. After
Chapter 6 there is a passage-based activity which is similar to the style of some exam questions.
4.
Speaking and Listening
Turn back to Chapter 1, p. 3. Find the section which begins ‘I am staying in the attic tenement’ and
reread it to ‘... your cold’ (p. 4)
Working in pairs, write a short play script which presents the dialogue between Francis and Mrs.
Belander. Emphasise which parts are important – for instance, you might choose to emphasise how
suspicious Mrs. Belander is about Francis who, to her, is an outsider. You can also add parts if you
want to emphasise something in particular. You could begin like this:
FRANCIS (low voice):
MRS BELANDER (distant):
Hello, Mrs Belander.
Veteran?
Follow this layout and don’t forget to emphasise a character’s tone or actions through stage directions.
When you have finished, read out your role play in pairs. Swap characters. Some may want to perform
in front of the class. In what ways were they different? In what ways where they similar to your own?
5.
Having read the first five chapters write down a short summary about anything important so far, in
five points. Read them out to the class. Are there any points which are the same?
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Chapter 6 Analysis
A month has passed in Frenchtown. Francis has become familiar in Frenchtown. He is welcomed as a
war veteran. He is also a regular at the bar, along with the other war veterans, although he never
actually drinks his beer, in case he should need his senses to be sharp. He still waits for Larry LaSalle. He
describes how each of the war veterans maintains a cheerful appearance, although he is aware that
there are moments when they are haunted by memories, bad dreams and the pain of loss.
One day he brings himself to ask if anyone knows whether Larry LaSalle is going to return to the town.
His voice, as he asks, is clear and sounds just as it did in the days before his accident. The mention of
Larry LaSalle provokes a toast from Arthur, who calls him the patron saint of the Wreck Centre.
Everyone joins in the toast with gusto. We learn that Larry is highly respected for his actions before the
war and during it. Francis, at first, does not believe Arthur’s toast and initially thinks that he is making a
joke or being sarcastic. They discuss his actions, and how they earned him the Silver Star, which we learn
is the highest award given for heroism. The wearers of Silver Stars are spoken about with the highest
respect. A scrapbook reveals the headline, ‘LaSalle Captures Enemy Saves Fellow Marines.’
Francis’s voice has given him away, and Arthur has finally recognised him. He tells Francis he is a hero
and the ensuing conversation reveals that Francis fell on a grenade, saving the lives of many men. We
also learn that he was table tennis champion at the Wreck Centre. Arthur agrees to respect Francis’s
anonymity. Tension mounts when the bartender answers Francis’s question about Larry’s return: he
says that everyone returns to Frenchtown sooner or later.

Discussion Points
•
What is the real situation of the war veterans?
•
Why does Francis not want to drink?
•
Why does the barman keep a scrapbook of war heroes from Frenchtown?
•
Why does Arthur think Francis wants to be anonymous?
•
What is Arthur’s opinion of Francis’s performance as a soldier?
•
How is Larry LaSalle viewed by the Frenchtown community?
•
What effect does the community’s admiration of Larry LaSalle have in view of Francis’s hatred of
him? Whose opinion do you trust?
•
What does the comment ‘they all come back to Frenchtown sooner or later’ tell us?
•
What are the similarities between Larry and Francis at this point?
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Useful Quotations and Analysis
Quotation
Page 31
Page 33
Page 34
Analysis
My army fatigue jacket tells them I am a veteran
and this is a season when all the veterans are
welcome everywhere
This line shows the community’s attitude to those
who fought in the war. Francis becomes familiar to
the residents of Frenchtown and they accept him
because he is a veteran.
They respect my silence and my anonymity
This also shows how Francis is treated with respect
by the other veterans at the St Jude Club.
‘To Larry LaSalle,’ he calls out, ‘the patron saint
of the Wreck Centre’
Arthur’s toast shows the general feelings of the St
Jude’s Club community as they all join in.
‘To the Silver Star and the men who wear it,’ he
growls. ‘And to Larry LaSalle, the best of the
best...’
The old Strangler’s words reveal the respect that
Larry receives, as well as the wearers of Silver Stars
in general.
‘There are lots of medals,’ the big bartender
croaks, ‘for outstanding service but only the
Silver Star is for heroism’
These words show the highest level of respect for
Silver Star wearers.
‘LaSalle Captures Enemy Saves Fellow Marines’
This headline reveals Larry’s actions which led to him
gaining a Silver Star.
You’re Francis Cassavant
When Francis spoke, Arthur realised who he was.
Francis now knows that his identity is no longer a
secret.
You have your own Silver Star. You’re in the
Strangler’s book, too
Arthur’s words focus on the similarities between
Larry’s and Francis’s achievements which lead to
their Silver Stars.
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Chapter 7 Analysis
Once again, Francis reminisces; this time about how he became table tennis champion. This story begins
with his feeling dejected because he was no good at games and lacked the confidence to talk to Nicole.
He tells Larry that he is rubbish at everything. After confiding his feelings to Larry LaSalle, he is
encouraged to take up table tennis. Although he is initially dismissive of the game, Larry soon uses his
charm to convince Francis it is a serious sport that he will excel in. Larry is confident that Francis will be
a champion. He cleverly builds Francis’s confidence and teaches him how to play. Francis is hooked and
indeed he is very good at it. At one point when he plays in front of an audience, he sees Nicole blow him
a kiss. But then he is not so sure if she did. As his skills improve, the only person who can beat him is
LaSalle himself. Larry was aware of Francis’s lack of self-esteem and built up his confidence by
developing Francis’s natural talent for table tennis.
While Francis is working on his table tennis skills, Nicole continues her dancing lessons. During these her
physical proximity to Larry LaSalle is enough to provoke feelings of jealousy in Francis. She is to be the
star of Follies and Fancies. At the same time, Nicole is becoming increasingly bold in her advances
towards Francis. She likens his moves to dance moves, and he feels confidence for the first time. He
finally gets the hint, when she compliments his table tennis skills and invites him to a party at her house.
The party is to celebrate a show to be put on at the Wreck Centre, in which she will be the star, dancing
a dance choreographed for her by Larry LaSalle. Francis experiences a mixture of feelings when she
invites him to her party: he is ecstatic that she has invited him, yet jealous when she refers to Larry
LaSalle as just ‘Larry’, which suggests an intimacy between them.
First though, there is the table tennis tournament. The knowledge that Nicole is backing him makes
Francis feel invincible. He wins all his games, and is awarded the trophy. At this point the crowd demand
a game between Francis and LaSalle. They agree and the game begins. It is a tough fight but to his
surprise Francis finds he is holding his own and they are matched point for point. He is amazed at his
own performance until he realises that LaSalle is subtly allowing him to win. He is being very discreet so
that Francis is the only one to know. When he wins the game the crowd (and Nicole) are ecstatic and he
is hailed as a hero. Larry has given him a gift – he made the game exciting for the crowds, yet let Francis
win. Nicole calls him her champion.
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The chapter ends with a warning that the tone is about to change. 7th
December 1941 is the date of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour,
Hawaii, which provoked America to join the war. The date would be
recognisable to American readers.

“”
Discussion Points
•
This is the longest chapter so far. What does that tell us about the
importance of this part of the story?
•
Is there anything suspect in Larry LaSalle’s relationship with
Nicole Renard at this point?
•
How does Larry LaSalle build Francis’s confidence?
•
Describe Francis’s feelings about Larry and Nicole’s closeness.
•
What does Francis think of Larry LaSalle at this point?
•
What is the significance of Larry LaSalle’s actions in the table tennis tournament?
•
Is Francis’s ability at table tennis connected with his ability to finally talk to Nicole Renard?
•
At this point in the novel, only Francis has shown any hostility towards Larry LaSalle, and the
reasons for this are still a mystery. What is the effect of this?
Useful Quotations and Analysis
Quotation
Analysis
‘I’m rotten at everything,’ I confessed
This line captures Francis’s lack of confidence when
he was younger.
Larry LaSalle’s opinion could never be dismissed
This line effectively reveals the high esteem which
Larry is held in at the Wreck Centre.
Page 38
I stood spellbound by his words
Again, this line is effective in capturing the effect
which Larry has on the children at the Wreck Centre.
Page 39
Jealousy streaked through me as Larry LaSalle
tossed her in the air, letting her fly, defying
gravity for a breathless moment, then caught
her, pressing her close, their faces almost
touching [...] as she lay at his feet
Francis creates tension when he describes his
jealousy of the closeness between Larry and Nicole.
When he describes how she lay at his feet, it reveals
how she is passive and seemingly humble before
him.
He built an entire number around her
This line suggests the growing attention which
Nicole receives from Larry.
Larry LaSalle manipulated a spotlight he had
installed especially for her performance
Francis uses the word ‘manipulated’ which suggests
that there is more to Larry than is being revealed at this
point of the story. It also hints at a possible darker side.
Nicole’s the star on Sunday and I want you to be
the star on Saturday
Larry’s words show that he is in control and tension
mounts as the table tennis tournament and a
musical were to take place with Francis and Nicole.
Page 36
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Useful Quotations and Analysis (continued)
Quotation
Analysis
Page 40
For the first time in my life, a tide of confidence
swept over me
We see that Francis is developing and his interactions
with Nicole have a positive effect on his wellbeing.
Page 41
...the instant agony of jealousy, the way she had
casually said his name...
At this point Francis reveals his mixture of feelings;
he is ecstatic that Nicole has invited him to her party
but jealous that she has referred to Larry LaSalle as
just ‘Larry’, which suggests an intimacy to Francis.
Page 42
...gave me the victory, a shout went up from the
crowd followed by cheers and whistles and the
stomping of feet
Francis’s description captures a moment when he
feels like a hero; he has the cheers from the crowd,
and feelings of victory.
Page 43
I knew they wanted Larry LaSalle and me to play
for the real championship of the Wreck Centre
Tension is created as the two men are now against
each other in competition. We know that Francis
intends to kill Larry in the present, so the tension is
heightened even further at this point in the story.
Page 44
...when I realised that he was letting me win...
Francis has already used the word ‘manipulate’ in
relation to Larry; now we learn that he is
manipulating the outcome of the game.
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Chapter 8 Analysis
This short but significant chapter brings us back to the present time. Francis finds Arthur Rivier drunk in
an alleyway. Arthur wants to talk about the reality of war, about the parts of it which nobody mentions.
He is unable to come to terms with the gulf of difference between his real experience of the war, and
the way people at home think of it. He argues that none of the soldiers were really heroes, they were
just put in a position of having to deal with it. They weren’t brave or heroic; in fact they were all terrified
of what might happen to them. He describes the contrast between the two – the scared, homesick boys
of Frenchtown and the glamour presented in the media.
Yet in the public climate it is not possible to tell people this. To admit this fear would be a sign of
weakness and contrary to the silent expectation placed upon them to keep quiet and perpetuate the
myth of the hero.

“”
Discussion Points
•
Discuss the concept of heroism. Does admitting fear make Arthur any less heroic?
•
How does Arthur think the media has glamorised war, and what is the effect of this on war
veterans?
•
Why is it that nobody wants to talk about the soldiers’ real wartime experiences?
•
Why does Arthur think that the soldiers weren’t heroes?
Useful Quotations and Analysis
Quotation
Page 46
Page 47
Analysis
‘Nobody talks about the war,’ he mutters...
This line shows Arthur’s feelings about the realities
of war – nobody talks about the horrors of it.
They talks about GI Bills and going to college
and getting married and joining the cops or the
firemen but they don’t talk about the war...
Again Arthur reveals his true feelings – the veterans
are keen to talk about their futures, but nobody
shares their feelings about their experiences.
...I was scared, Francis. I messed my pants. One
day, running across an open field, so scared I
shit my pants, bullets at my feet...
Arthur reveals the reality behind the war – it is not
how it is presented in newsreel, but instead he
shows the soldiers’ fear.
We weren’t heroes. [...] No heroes in that scrap
book, Francis. Only us, the boys of Frenchtown.
Scared and homesick and cramps in the
stomach and vomit. Nothing glamorous...
Arthur’s description of what the soldiers went
through contrasts with the glamorous depiction in
the media.
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Chapter 9 Analysis
We learn at the start of the chapter that 7th December 1941 was when the Japanese attacked Pearl
Harbour and the USA declared war on Japan. Francis remembers what happened in Frenchtown after
the Americans joined the war. Characteristically, Larry LaSalle was the first to join up, and this inspired
many to immediately follow. The Wreck Centre closed and changes around Frenchtown became
apparent. Soon it was noticeable that many men were absent. The children hung out in the St Jude’s
schoolyard or in front of the drugstore.
Meanwhile, life went on for Francis. He got a job in the drugstore, which afforded him the chance to
speak to Nicole Renard. He discovered a new confidence, which gave him the courage to ask her out. Of
course she agreed and before long their trips to the cinema became
a weekly occurrence. Their relationship becomes increasingly more
intimate and he enjoys her company immensely. They have a
closeness which is revealed when they talk about their ambitions
and plans for the future. Nicole encourages Francis’s talent for
writing. He reveals that he could never write a book, which
foreshadows the writing of Heroes.
News arrives that Larry LaSalle has saved the lives of an entire platoon by capturing some enemy
weapons. He becomes an instant hero in Frenchtown. He is featured in the Movietone News and
appears looking gaunt with eyes sunk deep into their sockets. The news reveals that he has received the
Silver Star. Everyone goes to the cinema to see Larry on the silver screen.

Discussion Points
•
What is the effect of the war on the people of Frenchtown?
•
Why is it significant that Larry LaSalle is the first to join up?
•
What image of the war is presented in the newsreels at the Plymouth?
•
What changes do you notice in Francis?
•
Describe Francis and Nicole’s relationship at this point.
•
Discuss Francis and Nicole’s hopes and plans for the future based on their discussion.
•
How is Larry LaSalle’s heroic image built up in this chapter? What do you think of him at this
point?
•
What does Larry do to become a war hero?
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
Useful Quotations and Analysis
Quotation
Analysis
Patriotic fever, mixed with rage over the sneak
attack in the Pacific, ran rampant through the
streets of Frenchtown and, according to radios
and newspapers, throughout the nation
This line reveals the motives of residents to go to
war.
the movie-star smile gone, replaced by grimfaced determination
Francis’s description of Larry shows that he has
already changed, preparing himself for the
demands of the war.
anger that we had never seen before flashing in
his eyes
This is a subtle use of language, associating Larry
with a threat which we know could be under the
surface.
Page 50
At some point during the afternoon, we held
hands, her hand cool in my own...
Francis and Nicole’s relationship develops during
their Saturday afternoon visits to the cinema.
Page 53
He saved the lives of an entire platoon [...]
Captured an enemy machine gun nest
Nicole’s words reveal why Larry becomes a war
hero.
Page 48
Different Cultures and Chapter 9: America’s response to the bombing of Pearl Harbour
Read the following passage from Heroes:
Larry LaSalle was one of the first Frenchtown men to enlist in the armed services, announcing his intention on
Monday afternoon, following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour a few hours after President Roosevelt’s address
on the radio declared that a state of war existed between Japan and the United States. Patriotic fever, mixed with
rage over the sneak attack in the Pacific, ran rampant through the streets of Frenchtown and, according to radios
and newspapers, throughout the nation. Recruiting offices were immediately thronged with men and women
answering the call to fight for their country.
Larry LaSalle stood before us that afternoon at the Wreck Centre, the movie-star smile gone, replaced by grim
determination. ‘We can’t let the Japs get away with this,’ he said, anger that we had never seen before flashing in
his eyes. As we were about to cheer his announcement, he held up his hand. ‘None of that, kids. I’m just doing
what millions of others doing.’
Larry’s action became for us the beginning of wartime in Frenchtown. Other enlistments followed as fathers and
brothers joined the armed forces. People gathered daily in Monument Square to say goodbye to the men being carried
by buses to Fort Delta to enlist in the air force, and by train to the headquarters of the marines and navy in Boston.
To do
(Chapter 9, p. 48)
1.
What does the passage give us an insight into? Use quotations to support your answer.
2.
Describe Larry’s reaction and his feelings. How are they typical of Americans’ reactions to the
bombing of Pearl Harbour? You may need to do some research to help you with your answer.
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Chapter 10 Analysis
Francis remembers when he was in London after his accident. He was walking the streets with his burnt
face exposed, when he registered the shock of passersby. Realising that it was his appearance that is
causing this, he looks at his reflection in a shop window, and for the first time really understands the
extent of his injuries. After this he keeps his face covered by the scarf given to him by Enrico. He says
this is partly to spare people the horror of seeing his wounds, but more because he doesn’t want to be
recognised, so he can complete his mission. It is for the reader to decide whether or not his motives for
keeping his face concealed are heroic.
He goes on to say that his injuries are not important to him, and we know that he plans to kill himself.
This is a particularly dark chapter, as Francis describes how he intends to close all doors to the future,
and he starts with burning the address and phone number which Dr Abrams gave him. He also burns the
list of veteran war hospitals which Enrico gave him. Like Enrico and many other war veterans, he feels
that his life has been taken from him already and he doesn’t want to go on after he has killed Larry
LaSalle. We realise that this is his sole reason for living. Tension is created at the end of this chapter, as
we learn that Francis is about to reveal how Larry changed his and Nicole’s lives forever.

Discussion Points
•
Discuss Francis’ reasons for covering his face. Is his desire to spare other people the shock of
seeing him heroic?
•
How does Francis hint that he plans to kill himself?
•
Discuss the significance of Francis burning the list of hospitals that Enrico gave him.
•
Why do Francis and Enrico choose to end their own lives? Do you think this is acceptable given
their circumstances? Is there enough support to help them deal with their despair?
•
What is the effect of knowing that Francis only lives to kill Larry LaSalle? How does this build
suspense?
•
What did Dr Abrams suggest to Francis in Chapter 1? Why does Francis burn the doctor’s
information? Why does he also burn the list of hospitals where Enrico might be?
•
How does the end of the chapter create tension?
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Useful Quotations and Analysis
Quotation
Analysis
Page 54
London had always been linked in my mind
with foggy days and evenings, and either Jack
the Ripper or Sherlock Holmes, stalking
through the shadows [...] Conan Doyle
Again we hear about Francis’s romantic ideas as he
thinks of London as like being from pages of
Sherlock Holmes or associated with Jack the Ripper.
The reality is disappointing to him.
Page 55
When I study myself in the mirror, I don’t see
me any more but a stranger slowly taking shape
We have the contrast of the past and the present,
as shown when Francis describes how he has to
adapt to his new face, and life.
The truth is that I don’t care whether I heal or
not. Because I know that it doesn’t matter.
What matters is hiding my face from others,
not only to save them the shock of seeing a face
in disrepair but so that they won’t identify little
Francis Cassavant later on, after I have carried
out my mission
Francis’s words are important in revealing his
motives for remaining covered up. Firstly he claims
that it is to spare others looking at him, and
secondly it is to conceal his identity so that he is
unknown for his dealings with Larry LaSalle. It is for
the reader to decide whether or not Francis hiding
his identity for these reasons is heroic.
Not real doors but doors to the future. I take
out the address and phone number of Dr
Abrams in Kansas City and burn it...
This is a particularly dark chapter as Francis reveals
that his mind is made up – there is no future for
him, and burning Dr Abrams’ address shows his
intention not to follow up any treatment
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Activities linked to Chapters 6–10
To do
1.
Read the two quotations below. They are significant quotations, but why? Look at each quotation and
write down why it is important to Heroes. You may need to reread the page to remind yourself about
where it has come from.
Larry LaSalle’s opinion could never be dismissed.
(p. 36)
No heroes in that scrapbook... only us, the boys of Frenchtown... we weren’t heroes. We were only there...
(p. 47)
2.
3.
Reread Chapter 8 (2 pages).
•
Why do you think that Cormier included this short chapter?
•
Which theme or themes does it link to?
•
What is Arthur upset about?
Read this short passage from Chapter 10 (p. 55).
The truth is that I don’t care whether I heal or not. Because I know that it doesn’t matter. What matters is
hiding my face from others, not only to save them the shock of seeing a face in disrepair but so that they
won’t identify little Francis Cassavant later on, after I have carried out my mission.’
How is this paragraph important in relation to the theme of identity? Use PEE (from the passage
and/or the whole text) to support your answer.
4.
Speaking and Listening
Having read ten chapters written in the persona of Francis
Cassavant, your task is to write a dramatic monologue
which include your thoughts and feelings as if you are
Francis.
Some pupils may read their monologue out. In what ways
are these monologues similar to yours? In what ways are
they different?
5.
A dramatic monologue
is when a character
reveals his or her
thoughts to the
audience through the
use of ‘I’.
Following on from the last set of activities from chapters 1-5, write down a short summary about the
important events which have happened from the end of Chapter 5 to the end of Chapter 10 – in five
points.
Remember that it is important to read each chapter analysis, ideally after each chapter. It is also
important to work through the discussion points and look at the quotations and analysis for each chapter.
After Chapter 17 there is a writing activity linked to the end of the chapter.
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Chapter 11 Analysis
This chapter covers the triumph of Larry LaSalle’s Homecoming to the event which we have been waiting for.
At last we begin to understand Francis’s motives for wanting to kill Larry.
Larry LaSalle returns to Frenchtown, to a hero’s welcome. He is cheered as he steps down from the platform.
He is described as Lt. Lawrence LaSalle by Francis, which shows his status after the war. He has also changed
physically, becoming leaner, although Francis notes that he still has the old movie-star smile and a touch of
the Fred Astaire walk. We know that he has received a Silver Star for his heroic acts. The whole town,
including Francis and Nicole, are there to greet his arrival. He is greeted by the mayor and reacts modestly.
He then makes a speech to all the men and women who were fighting and giving their lives to defend
freedom. He also stresses the importance of keeping the world a safe place to safeguard the children’s
future. A party is given in City Hall, which the whole town attends.
Nicole’s feelings are revealed to Francis when she asks him not to leave her. He tells her that he will never
leave her. After the party, Larry dances all the children through the town, to the Wreck Centre. He has
arranged another party here for the children, complete with special treats like candy, which is in short supply
due to the war. They all relive the days of the Wreck Centre, playing table tennis without keeping scores, and
dancing. Again, he appears to be a hero, someone who can make anything happen.
The party dies out, until only Nicole and Francis are left at the Wreck Centre with Larry LaSalle. This is the crucial
moment of the text, and we are about to discover why Francis hates Larry LaSalle. The older man wants to get
Nicole alone and he insists that Francis should go home so they can have one last dance together. The atmosphere
changes when Larry tells Francis to leave, so that he can have a last dance with Nicole. Francis actually isn’t sure
about what is happening. He is torn between doing what Larry says, and doing what he actually wants.
Larry also subtly manipulates Francis, telling him that it’s important. Francis naively thinks that Larry has news
about a possible job relating to dancing in the future. He thinks that, with Larry, anything is possible. Francis does
not see that Larry may have other motives to get them alone together. Larry’s face is flushed and his eyes shine
with excitement. He reveals that the children all do what Larry tells them to do – automatically, without question.
Nicole asks Francis to stay but he feels powerless to defy Larry and leaves the room, despite the fact that he
clearly doesn’t want to. However, he reveals again: Larry had told him to go. As he leaves, Larry puts on the
song ‘Dancing in the Dark’ and turns out all the lights. Instead of leaving however, Francis waits in the
hallway outside. He stays so that he can tell her that he hadn’t really left her, he had stayed to wait for her
and that she was more important to him than Larry LaSalle.
When the music stops he hears the sound of clothes rustling and moaning and he knows that Larry LaSalle is
forcing himself upon Nicole. He stays rooted to the spot, not knowing what to do. Eventually Nicole comes
out, looking distressed and dishevelled. She sees Francis, and although she doesn’t say anything to him, he
realises that he has betrayed her in a way he can never make up for. Betrayal is shown in her eyes. We
witness her shock and disbelief at the betrayal, as she realised he had stood there all along. When Larry
LaSalle comes out, Francis hides away from him. He is whistling a tune and shows no sign of remorse for
what he has done. In contrast, Francis has to face the consequences of what he has done.

Discussion Points
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
•
Discuss how Larry is received by the community when he returns to Frenchtown. How does he react?
How does this chapter affect your opinion of Larry LaSalle? Do you now sympathise with Francis’ mission?
Why did Francis feel so powerless to defy LaSalle? Do you think he knew what would happen if he left
Nicole alone with him?
Why does Francis stay outside when Nicole and Larry are together?
What about Nicole – could she have done more to protect herself? Why didn’t she?
Discuss the irony of Larry LaSalle being given such a welcome in the light of his attack on Nicole.
Discuss how LaSalle is presented at the end of this chapter, after he has raped Nicole.
Discuss how Nicole reacts to Francis when she sees him outside.
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Useful Quotations and Analysis
Quotation
Analysis
Lt. Lawrence LaSalle, US Marine Corps, holder
of the Silver Star for acts of heroism in the
steaming jungles of Guadalcanal in the South
Pacific, hero of newsreels and radio broadcasts,
was coming home on furlough
The opening of this chapter reveals the difference
in status of Larry, before he arrives back in
Frenchtown. It indicates that he is a changed man
and that he will be received as a hero. The title Lt.
and formal use of his full name shows the greatest
levels of respect; everyone is aware of his status.
He smiled, the old movie-star smile...
This line suggests that, although changed by his
wartime experiences, parts of him are still the same
Larry that the residents recognise.
His slenderness was knife-like now, lethal, his
features sharper, nose and cheekbones
Again, through Francis’s eyes, we see the physical
effects which the war has had on Larry.
Larry was our war hero, yes, but he had been a
hero to us long before he went to war
This line reveals how much Larry means to the
Frenchtown residents, as a hero.
His eyes moved to Nicole and I saw the rush of
affection in his face
Francis’s interpretation of events may seem a little
naive at times; we know that there was a certain
physical closeness between Larry and Nicole at the
Wreck Centre. What kind of look could Larry have
given?
Page 59
He spoke of the men and women serving in all
parts of the globe who were defending freedom
and how some of them gave their lives...
Larry gives a modest speech to the residents of
Frenchtown after an announcement from the
mayor.
Page 60
Once, Nicole whispered: ‘Stay close to me...’
This line shows that Nicole needs Francis close to
her – suggesting that she doesn’t feel safe.
I’ll never leave you
Francis’s words show that he is prepared to stand
by her – this is significant in the light of near-future
events.
Page 57
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Useful Quotations and Analysis (continued)
Quotation
Page 62
Page 63
Page 64
Analysis
‘Nicole and I are going to have one last dance,’
he said. ‘Just her and me alone. It’s important,
Francis.’
Larry subtly manipulates Francis to leave him alone
with Nicole.
I wondered if he had a big announcement for
her. That he had found a way to make her a
star. Entertaining the troops, maybe. Nothing
was impossible with Larry LaSalle.
Again, Francis’s naivety is apparent. He also holds
Larry in great esteem at this point as he thinks that
Larry can do anything.
His face was flushed and his eyes shone with
excitement
Again, we have warnings about Larry’s motives to get
himself alone with Nicole, but Francis is naive about
this.
We always did what Larry told us to do
At this point we realise that the children tend to follow
Larry’s advice and instruction without question.
‘Don’t go,’ Nicole whispered in my ear. But
Larry LaSalle had told me to go.
Francis reveals again the control that Larry has over
him. He doesn’t stay with Nicole.
I would tell Nicole that I had not left, that I
had stayed, would never desert her, that she
had told me not to go and I hadn’t, that she
was more important to me than Larry LaSalle
Francis reveals his reasons for staying outside: he
believes that he is following through on his promise
to stay with Nicole.
I heard a sigh and a sound that could have
been a moan and a rustle of clothing
Francis describes ominous and suspicious sounds,
after he has left.
Then a whimpering, like a small animal caught
and trapped, moaning distinct now
This line shows Nicole’s response to her interaction
with Larry.
Her white blouse torn and one hand clutching
the front of her blouse to hold it together
The effect of Larry’s actions become horribly apparent
when Nicole stumbles out and Francis sees her.
Her eyes flashed black with anger as she looked
at me. More than anger. But what? [...]
betrayal. My betrayal of her in her eyes.
The theme of betrayal is prominent at this point,
when Francis sees that Nicole’s feelings are shown in
her eyes.
It’s amazing that the heart makes no noise
when it cracks.
Francis’s final words in this chapter show the extreme
contrast between his feelings and the unfeeling
actions displayed by Larry after raping Nicole. As Larry
continues, whistling as he does so, Francis stands still,
having to face the consequences of his lack of action.
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Chapter 12 Analysis
Francis describes the aftermath of the attack. Larry LaSalle has left town, and rumours abound about his
reasons. Most of the community residents still paint him as a great war hero and nobody has any idea
what has really happened. Why had he suddenly disappeared?
Francis hangs around Nicole’s home for days, wracked with feelings of guilt and
self-loathing. He finally sees her. She accuses him of not doing anything and
then asks him why he didn’t do something to help, if he knew. He apologises for
not doing anything but it is too late to restore his relationship with Nicole now.
Her hurt, anger and contempt overwhelms her – she is devastated by what has
happened to her and tells Francis to go away.
After she has made it clear that there will no longer be a relationship between
them, he considers killing himself. He goes to St Jude’s church and hides in the
confessional box until the church has closed. He climbs to the top of the tallest
steeple. He considers jumping off, and starts to pray. He realises the shame it
would bring upon his family. He decides to enlist in the army instead – soldiers
died with honour on battlefields all over the world. It is clear that he hopes to be killed in the war, and the next
day he travels to Fort Delta with his forged birth certificate, to become a soldier in the United States army.

“”
Discussion Points
•
•
•
•
•
•
What do the rumours about LaSalle’s departure tell us about how he is perceived in the town?
Describe Francis’s feelings about what had happened, and his part in it.
How does this make things more difficult for Nicole and Francis?
Discuss Nicole’s feelings towards Francis at this point.
Discuss Francis’s decision to join the army. Was this his only option?
What were Francis’s motives for joining the army?
Useful Quotations and Analysis
Quotation
Analysis
For three days, I haunted Sixth Street at all hours...
Here we discover that Francis is already
missing Nicole, and is wracked with guilt for
his lack of action.
A kind of bogey man who does terrible things like
letting his girl get hurt and attacked [...] what had
actually happened to her
Again, we see how much guilt Francis bears
over his part in the events.
Page 66
‘You didn’t do anything.’ The accusation in her voice
was worse than her harshness.
Nicole’s feelings are clear at this point, as is
Francis’s continual suffering.
Page 57
I could not die that way. Soldiers were dying with honour
on battlefields all over the world. Noble deaths. The deaths
of heroes. How could I die by leaping from a steeple?
Now we realise Francis’s motives for joining
up to fight in the war. He decides that he
would at least die with honour on the
battlefield.
Page 65
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Chapter 13 Analysis
Francis learns that Larry LaSalle has indeed returned to Frenchtown, when he overhears a conversation
in French between Mrs Belander and a neighbour. He comments on the banality of the way he discovers
this, noting that it is not as he imagined: it is an anti-climax. Through the women’s conversation, he
learns that Larry walks slowly, as if his legs hurt. The short chapter ends tensely because of the last three
sentences – Francis reveals that he doesn’t need to hear any more. He knows where to find him and we
know that the confrontation which we have been waiting for is going to take place.

“”
Discussion Points
•
Why has Francis imagined a more dramatic meeting with Larry LaSalle?
•
What do you think will happen next?
•
Francis gleans his information from an overheard conversation. Does this mean his undercover
strategy has paid off?
•
How is tension created at the end of this short chapter?
Useful Quotations and Analysis
Quotation
Analysis
Page 70
I always thought I would spot Larry LaSalle on
Third Street, would see him striding along like
Fred Astaire, bestowing that movie-star smile on
people that he met
This line shows that Francis has been thinking for so
long about meeting Larry LaSalle that he is
surprised when he hears about his return from Mrs.
Belander, who talks to a neighbour.
Page 71
...he walks slowly as if his legs hurt
Like Francis, Larry has come back from the war
physically damaged.
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Chapter 14 Analysis
Francis arrives at Larry LaSalle’s apartment to complete his mission. Tension mounts as the gun feels like
a tumour against his thigh, and he reveals his feelings of guilt for the murder of the two Germans – but
not for the murder that he is about to commit.
However, the event does not go according to plan. The first indication we have that Larry is weaker as a
result of the war is his voice. It is described by Francis as being feebler than it was at the Wreck Centre.
Francis finds him a mere shadow of his former self, a pale, fragile man, sitting in an armchair, who is no
longer the brave and dynamic hero of his memory. He does not have the presence of the past.
He has, however, retained his old charm. He compliments Francis on his heroism and urges him not to
hide his face. He tells him not to be afraid of showing his face, which he says is a symbol of what he is –
a brave boy who gained a Silver Star. He also reminisces about the old days at the Wreck Centre, and the
table tennis tournament. When Francis confronts him about letting him win, Larry tells him that he
deserved to win because he is a champion. This makes it increasingly hard for Francis to kill Larry.
Larry reveals that he is changed after the war – no visible changes like Francis’s, but he describes himself
as being worn out. He says that medical staff do not know what it is and Francis thinks that his sins are
catching up with him. When Larry admiringly calls him a hero, Francis feels that he’s had enough of
being a ‘fake’ hero – he’s tired of the deception. He tells him simply that he is not a hero, he went to war
to die. He reveals how he did not want to spoil his family’s name, and how he went to war to die. He
also brings up the two German soldiers which he killed, and tells Larry that he killed instead of looking
for ways to die. However Larry tells Francis that he saved his patrol when he fell on the grenade. Even
when Francis replies that he fell on the grenade because he wanted to die, LaSalle is not deterred. He
asks Francis why he wanted to die. Francis is genuinely bewildered when he realises that Larry does not
know that he was there that night at the Wreck Centre. Francis tells him that he knows about the rape,
and he wanted to die because he stood there and didn’t do anything to save Nicole.
Larry can’t believe that Francis took on these feelings of guilt and shame. He is clear with him that he
didn’t do anything that he should feel guilty about, and that he could not have stopped him anyway.
Larry tries to take away Francis’s feelings of guilt. He is very honest.
Francis holds his gun up to shoot, and questions him: why did he want Nicole? Larry replies that he is
drawn to sweet young things, suggesting that this has happened before, being a regular flaw. Francis
speculates to himself: had he done it before? Had others suffered before and after Nicole? Larry
describes sweet young things as his sin, and he is accepting of it. He does not show any remorse. He says
that everybody sins and loves what makes them evil. Is he right? In this sense, he loses responsibility for
his actions. He also asks Francis: does that one sin of his cancel all the good deeds out? He then tells
Francis that his legs are no longer what they were. He reveals that he will not be able to dance anymore,
or enjoy any sweet young things. He even shows Francis a crutch.
Nevertheless Francis tells him to say his prayers and aims to shoot. Larry shouts for him to wait and
brings out a pistol. He reveals that he holds it against his head every once in a while. He sometimes
thinks about killing himself. He reveals that he will shoot himself.
He urges Francis to leave and to let go of all the pain from the past; he wants him to move on from all
that has happened. Larry’s last words to Francis are encouraging; he tells him that all his instincts would
have led him to dive on the grenade to save the lives of others.
Once again, Francis finds himself obeying Larry, but as he walks down the stairs he hears a gunshot and
we know that Larry has shot himself.
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
“”
Discussion Points
•
Why does Francis think of the two young German soldiers as he arrives to kill Larry LaSalle?
•
What is the effect of Larry LaSalle’s shrunken appearance? Is this what you were expecting?
•
In what ways is Larry LaSalle just the same as he was before the war?
•
Larry tells Francis that he shouldn’t hide his face because it is a symbol of his bravery. Bearing in
mind his motives for jumping on the grenade, is what Larry is saying true?
•
In what ways has the war changed Larry LaSalle?
•
Why is Larry drawn to Nicole?
•
Larry LaSalle expresses no remorse about Nicole. What does this tell you about him?
•
In what ways could Larry LaSalle’s decision to kill himself be seen as a heroic act?
•
Why does Francis feel like a fake?
•
Does Larry LaSalle’s one sin indeed wipe away all the good things he has done?
•
Do you feel any pity for Larry LaSalle in the end?
Useful Quotations and Analysis
Quotation
Page 72
Page 73
Analysis
The gun is like a tumour on my thigh
The opening to Chapter 14 shows that Francis is
walking with purpose but the simile shows how
painful the gun is with the knowledge that it will
soon be used. The gun is always close to Francis and
this foreshadows the ending of the novel.
Does he suspect my presence here on the street?
Does he have a premonition that he has only a
few minutes left to live?
Tension mounts as we know that Francis has every
intention of going through with the murder.
The innocent faces of the two young Germans
appear in my mind. But Larry LaSalle is not
innocent.
We know that Francis is haunted by his guilt for
killing the two German soldiers; however with Larry
he feels a justification to shoot him.
...a bit feeble now, yet still the voice that cheered
us at the Wreck Centre
The first indication that Larry is weaker comes from
Francis’s description of his voice as being ‘feeble’, a
direct contrast to his voice at the Wreck Centre.
He is pale, eyes sunk into the sockets like in the
newsreel at the Plymouth, and he seems fragile
now, as if caught in an old photograph that has
faded and yellowed with age
We see from Francis’s description that there are
similarities to the Larry from the newsreel; however
this Larry is a shadow of his former self.
Don’t be afraid to show your face, Francis. That
face, what’s left of it, is a symbol of how brave
you were, the Silver Star you earned...
Larry’s speech shows that he still has the
encouraging, positive side – the old Larry of the
Wreck Centre. However, Larry doesn’t know that
Francis jumped on the grenade to kill himself.
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Useful Quotations and Analysis (continued)
Quotation
Analysis
Page 74
Maybe your sins are catching up with you
Here Francis responds to Larry in his mind, when
Larry tells him that he is worn out, although the
medical professionals don’t know what is wrong
with him.
Page 75
I had always wanted to be a hero, like Larry
LaSalle and all the others, but had been a fake
all along. And now I am tired of the deception
and have to rid myself of the fakery.
Francis reveals how he has come to this point, and is
tired of living a lie, a deception. He has built up to
this moment and has been waiting for it for months.
I’m not a hero
Francis says these words, but they are issues which
he have been considering for a long time whilst
waiting.
I went to war because I wanted to die
Francis reveals the truth to Larry, believing he is
revealing the reason why he is not a hero.
Lowering my voice as if I was in the
confessional with Father Balthazar. I was too
much of a coward to kill myself. In the war, in a
battle, I figured it was easier to get killed. And I
wouldn’t be disgracing my mother and father’s
name. I looked for chances to die and instead
killed others, and two of them kids like me...
The confessional tone shows the importance of
Francis’s words. He is being completely honest with
Larry. He feels that he wasn’t a hero because he
was too much of a coward to kill himself, and he
didn’t want to damage his family’s name. He reveals
that he killed two Germans instead of looking for
ways to die.
You saved your patrol. You fell on that
grenade...
Despite Francis’s words, Larry still believes that he
is a hero.
When I fell on that grenade, I wasn’t trying to
save those GIs. I saw my chance to end it all, in
a second. But a freak accident happened. My
face got blown off and I didn’t die.
Again Francis explains himself matter-of-factly. He
wanted to kill himself when he fell on the grenade.
What you did to her. And I did nothing. Just
stood there and let it happen...
Francis reveals the reasons why he wants to die.
‘Oh, Francis. You’re too hard on yourself. You
didn’t do anything you should feel guilty about,
that should make you want to die. You couldn’t
have stopped me, anyway, Francis. You were
just a child ...’
Larry’s words give the reader another perspective
on the events which contrasts with Francis’s. His
words also suggest that, if Francis had sought help
from an adult who could have provided a more
‘balanced’ opinion of the events, then he might not
have enlisted and jumped on the grenade.
The sweet young things...
Larry reveals why he was drawn to Nicole, and his
weakness for other young girls.
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Useful Quotations and Analysis (continued)
Quotation
Analysis
Had he done it before? How many other young
girls had been invaded by him?
Francis reveals thoughts about the possibility that
Larry has attacked others before and after Nicole.
Page 76
Everybody sins, Francis. The terrible thing is
that we love our sins. We love the thing that
makes us evil. I love the sweet young things.
Larry’s accepting description about his sin is
shocking to Francis and the reader. He seems
resigned to his sin, he accepts it and will not take
any responsibility for it.
Page 77
Does that one sin of mine wipe away all
the good things?
Larry tries to use reason, acknowledging all the good
things that he has done in his life.
My legs are gone
Larry reveals that his legs are no longer what they were;
he will never be able to use them like he used to. He
reveals that he will not be able to dance or to have any
more sweet young things; he won’t be able to do
anything.
I place it against my temple once in a while.
I wonder how it would feel to pull the
trigger and have everything come to an end.
Larry reveals that he too considers suicide on a regular
basis.
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Page 78
...one gun is enough for what has to be done
Larry reveals that he will commit suicide.
Go, Francis. Leave me here. Leave everything
here, the war, what happened at the Wreck
Centre, leave it all behind, with me.
Larry urges Francis to leave him, and to move on in
his life.
Let me tell you something before you go,
Francis. You would have fallen on that grenade
anyway. All your instincts would have made
you sacrifice yourself for your comrades.
Larry’s last words to him are encouraging, insisting
that he is actually a hero after all.
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Chapter 15 Analysis
Francis needs to find Nicole, and remembers how she regularly attended the Convent. He sees Sister
Mathilde, as he knows that Nicole spent a lot of time at the Convent. He gets her address. He is now
able to reveal his identity and even removes his cap to speak to her.
She tells him how the nuns pray for men and women in uniform every day and every night. He worries
for a moment that Nicole may have become a nun, but Sister Mathilde reveals that she hasn’t. She is
taught by the nuns in Albany. Sister Mathilde tells Francis that Nicole was unhappy when she left
Frenchtown. His plans to kill himself are still in place.

“”
Discussion Points
•
Why is it significant that Francis reveals his identity to Sister Mathilde?
•
How does Sister Mathilde behave when she speaks to Francis?
•
Why does Francis lie to Sister Mathilde about his future?
•
How is Francis greeted in the convent?
Useful Quotations and Analysis
Quotation
Page 82
Analysis
She didn’t seem happy when she came to say
goodbye. Was she unhappy because she was
leaving Frenchtown?
Sister Mathilde reveals how Nicole felt when she left
Frenchtown years ago. We also learn that Sister
Mathilde does not know about the rape.
I wonder if it’s a special sin to lie to a nun
This chapter ends on a sombre note as we learn that
Francis still plans to kill himself.
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Chapter 16 Analysis
Francis arrives at Nicole’s school in Albany. She is surprised to see him, as he
didn’t warn her of his visit. He notices how different she appears: her long
hair has been replaced by a crop, and she has lost the look of mischief which
used to be in her eyes. Her bright smile does not reach her eyes. Francis tells
her that his facial injuries are not as bad as they seem, and that he will be
seeing a cosmetic surgeon. However, he tells the reader that he is lying again.
Nicole reveals that she knows that Francis gained a Silver Star for his heroic
actions. It is evident that Nicole is uncomfortable talking about herself: she
loses the softness in her face and her voice becomes sharp. She tells him
that she’s fine but Francis thinks that she does not sound it.
Nicole has had time to reflect on what happened to her and during that
time she has forgiven Francis, and is sorry for the way that she treated him
that day. She even reveals that she went to see him to tell him that she
forgave him, but he had already left. This makes us think that things could
have turned out differently for Francis if he had listened to Nicole and
learned that she thought that he was not to blame. He tells Nicole that Larry
is dead. She already knows and speaks about how Larry made all of the children at the Wreck Centre
feel special, and made her feel like a ballerina. She tells him that she is now discovering who she really
is. When Nicole enquires about Francis’s plans for the future, he tells her that he is planning to go to
college. However, his thoughts confirm that he does not really consider a positive future. Nicole brings
up writing, like she did when they were dating. Nicole asks him directly why he has come. He tells her
that it is to apologise, yet also thinks that it is to see if she will still be his girl.
He still loves her, and thinks that if there was a chance that they could still be together it might change
his mind about killing himself. He asks her if she told anyone about the rape; she reveals that she didn’t.
We get an insight into the burden which Nicole has been carrying, and her isolation.
However, she reveals that she is adjusting. She is
taking steps to move on. She talks about her future
and asks Francis about the war. He keeps his
descriptions light. They also reminisce about their
past times together – the dates and holding hands.
Nicole confesses that she did not really like the
cowboy serials. Francis belongs to the good times in
her memory, and she remembers their days
together affectionately.
Finally she brings up the subject of his face, as
she touches it. He again keeps it light-hearted,
telling her that he will send a picture when the
cosmetic surgeon has worked on it. She tells
him to promise, but he knows that he will not
send the picture. He now knows that there is
not a chance that they will be together, and
that things could never be like they were. Their
words show the awkwardness that now lies
between them.
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She is relieved when Francis says that he is going, but she calls him a hero as he leaves. He tells her that he
does not know what a hero is anymore. She encourages him to write about it. He asks if he can visit again,
but the answer is in her eyes. She kisses him and tells him to be whatever will make him happy.
The meeting between them was necessary to experience closure. Francis needed to tell her that he is
sorry, and he also needed to know that there was not going to be a future for them together. Their parting
is painful, but he has received Nicole’s forgiveness and now he can move on. He no longer carries the
burden of guilt. However at the end of the chapter we do not know what Francis is going to do.
 Discussion Points
“”
•
Discuss the difference in the ways Francis and Nicole have reacted to what happened.
•
How does Nicole describe Larry LaSalle?
•
To what extent should Francis have held himself responsible for the attack on Nicole?
•
What does Nicole reveal about why she did not tell anyone after the rape?
•
Do you think that she was right not to tell anyone?
•
How has the relationship between Francis and Nicole changed?
•
Is there really nothing left for Francis to look forward to? Could he turn his life around at this point?
Useful Quotations and Analysis
Quotation
Page 83
Page 84
Analysis
‘The long black hair that fell to her shoulders is gone.
Now her hair is cut short and combed straight and
flat, with wisps touching her ears. Her cheekbones are
more prominent and her eyes seem to be bigger [...]
searching for that glimpse of mischief in her eyes, but
only see the question there.
Francis’s description reveals how different
Nicole is in the present. She has lost the look
of mischief in her eyes and has cut her hair
very short.
‘It’s not as bad as it looks. My skin is healing.
There’s a doctor who took care of me overseas.
He’s going to fix my face up – they call it
cosmetic surgery – when he gets back from the
service.’ Still lying, but this time not to a nun.
Again we know that Francis does not plan to have
cosmetic surgery. He does not believe in his
future. He tells Nicole about his wounds by
playing them down and making them seem less
serious than what they are.
I heard about your Silver Star. Jumping on that
grenade and saving all those lives
Nicole reveals that she knows about Francis’s act
and his Silver Star from Marie LaCroix.
‘Fine,’ she says, but the softness is gone from her
face and her voice is sharp and brittle.
We see that Nicole is uncomfortable talking about
herself and this is evident when the softness
leaves her face and her voice becomes sharp.
You don’t sound fine
Francis’s thoughts reveal how he perceives Nicole –
she still has mental scars from the rape.
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“”
Useful Quotations and Analysis (continued)
Quotation
Page 84
Page 85
Page 85
Page 86
Page 87
Page 88
Analysis
‘I’m sorry about one thing,’ she says. ‘What I did to
you that day.’
Nicole has clearly had time to think about
events, and she forgives Francis for his inaction
at the time. She’s sorry about the way that she
treated him that day.
‘I shouldn’t have said those things to you that day on
the piazza. You weren’t to blame for what happened. I
realised that later and went to your Uncle Louis’ place
but found out that you’d enlisted.’
Nicole reveals that she realised back then that
Francis wasn’t to blame. We realise that
events might have turned out differently if
Francis had not enrolled – if Nicole had
spoken to him then, he might have accepted
that he was not to blame for his part.
For a while there he made me feel special. Made us all
feel special. Made me think I was a ballerina. Now
I’m starting to find out what I am, who I really am...
Nicole’s words show that she has gone, and is
going through a period of change – she is
discovering who she is.
I had prepared my answer while riding on the train. ‘Go
to high school. College later. The GI Bill pays for college
for veterans.’ The words sound flat and false to my ears.
Again, Francis reveals that he doesn’t
seriously contemplate the possibility of a
positive future.
To see if maybe you could still be my girl. Which
could maybe change my mind about the gun in my
duffel bag.
Francis reveals his love for Nicole and how he
would maybe change his mind about killing
himself.
Who was I going to tell? My mother and father? It
would have killed them, ruined them forever. Or
maybe my father would have killed him, which would
have been even worse. The police? He was a big war
hero. He didn’t beat me up. No visible wounds. So, I
didn’t tell anybody. [...] I think they were afraid to
ask questions.
Nicole’s description of her isolation reveals
how she felt that she could not tell anyone;
Larry’s status as a war hero would make it
difficult to approach the police. She did not
even tell her parents, in case her dad tried to
kill him. The only other person who knew was
Francis, and he had left to enlist.
She looks at me with affection. But affection is not
love. I knew all the time we were talking that we were
filling up the empty spaces between us with words. I
knew I had lost her, lost her a long time ago.
Francis reveals how he knows that it is over
between them – it ended back in Frenchtown
all that time ago. He knows that there will not
be love between them.
‘I don’t know what a hero is anymore, Nicole.’ I think
of Larry LaSalle and his Silver Star. And my own
Silver Star, an act of cowardice.
Francis reveals his complicated feelings about
what a hero is. There seems to be a divide
between the public labelling them Silver Star
heroes, and the reality behind it.
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Chapter 17 Analysis
Francis sits at the railway station, watching the different passers-by. He remembers the soldiers he fought
with in his platoon. He thinks that, like him, they were only there – scared soldiers fighting in the war. He
thinks that they were scared kids, not born to fight and kill, but they stayed. They did not necessarily get
medals for it, but they were the real heroes, who do not talk about it.
He considers writing about them, as Nicole suggested. He also considers getting a typewriter and getting
started. He then considers different possible options: getting in touch with Dr Abrams for cosmetic surgery,
contacting Enrico, and looking into the different hospitals he told him about. He thinks that he should do all
these things. This suggests a possible recovery and the future.
However he is let down when he thinks of Nicole, and how they have
parted. He thinks of the gun in his duffel bag, and how the weight is
nice and comfortable on his back. This leaves the chapter ending
ambiguously – Francis still feels comfortable with the gun’s presence.
Or does he feel comfortable with his own presence and finally gaining
some closure on all that has happened to him? Has the weight of his
past finally been lifted so that he now feels comfortable and at ease
with himself? We can also consider how he did write the story. He
picks up his bag and heads towards his train to leave the station.

“”
Discussion Points
•
The ending is ambiguous about Francis’s future and choices. What do the clues in the text suggest happens next?
•
Is this an optimistic or a pessimistic end to the novel?
•
What does the novel suggest about notions of heroism?
Useful Quotations and Analysis
Quotation
Page 89
Page 89–90
Page 90
Analysis
We were only there
This line shows what Francis thinks about
the men he has come across in the war.
Scared kids, not born to fight and kill. Who were not only
there but who stayed, did not run away, fought the good
war. And never talk about it. And didn’t receive a Silver Star.
But heroes, anyway. The real heroes.
Francis considers the reality of the war –
the training did not make up for the
soldiers being scared kids, who weren’t
born to fight and kill. But they stayed and
fought, and were the real heroes.
Maybe if I’m going to write as Nicole hopes I will, I should write
about them. Maybe I should buy a typewriter and get started.
Maybe I should try to find Dr Abrams’ telephone number in
Kansas City. Maybe I should track down Enrico, check out those
hospitals he told me about. I should do all those things.
Francis’s thought progression is positive
at this point, as he considers all the
different options available to him in his
future.
I think of Nicole. I think of the gun in my
duffel bag at my feet.
Heroes GCSE Study Guide
However, there is negativity when he thinks of the
parting with Nicole and how he will never see her again.
This leads to him considering the gun in his duffel bag.
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The Ambiguous Ending of Heroes
After reading the last chapter you may feel uncertain about whether Francis has any hope for his future
or if he still plans to commit suicide. There is evidence to suggest both.
Francis is looking forward positively
 In this chapter he is considering the concept of a hero and trying
to make some sense of the events. Is this because Nicole has
told him that he should write about his experiences? The book
itself is evidence to suggest that ‘Francis’ started writing.
 He also thinks of a typewriter, as well as Nicole’s
encouragement. He considers that he could find Dr Abrams’
number, and he could track down Enrico.
 There is also the gun in Francis’s bag to consider. He reveals that
the weight of it feels comfortable. Does this suggest that Francis
is finally at ease with himself? Has the weight/burden which Francis has been carrying throughout
the novel been lifted?
Francis is not looking forward positively
 Francis was heartbroken when he realised that his relationship with Nicole was definitely over. In
the last chapter, he thinks of Nicole, then he thinks of the gun in his duffel bag and how the weight
is nice and comfortable.
 He thinks of the gun in his duffel bag, and how the weight is nice and comfortable on his back. Does
he still feels comfortable with the gun’s presence?
Summary
 Although this chapter is ambiguous, Francis’s good thoughts seem to outweigh the bad. In
particular, the language describing the gun is deliberately ambiguous.
 Cormier has deliberately chosen to make the ending this way, so that the reader comes up with his
own ideas.
To do
How can the book’s ending be interpreted? Think of the good and the bad ways.
What do you think that it suggests about Francis’s future?
Write the next chapter for Francis. What does he do next?
Include...
•
...how you feel about all that has happened to you, including your confrontations with Nicole and Larry.
•
...what you plan to do next: are you going to try and contact Dr Abrams? Are you going to buy a typewriter?
•
...where are you going to go? Have you come to terms with all that has happened to you?
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Activities linked to Chapters 11–17
To do
1.
Here are some quotations taken from Chapters 11–17. In what way are they significant to Heroes as
a whole? You may want to reread the page from where the quotation has been taken, to help you.
His voice echoes in my ears: Does that one sin of mine wipe away all the good things?
‘’I’m sorry about one thing,’ she says. ‘What I did to you that day.’
We were only there. Scared kids, not born to fight and kill.
(p. 78)
(p. 84)
(p. 89)
2.
Look at Chapter 12 again. Which themes are important in this chapter? Why does Francis want to kill
himself? What prevents him from carrying out his suicide attempt?
3.
Now that you have read the novel, consider why Cormier did not just present it chronologically.
What are the effects of his narrative structure? Consider:
4.
5.
•
Cormier’s handling of tension and suspense
•
The use of flashbacks and how effective they are
•
How and when information is revealed to us
•
What makes us want to read on
•
Questions we want answered
Speaking and Listening
Now that you have reached the end of the novel you are going to participate in a ‘hot-seating’
activity.
•
Somebody in the class will volunteer to be Francis.
•
Somebody in the class will volunteer to be Nicole.
•
The object of this activity is to consider the possibilities for the future which each character has.
•
Spend five minutes writing down two questions each for Francis and for Nicole. The questions must
be linked to their future in some way; for example, you might choose to write for Francis: where
are you going to next?
•
When the characters are hot-seated, ask your questions. Are the answers what you would have
expected?
Following on from the last two section activities, sum up the important events from Chapter 11 to
Chapter 17 – in six points.
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Big Questions
To do
Cormier is known to be controversial and tackle dark issues in his writing. Through themes Cormier
reveals that nothing is black and white. He brings up important, if unsettling, questions relating to the
characters and situations presented in the book. The questions have no simple answers, as they arise
out of complex issues. A lot of the tension explodes by Chapter 14 but a lot of issues arise from Francis
and Larry’s discussion. They leave a lot of unresolved questions, relating to the themes. It will be helpful
if you consider your own views in relation to these questions.
Some of these questions are:
? Why did Francis stand by while Larry raped Nicole?
(Consider the effect Larry has on the children, and also what is going through his mind during the
event.)
? Was Francis a hero if he chose to dive on the grenade and save a platoon, even though he was
trying to kill himself?
(Consider what Francis thinks about it and contrast this with Larry’s words to him in Chapter 14.)
? Is Larry right when he says that everybody loves their sin and what makes them evil?
(Think about all the good things which Larry has done. Do you know people around you who do both
good and bad things?)
? Should one sin cancel out all the other good things that a person has done?
(Consider Francis and Larry’s confrontation in Chapter 14.)
? In Chapter 14 why does Francis leave Larry without killing him?
(Think about what Larry says to Francis in Chapter 14.)
? Does Francis feel any differently at the end?
(Consider his views on what a real hero is and how he is more open about his identity in the last three
chapters.)
We learn later that Nicole went to see Francis to tell him that he was not responsible for what happened,
but he had already left. Do you think that he would have still gone to war if he knew that Nicole thought
that he wasn’t responsible? Would Nicole had still left?
Can you think of any more dark, probing questions which the book makes us aware of?
Another of the big questions which Cormier makes the reader consider is whether or not Francis is right to
be a vigilante (taking the law into his own hands). Was this the right way to respond? Or is he using the
mission as a way of hiding from himself and what has happened to him? On a general level, should citizens
ever take the law into their own hands?
Choose one of the big questions and write your own
response to it. Use quotations to support your answer.
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To do
Answering a Big Question
? Is Francis a hero?
Francis does not feel that he is a hero. He feels that he is a fake because he wanted to die, but did not
commit suicide to save his family honour. We discover that he jumped on the grenade to kill himself –
he feels that it is not the selfless act that others perceive it as. He also feels that he should not have
gained the ‘Silver Star.’ When Arthur tells him that he is a hero, in his mind he disagrees – Arthur does
not know his real motive for jumping on it.
In the confrontations with Larry and Nicole towards the end of the novel, both characters tell him that
he is a hero. Even when Francis tells Larry that he jumped on a grenade to commit suicide, Larry insists
that all Francis’s instincts led him to jump on the grenade to save the other members of his platoon.
However Francis feels that Larry is making him out to be better than he is – something he has always
done.
Cormier makes the event of Francis jumping on the grenade very complex. At first we think that he
jumped on the grenade to save the other members of his platoon. However, the way that Cormier
unfolds events means that we only find out that Francis did it to commit suicide later in the narrative.
Here are some questions for you to consider:
? It is for the reader to decide whether or not Larry is right. Or is Larry saying it to make Francis feel
better?
? Is Francis right to feel that he is not a hero?
Similarly, Nicole tells Francis that he is a hero. He does not tell her the real reason why he jumped on
the grenade, perhaps to spare her any guilty feelings.
Nicole still think that Francis is a hero if she knew the real reason that he jumped on the
? Would
grenade?
Before Francis leaves, he tells her that he doesn’t know what a hero is any more. This reveals his
confused thoughts.
At the end of the novel Francis goes through the names of the members of his platoon, thinking of each
of them, and Enrico. He also remembers Arthur drunkenly saying that they were only there. Ultimately,
Francis reveals that those who didn’t get Silver Stars, or even acknowledgements, were the real heroes.
He says anyone who stuck it out was a real hero. There was no bravado, or heroics, like in war movies.
They were only there.
? It is for the reader to decide what he thinks: is Francis a hero?
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Themes
Themes are ideas or messages which writers explore in their texts. Usually a novel explores more than
one theme, and Cormier uses Heroes to explore lots of different themes: heroes, war, betrayal,
disability, disfigurement, community, isolation, religion, sin, guilt, responsibility, forgiveness,
appearance and reality, love, loss and identity.
Heroes
What is a hero?
The dictionary defines a hero as a person admired for special courage, nobility, or great achievements.
As Cormier named his novel Heroes, this indicates that heroes and ideas of heroism are strong recurring
themes throughout the text. Cormier presents false and genuine heroes in his novel, revealing that the
real heroes deserve recognition. Indeed Francis considers what makes a ‘hero’ throughout the novel, and
considers the people around him and how a person cannot be seen simply in ‘black and white’ terms.
•
•
•
Can someone be labelled a ‘hero’?
Can a person commit acts which are both good and evil, and still be recognised as a ‘hero’?
Is it fair to label someone a ‘hero’ if they have also committed bad acts?
Cormier does not ask the reader easy questions; he is a controversial writer who aims to present
matters in the complex way that they are in real life. It is for the reader to come up with their own ideas
and conclusions.
When I fell on that grenade, I wasn’t trying to save those GIs. I saw my chance to end it all, in a second. But a
freak accident happened. My face got blown off and I didn’t die. – Francis
(Chapter 14, p. 75)
The Nature of Heroism
What defines a heroic person? Is it the acts they commit or the intention behind them? Francis
ponders these ideas throughout the novel. Early on we discover that he has gained a medal given out for
great heroic acts. However, he does not think that he has earned it; one of the central ironies in the
book is that Francis is seen as a hero – a veteran who has not only suffered horrific facial injuries but has
been awarded the Silver Star for bravery.
Although he has concealed his face, he is still respected. His face is the symbol of his bravery to the
others – he has earned the right to anonymity, to not communicate with those around him. From the
start, Francis tells the reader that he is not the person he seems.
Before he joined the war he naively thought that he wanted ‘to be like them, these heroes, fighting the Japs and
the Germans, going off to battles on land and sea.
(Chapter 4, p. 21)
Francis’s idealised view continues even when he first joins the war. He sees himself and a fellow soldier
in a descriptive way: ‘We continued to talk about the old days in Frenchtown as we drank vin rouge like
the heroes in a Hemingway novel...’ (Chapter 2, p. 14). He does not realise the realities of war at this
stage, as a young naive 15 year old.
However, Francis soon experiences this reality, and the idealised version of a hero gives way to fear,
‘tense and nervous and scared’ (Chapter 3, p. 18) and is a far cry from ‘the war movies at the Plymouth,
nobody displaying heroics or bravado’ (Chapter 2, p. 19).
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The confusion and havoc ‘theirs or ours?’ (Chapter 3, p. 19) in war contrasts greatly with the images on
the movie screen and in the media, which the Frenchtown community would think was realistic.
In Frenchtown, anyone who has done something deemed brave
in wartime is seen to be an instant hero, yet Francis does not
believe this to be so. In his eyes he cannot be considered a hero
because he did not fall on the grenade to selflessly protect the
rest of his battalion, but he did it to try and end his own life in a
heroic way. By Chapter 4, we begin to understand why Francis
does not consider himself to be a hero – he killed two Germans
the day before his suicide, but we also think that something has
happened with the mysterious Larry LaSalle to make Francis feel
so bad about himself.
As a Catholic, he knows that suicide is a sin, which motivates him to
attempt to die a heroic death at war – at least in the eyes of others.
‘I could not die that way. Soldiers were dying with honour on
battlefields all over the world. Noble deaths’ (Chapter 12, p. 69).
He returns to Frenchtown bearing the weight of knowing that his suicide attempt had failed – worse
still, he had ironically been rewarded with a Silver Star. Only Francis knows the truth (or what he sees as
being the truth). When he comes home, he does not want to have his ‘heroic act’ acknowledged.
He also considers his actions before he went to war – his inability to protect Nicole against Larry LaSalle.
He feels guilty because he stood by and listened to the attack without stopping it. The Silver Star he
receives for bravery seems to mock Francis, and he is extremely hard on himself. No matter what he
does, he will never be able to forgive himself for what he did (or failed to do) on that one fateful night.
When Arthur recognises him and hails him as a hero, he feels like a hypocrite.
Likewise, Francis cannot accept the general consensus that Larry LaSalle is a hero. He has seen another
side to the man that negates everything else. There is nothing heroic about the way he abused Nicole
and the cowardly way he left town afterwards, as he might have done many times before. Yet, to the
rest of the community, Larry LaSalle is an icon of bravery and Frenchtown spirit – a hero to be proud of.
He has also received the Silver Star and is viewed by the rest of the community as the dancer who
became a hero. His grand Homecoming speeches and the celebrations which follow also show the
extent of Larry as a hero to the Frenchtown residents.
The veterans drink a toast to him and he is in the ‘Frenchtown warriors’ scrapbook. To them, he is the
local hero whilst, in contrast, Francis is isolated. Cormier contrasts the two with images: Larry’s face is
up on the silver screen whilst Francis’s is concealed in a bandage. Both of them are flawed heroes. Larry
asks Francis if his one sin cancels out all the good things that he has done, and this is one of the
challenging questions for the reader to decide. Francis performed a heroic act for a selfish reason when
he fell on the grenade.
Even prior to the war, he is the Wreck Centre’s hero; he motivates all the children to gain confidence
and develop their talents. He tells them, ‘You are all stars’ (Chapter 5, p. 29).
When Francis finally confronts Larry, Larry tells him that he is a hero: ‘Don’t be afraid to show your face,
Francis. That face, what’s left of it, is a symbol of how brave you were, the Silver Star you earned...’
(Chapter 14, p. 73).
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Even when Francis tells him the truth behind the grenade, Larry remains undeterred: ‘Let me tell you
something before you go, Francis. You would have fallen on that grenade anyway. All your instincts
would have made you sacrifice yourself for your comrades’ (Chapter 14, p. 78). Larry’s last words to him
are encouraging and insist that he is actually a hero after all.
Ultimately, Cormier leaves it for the reader to decide: is Francis really a hero, despite his motive for
jumping on the grenade? On the one hand we can argue that yes, he did it knowing that it would save
lives or no, it was a selfish act which he was attempting to conceal as heroic.
Whichever we decide, we know that Francis himself did not consider it to be heroic: ‘I had always
wanted to be a hero, like Larry LaSalle, and all the others, but had been a fake all along. And now I am
tired of the deception and have to rid myself of the fakery’ (Chapter 14, p. 75). By Chapter 16 he still
thinks of his Silver Star as being for an act of cowardice. He tells Nicole that he does not know what a
hero is anymore – gone are the idealised images of war from his youth.
In Frenchtown a hero is a brave and unflinching man, who faces danger without a moment’s hesitation.
Yet we should consider the memories Francis has of his wartime experiences, or Arthur’s description of
scared young boys. Were they any less heroic for their tears and timidity? Arthur calls it ‘the scared war’
(Chapter 8, p. 46) and this seems to be more realistic in terms of the reality which Francis describes. He
tells Francis that there were no heroes, just scared boys who were only there. Arthur is a functional
character who contributes to the novel’s challenge of heroism in war. It is for the reader to decide
whether or not the men in the scrapbook were heroes, or not.
At the end of the novel Francis reveals his complicated feelings about what a hero is. To him, there seems
to be a divide between the public labelling men heroes, and the reality behind it. ‘Scared kids, not born to
fight and kill. Who were not only there but who stayed, did not run away, fought the good war. And never
talk about it. And didn’t receive a Silver Star. But heroes, anyway. The real heroes.’ (Chapter 17, p. 89).
Francis considers that the training did not make up for the soldiers being scared kids, who weren’t born to
fight and kill. But they stayed and fought, and were the real heroes. He acknowledges them.
To do
Who do you think that the real heroes are in the book?
Give quotations and explanations why.
War
A major theme which runs throughout the novel is the devastating and
isolating effects of war. We see these effects through the dramatic
impact of the opening pages when Francis describes his facial injuries.
The details of the injuries sustained by both Francis and Enrico are
provided by Francis’s narrative with detail. His understated words make
the descriptions even more horrifying to read as he describes them with
understanding and acceptance.
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Veteran: a
former
member of
the armed
forces
© ZigZag Education, 2010
Heroic versus Horrific
As shown in the section on ‘Themes: Heroes’, Francis has a naive, idealised perception of the war prior to
actually seeing the reality of it. This is most evident in the scene with Norman Rocheleau and also when he
remains in Frenchtown after others have left to fight. He romanticises the men, perceiving them as going off
to fight heroic battles.
Francis’s innocence can be seen as representing young fighters on a
general level. In Chapter 9, Mr Laurier describes how: ‘A kid graduates
from high school, gets six weeks of basic training with guns and
grenades, then overseas he goes on a troop-ship and five months later –
five months later! – ...he’s fighting the Japs or the Germans’ (p. 52). He
captures how the appearance and the reality of the situation come
together when the kids get a nasty shock: we know this when, in Chapter
3, Francis describes killing the two German boys.
The war allows Francis to become labelled as a ‘hero’ (which he does not
agree with) and as a veteran. Cormier contrasts how soldiers are seen in the
public eye: on a glamorous, dramatic level with the reality behind their
stories (the war that Arthur says nobody talks about). Cormier also contrasts
this public image of medals, glory and praise with the isolation which comes
after the experience – coping with horrific injuries and memories.
Francis is treated with suspicion at first by Mrs Belander – she questions his story and doubts him, but she
also treats him with sympathy when she realises that his injuries came from the war: ‘Poor boy’ (Chapter 3,
p. 17). Similarly, Francis is treated with respect by the other veterans at the St Jude Club: they greet him
warmly and respect his silence and anonymity. He has earned this right. This veteran community established
at the bar praises the ‘heroes’ who gained the Silver Star for a heroic act – in Chapter 6, Larry LaSalle is
specifically named as being an outstanding hero. The ‘Frenchtown Warriors’ scrapbook contains them all. It
is ironic then, that Arthur (a part of the veteran community) says that they were all really scared boys who
were only there. Were they all heroes?
Francis’s description of the day before he jumped on a grenade shows the reality of war – the confusion, the
fear and the nerves. Soldiers were young and homesick. They were sick, suffered stomach cramps and had
diarrhoea. Francis says that they were not like the heroes at the Plymouth on the silver screen. This was
what the naive Francis thought that war was about.
Again, Cormier contrasts the appearance with the reality in relation to the war: the glory of the reports
shown on the newsreels at the cinema, depicting brave American soldiers, defeating the enemy and raising
public spirits, as opposed to horrific wounds and the naked fear experienced by the young men actually
doing the fighting. The discrepancy between these two images is at the root of the trauma and loneliness
experienced as the soldiers return from war.
On their return, most soldiers are expecting to be treated as the heroes they have been led to believe they
are, and that they will be lavishly rewarded for the fighting they have done. Of course, history tells us that
the reality of their situation was somewhat different. Although the veterans talk about new possibilities
available to them for jobs, there are also the soldiers who have been badly wounded and recognise that
there is little on offer for them, and for many suicide is the only option they can see.
Little wonder, given the hostility and fear experienced by Francis when people see his
wounds. The lack of counselling and support leaves veterans isolated and without hope.
All the promises of glory, no doubt
To do
Record the details which show:
offered to them as an incentive to
•
the glorious images and appearance of war
join up, come to nothing and they are
•
the horrific reality
betrayed by the very country they
Who do you think suffers the most, as a result of the war, in the novel?
fought to protect.
Give reasons for your answers and use quotes to support your points.
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Betrayal
Betrayal links with the main characters, but also relates to the theme of war. With reference to the main part of the
story, the relationship between Francis, Larry and Nicole, Nicole experiences betrayal on the night of Larry’s attack.
Although she is suspicious of Larry’s actions before the event and asks Francis to keep close, she is still alone with
him at the Wreck Centre at the end of the celebrations. She asks Francis to stay but he doesn’t. She is betrayed by
Larry when he rapes her, but also (through her eyes) is betrayed by Francis who stayed outside and did nothing to
stop it from continuing. The question for the reader is: is Francis right to feel guilty for his betrayal of Nicole? He
did tell Nicole that he’d never leave her, therefore it is understandable when she comes out that she has betrayal
in her eyes: ‘My betrayal of her in her eyes’ (Chapter 11, p. 64). We know the consequences for Francis after this
moment: he considers suicide, enlists and then suffers horrific injuries in the war.
Betrayal also links to the theme of war, and as described at the end of ‘Themes: War’, there are the feelings of
betrayal for damaged veterans who had no services available to them to help with the psychologically damaging
effects of the war. They were also led to believe that there would be possibilities for them in their country when
they returned, but they returned to isolation.
Religion
Francis was brought up a Catholic, educated by nuns. The nuns were
strong disciplinarians at school; they were strict and punished bad
behaviour and were known to give out poor report cards.
Francis took part in church services and was an altar boy, a duty which
he took seriously, and he had to learn Latin for the mass and responses,
which he found hard to do. Francis’s feelings and decisions are strongly
governed by the Roman Catholic ethos. From the start of the book, we
know that religion affects his decisions. Francis’s Catholic upbringing
has given him an awareness of the doctrines of forgiveness and sin, and
includes the regular habit of praying and duty.
At the start of the story we learn that it is important for Francis to go to St Jude’s church. The smells associated
with the church remind him of his religious upbringing: ‘I remember the days I served as an altar boy for Father
Balthazar and the Latin responses I had trouble memorizing’ (Chapter 1, p. 5).
Francis takes his duties seriously: ‘I kneel at the communion rail and say my prayers’ (Chapter 1, p. 5). He lights a
candle and prays for all the people who have been a part of his life: Enrico, his mother and father, Nicole and
Larry LaSalle. It surprises us to find that he is praying for his enemy, someone who he plans to kill. However, the
influence of his upbringing shows that he feels that it is his duty to pray for your enemies: ‘I think again of what
Sister Gertrude taught us in the third grade, words she said came from the mouth of Jesus. Pray for your enemies,
for those who have done you harm’ (Chapter 1, p. 5).
The greatest challenge to his faith comes when he has to acknowledge his feelings of guilt and sense of betrayal
after the incident with Nicole. To him, this is a sin – he did not help her when she needed him. He has betrayed
her. Later in the narrative, when he goes to the top of St Jude’s steeple, he thinks his actions through and decides
that to commit suicide would bring shame upon his family. It would be the worst sin of all. This thought governs
his motive to enlist for the war. Jumping on the grenade is his attempt to die. After surviving this, he fuels his
feelings with his sense of ‘mission’ – to kill Larry, and then himself. In his eyes, they are both sinners. In Chapter
14 he tells Larry to say his prayers when he intends to shoot him.
The Roman Catholic ethos is also of great importance within the community of Frenchtown. This is shown with St
Jude’s Church and the convent’s place there. Francis lives in a strict religious community; the Church and the
Catholic nuns influence beliefs and values. Everyone is aware of sin, guilt, the need to confess and forgiveness.
The steeple is important as it is the place where Francis nearly ends his own life. It is only whilst up there that he
reconsiders whilst thinking of the consequences of his actions and the shame that it would bring on his family.
Francis and Nicole can be compared because their lives change as a result of the same event; they become
isolated by it and their lives are strongly influenced by the Catholic faith. The younger Nicole spent time with the
nuns at the convent, and then became a volunteer with the Monument Red Cross. After the incident, she moved
away and Francis tracks her down to the convent of the Sisters of the Holy Spirit.
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Disfigurement and Disability
The sense of betrayal that veterans suffer as a result of the war has been
discussed in earlier sections. Cormier presents the contrast between the
opportunities available to the able-bodied, and those who have suffered with
disfigurement (Francis) and disability (Enrico and Larry).
Francis, Enrico and Larry all consider suicide on a regular basis. For Francis,
it is an inevitable ending to his ‘mission’ although it is ambiguous whether
or not he committed suicide at the end of the novel. Throughout the novel,
he is treated as an outsider in the community which he fought to protect –
particularly with people who see him and do not know his circumstances.
Enrico plans to dispose of himself as soon as the opportunity arises – to him, this is the only opportunity
he has left. When Francis confronts Larry, we soon learn that his former life as a youth worker and
dancer are over – his legs are damaged. They all suffer psychologically and there is no outlet for them as
nobody talks about the realities of war.
Chapter 10 reveals Francis’s suffering in
society, as a result of his appearance:
To do
Consider the following questions in
‘...became aware of people coming upon me
relation to current media.
and turning away, or giving me wide walking
•
How is disability perceived in today’s society?
space’ (Chapter 10, p. 54). It is inevitable that
•
Is it prominent in today’s media?
Francis is psychologically damaged as a result
•
How is disfigurement perceived?
•
Is it prominent in today’s media?
of the experience of losing his face, but also
because of the daily reactions of people to him.
He says that he does not care if he heals or not. This could refer to his facial injuries, or to the
psychological damage. Either way, he dismisses it: ‘it doesn’t matter’ (Chapter 10, p. 55).
Loss
Francis’s love of Nicole leads to his loss and feelings of suffering – the night at the Wreck Centre changes
both Francis and Nicole’s lives forever. After the event, Nicole and her family leave Frenchtown and back
in the present Francis misses her – he goes to her old house. He also misses their innocent relationship
and the good times which they shared together.
After the attack Francis’s feelings change to guilt and despair; the experience leads to a loss of
innocence for both of them. Nicole suffers during and after Larry’s attack, and becomes angry as a result
of the betrayal. When Francis finally sees her at the convent she is like a different person to him – it
becomes clear that the old Nicole is gone now and she admits that she is trying to find her identity. She
is thinking ahead to her future, and considering her sense of self.
Francis’s inward suffering and feelings of loss lead to the loss of his face after his suicide attempt. His
loss is linked with his identity. The contrasting chapters dramatically show how much his identity
changes – from the innocent youth in Frenchtown to the disfigured veteran who returns from the war.
His experiences and past relationships have shaped his identity and choices in the present.
On a physical level, Francis’s exterior injuries not only relate to his sense of inward loss, but they also
lead to his daily suffering and isolation. In contrast to his younger self, Francis does not even feel like he
has anything in common with the veterans at the St Jude’s Club – his changed identity now links with his
secret mission. He also suffers because of the way that he is perceived and treated by the public – he
does not blame people when they react badly. People are only interested in him on the street out of
either pity or curiosity.
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Community
Before the war, Francis and Nicole were perceived as members of a close-knit community – the school
community and the community of the Wreck Centre. There is also the Frenchtown community. Chapter 2
details about life in Frenchtown: what the houses were like, the daily lives of the inhabitants, the
importance of baseball to the town, and their team, the Frenchtown Tigers. This is a community which
values heroes and champions – Arthur is respected as a former baseball player before the war, and we see
the community response to Larry when he returns for his Homecoming. Like most communities, rumours
circulate – first about Larry’s mysterious past, and then about the possibility of disguised Nazis in
Frenchtown. It is therefore inevitable that Francis would hear about Larry’s second return sooner or later.
Also, like other communities, Frenchtown changes during the war. With the disappearance of young
men on the streets, women fill their roles and Francis works in Mr Laurier’s shop every week.
The incident with Larry changes all this for Francis and Nicole; although Francis moves out of the
Frenchtown community to go to war, and becomes a member of the veteran community, he is isolated
by his feelings of guilt and despair. This contrasts with the innocence of the early days which he
describes. He also suffers feelings of loneliness after the war. Similarly, although Nicole leaves the
community of Frenchtown, she becomes a member of the Convent’s community at the end. However,
she also experiences isolation as she does not tell anyone about what happened to her.
After the war we see Francis with the veterans at the St Jude’s Club. Although he is there, it is to gain
information about Larry LaSalle. He does not feel a part of the camaraderie there.
Overall, there is a sharp contrast between the safety and comfort Francis feels as a child who is part of a
close-knit community, and the isolation and depression he feels when he returns to it as an outsider.
Initially Frenchtown seems to be an idyllic place, where everybody knows and cares for each other. Yet
later it becomes clear that there is a darker side to this. Frenchtown is a community closed to outsiders
and stuck in its ways. There are accepted modes of behaviour and beliefs that nobody dares to
challenge. For example, Larry LaSalle is such a revered character that Nicole and Francis feel compelled
to obey him even when he is violating their trust. Not only that, but Nicole does not feel able to tell
anyone – even the police – because she feels that she is unlikely to be believed. Once an idea has
established itself in Frenchtown, little can be done to change it. This is why superstitions and traditions
last for so long there, and change comes so slowly.
Heroes is a novel which simultaneously illustrates both the safety and narrow-mindedness a close-knit
community can create.
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Isolation
We already know that the war had both physical and psychological effects on Francis. It has affected him
on the inside and the outside, and although his skin starts to slowly heal, he reveals that he does not
care whether he heals or not. This is tragic to hear, especially when we build up a picture of the younger
Francis who loved Nicole and was very shy, when he was younger.
However, his lack of action to save Nicole created the feelings of guilt which led to him going to war in
the first place. Francis spends a lot of time alone, brooding over his thoughts, and he always uses his
imagination. He tends to glamorise events, so that they are more like in films than reality: going to war,
his images of Larry at war, his descriptions of his dates with Nicole. It is only at the end of the novel that
we learn he is accepting the grim realities of war and the way that injured veterans are treated in
society.
We know that Francis’s isolation contrasts with the sense of community before it and this is effectively
shown through the juxtaposition of the chapters – they contrast each other regularly, highlighting
Francis’s current situation in relation to past events. We also learn that he is lonely – even before the
pivotal events, the loneliness of his tenement with his quiet uncle leads him to the Wreck Centre. Also
he has no mum and dad to confide in – perhaps if he had a family member that he could reveal his
thoughts and feelings to, he might not have resorted to such extreme thoughts and actions, like going to
the top of St. Jude’s steeple to commit suicide. He talked to Dr Abrams and Enrico in the hospitals but
when he returned to Frenchtown he was alone again.
Francis is very sensitive, to the point that he can even understand other people’s reactions to his
appearance. He feels like he is doing them a favour by covering himself up. Also he romanticises the
description of himself, again showing his tendency to idealise situations: ‘I feel like a spy in disguise as I
walk the streets of Frenchtown...’ (Chapter 3, p. 13).
His feelings of isolation are also shown at the St Jude’s Club: ‘Others join in the laughter, creating a
camaraderie in the bar, a fellowship I wish I could be part of’. As they talk about their futures, Francis
feels as if he does not have one. He feels out of place there, and his concealed appearance contrasts
with the other men. They respect his anonymity because he gained his physical injuries from the war.
This allows him to keep a concealed identity.
We realise how Nicole has also suffered with isolation over the years, when Francis goes to see her at
the end: ‘Who was I going to tell? My mother and father? It would have killed them, ruined them
forever. Or maybe my father would have killed him, which would have been even worse. The police? He
was a big war hero. He didn’t beat me up. No visible wounds. So, I didn’t tell anybody. [...] I think they
were afraid to ask questions’ (Chapter 16, p. 86). Nicole’s description of her isolation reveals how she
felt that she could not tell anyone; Larry’s status as a war hero would make it difficult to approach even
the community police. She did not even tell her parents, in case her dad tried to kill him. The only other
person who knew was Francis, and he had left to enlist.
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Sin
Francis is heavily influenced by the doctrines of his religion, the Catholic faith. This affects him when he
considers committing suicide after his lack of action to help Nicole. However he is aware that those of the
faith consider it to be a sin, and he does not wish to bring shame on his family name.
Francis and Larry discuss sin when Francis challenges him about what he did to Nicole. Larry responds:
‘Everybody sins, Francis. The terrible thing is that we love our sins. We love the thing that makes us evil’
(Chapter 14, p. 76). Larry accepts his sin of loving sweet young things and he does not show any regret for it.
He accepts his sin; therefore it relieves him of any responsibility.
When Francis continues to challenge him, he responds: ‘Does that one sin of mine wipe away all the good things?’
Francis does not have an answer and there is no answer presented in the novel. It is for the reader to decide.
However, for Francis it is simpler. In his eyes, both he and Larry are sinners and should die. He believes that
there is no forgiveness for either of them.
Guilt
Francis’s feelings of guilt become more noticeable as he narrates the story. His words reveal his feelings of
guilt; the burden is there, and there is no relief from it. It is only as the narrative unravels, that we become
aware of why he feels this way. His guilt leads him on a mission of destruction – firstly, his intention was to die
straightaway, then he went to war to die, then he returned to find Larry and kill him, then himself. His ‘hero’
labelling is horrible for Francis, as his act of suicide is misinterpreted as a brave act of heroism in the public eye.
Possibly, the whole extremity of his thoughts and actions could have been relieved if he had had somebody
to talk to about his feelings of guilt, but this was not so. Instead, his isolation fuels his feelings of guilt and
thoughts of his mission.
We also learn that Francis is haunted in his dreams by his murder of two young German soldiers. He explains
how ‘the next day, the grenade blows my face away’ (Chapter 3, p. 20). At this point, we do not know that it
is an attempted suicide, but by the end of the novel we can consider that the guilt from his inaction to help
Nicole, followed by his murder of the two German soldiers, leads to him jumping on the grenade.
Francis’s guilt and immediate self-loathing became apparent after the event with Nicole. He feels that he
deserves to suffer: ‘glad for the heat that was so relentless, as if it was part of the hell I had earned’ (Chapter
12, p. 66). When he finally has the chance to see Nicole, she tells him: ‘ “You didn’t do anything.” The
accusation in her voice was worse than the harshness.’ (Chapter 12, p. 66). After Nicole makes it clear that they
no longer have a relationship, he goes to the top of the church to kill himself.
It is these events which lead to Francis’s mission to kill Larry, then himself: ‘What’s one more death after the
others in the villages and fields of France? The innocent faces of the two young Germans appear in my mind.
But Larry LaSalle is not innocent’ (Chapter 14, p. 72). He is driven by his desire to avenge Nicole.
However when he confronts Larry, he does not find the process as easy as he thought he would. He admits
his own guilty feelings to Larry when he tells him that he stood by and did nothing to stop him. His stark
words carry the weight of the guilt which he feels. Larry tries to take away Francis’s guilty feelings: ‘Oh,
Francis. You’re too hard on yourself. You didn’t do anything you should feel guilty about, that should make
you want to die. You couldn’t have stopped me, anyway, Francis. You were just a child...’ (Chapter 14, p. 76).
Larry’s words show the extent to which Francis has been punishing himself.
Francis leaves Larry to kill himself, but Larry does not do this because of any feelings of guilt. He contrasts
with Francis as he accepts his sin of being drawn to young girls. His motive is that he too has been damaged
physically and psychologically by the war.
By the end of the novel Francis has been forgiven by Nicole for his betrayal. The question is whether or not he
can forgive himself and move on with his life. Francis is greatly disappointed by their parting, as he knows that
they will not see each other again; however it was vital for him to see Nicole to gain some form of ‘closure.’
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Responsibility
Larry abuses his position as a youth worker and teacher after he gains the local community’s trust. He is
held in high esteem by everybody from the first day of arrival. Even the dark rumours about his past do
not shake the public’s opinion of him; as Francis describes, the mysterious edge adds to his glamour.
Larry takes advantage of his position of responsibility when he tells Francis to leave by telling him that
he has some news for Nicole. This is deliberately misleading; Larry manipulates Francis, taking
advantage of his trust. He reveals that: ‘we always did what Larry LaSalle told us to do’ (Chapter 11, p.
62). By getting Francis to leave, Larry abuses his power by betraying Francis’s trust.
In the penultimate chapter Nicole tells Francis, ‘I shouldn’t have said those things to you that day on the
piazza. You weren’t to blame for what happened. I realised that later and went to your Uncle Louis’
place but found out that you’d enlisted’ (Chapter 16, p. 84). Nicole reveals that she realised back then
that Francis was not to blame. Tragically, we realise that events may have turned out differently if
Francis had not enrolled – if Nicole had spoken to him then, he may have accepted that he was not to
blame for his part. Francis takes on the responsibility for his part in the event, unlike Larry, who refuses
to. Instead, Larry acknowledges and accepts his sins. Unlike Francis, he does not punish himself for his
own wrongdoings, yet neither does he seem to make any attempts to rectify his behaviour.
Two questions for the reader to consider are: do you think that Francis would have still gone to war if he
knew that Nicole thought that he wasn’t responsible? Would Nicole still have left Frenchtown after she
had talked things through with Francis?
Forgiveness
By the end, Nicole has forgiven Francis, but he hasn’t forgiven himself. Her forgiveness of Francis is part
of his healing process, and with reflection he may change. In the penultimate chapter, she tells him: ‘I’m
sorry about one thing,’ she says. ‘What I did to you that day’ (Chapter 16, p. 84). Time has passed and
Nicole has had time to think about events, and she forgives Francis for his inaction at the time. She is
also sorry about the way that she treated him that day: ‘I shouldn’t have said those things to you that
day on the piazza. You weren’t to blame for what happened. I realised that later and went to your Uncle
Louis’ place but found out that you’d enlisted.’ (Chapter 14, p. 84). She reveals that she realised back
then that Francis was not to blame.
Although she initially felt betrayed by him, she is eventually able to recognise that the responsibility was
not his. She tells him he is forgiven and tries to help him to forgive himself. It is significant that Nicole
does not seek retribution, and is content to simply concentrate on healing her own wounds.
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Appearance and Reality
The contrast of appearance and reality links with the themes of heroes and war. With heroes, there is a
big discrepancy between the idealised version of the hero in the public eye, and the real heroes
described by Francis and Arthur. Similarly, there is a discrepancy between the
appearance of war in newsreel and on film, which does not match the horrific
reality of it, which the veterans experienced. The void is never filled as the
veterans do not talk about it.
The characters of Francis and Larry both show the difference between the
image of a wartime hero and the reality behind one. With Larry we learn that
behind his heroic exterior lies a flaw which he refuses to accept responsibility
for. Similarly Francis gains a Silver Star but we learn that his supposed heroic
act was actually a suicide attempt. In this sense, nothing is as it seems.
Francis’s facial injuries are a symbol of his bravery according to Larry, which he should
show with pride. This leads to Francis revealing this ‘deception’ to him – that he feels
the wounds are not from bravery at all. The confrontation between the two men
brings us very complex issues – for Larry, it is whether his sin should wipe out all his
other good deeds and for Francis, the question of whether he really is a hero or not.
Francis reveals his own confused feelings about it when he tells Nicole: ‘ “I don’t
know what a hero is anymore, Nicole.” I think of Larry LaSalle and his Silver Star. And
my own Silver Star, an act of cowardice’ (Chapter 16, p. 88). His words reveal his
confusion about what makes a real hero and heroes, and the reality behind it.
To do
The confrontation between Francis and Larry is important because not only does it depict a
revelation for Larry when Francis tells him that he knows what Larry did to Nicole at the Wreck
Centre, but it also explores many of the themes which have been explored throughout the novel.
Which themes are explored when Francis confronts Larry?
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Love
Love is presented in different ways in ‘Heroes’: romantic love, love of comrades and dark love.
Romantic love
Francis falls in love with Nicole instantly and says that she is the most
beautiful girl in the world. At first Francis feels the insecurities of young
love: she does not acknowledge him; he is shy and reluctant to talk to
her; he admires her from afar, until finally she approaches him.
Francis elevates her through his romantic descriptions: her purity is
likened to that of St Therese and he describes her body at the Wreck
Centre as she flies through the air when dancing. His language captures
the extreme intensity of his feelings for her. Francis remembers their
early courtship every Saturday at the Plymouth. He remembers small
details like a kiss and touching hands.
As their relationship develops they talk about their hopes for the future,
and Nicole even suggests that Francis should try writing. They are similar
in that they both enjoy watching films and reading books.
At Larry’s Homecoming event Francis tells her that he will never leave her. However this romance dies
after Larry’s attack and Francis’s lack of action. Her feelings are replaced by anger and bitterness; his
feelings change to guilt, betrayal and his need to avenge her.
When Francis is at war he still holds on to hope that they could have another chance to be together.
When he visits her at the convent his hopes are shattered when she makes it clear that, although she
forgives him, they could never have a future together.
Love of comrades
Soldiers become closer after experiencing the same traumatic events. Outsiders cannot understand that
there is a special form of bond between a soldier and his comrades. They are also close to one another
due to the intensity of battle and using their survival instinct. Feelings would be extreme. Francis has a
special bond with his platoon to the extent that he recites their names before he falls asleep every night.
He knows all their first and last names. He knows who were injured and who were killed. He cannot
forget them and the experiences which they had together. He remembers details.
Another example of the closeness between veterans is at the St Jude Club where there is a camaraderie
at the bar. They are close; they laugh together and discuss their future plans and the possibilities which
have become available to them now. However this is the extent of their empathising; as Arthur
drunkenly tells Francis, nobody talks about the war. Also the lifestyle of the veterans Enrico, Larry and
Francis contrasts with this, as they become isolated figures who regularly contemplate suicide.
Dark love
Larry tells Francis that everybody loves their sins. He tells him: ‘We love the thing that makes us evil’
(Chapter 14, p. 76). He reveals that he loves the ‘sweet young things’ (Chapter 14, p. 76) and Francis tells
him that it is not love. This dark love contrasts with the innocent love which the children feel towards
Larry – he is held in trust and esteem, he is respected and regarded as a hero even before he went to
war: ‘...didn’t you know that we loved you? I say. ‘You were our hero, even before you went to war. You
made us better than we were...’ (Chapter 14, p. 76).
Larry also says that everybody sins. This is how Larry justifies his sins – by acknowledging them, and
loving them. He thinks that this is acceptable, as he has also committed good deeds. He feels that he has
done enough good things to balance the fact that he loves the ‘sweet young things’ (Chapter 14, p. 76).
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Identity
The theme of identity is closely linked with appearance and reality in the novel.
Francis’s hidden identity
Francis hides his identity from the other residents in Frenchtown through his disguise. He has his
mission to accomplish, and hopes that his role as avenger will lead to some form of redemption
following Larry’s attack.
When he confronts Larry, Francis reveals his identity for the first time, since arriving in Frenchtown. He
tells Larry who he is, is honest about why he is there and that he knows about what happened that night
at the Wreck Centre.
It is only after his confrontation with Larry that he starts to reveal his identity to people: Sister Mathilde,
and then Nicole. He becomes more open about who he is and what he is doing. Does this show that he
is becoming more accepting of himself and past events?
Larry
We learn more about who Larry is as his identity gradually becomes unravelled as the story progresses.
We first hear about Larry when Francis reveals that he is going to kill him. When we gain first
impressions of Larry we find it hard to believe that this is the man whom Francis wants to kill. We are
intrigued and want to know why.
As the story progresses, Larry’s profile gradually increases through the things he does: he supports the
children at the Wreck Centre and gives them the confidence to make the most of their talents. He is also
inspiring: he is one of the first men to enlist, and other young men soon follow after him. He returns to
Frenchtown as a war hero and has everybody’s awe and respect. He gains a Silver Star and gives a
modest speech. All of these are positive attributes which are part of his identity – he has done a lot of
good deeds and they are positive aspects of his character. However, we also discover that Larry has a
dark side.
Francis and Nicole discover his dark side when he uses his power and the trust he has gained over them.
He manipulates Francis into leaving him with Nicole – a darker aspect of his character – and then rapes
her. His identity as a war hero makes it hard for Nicole to tell the police; she thinks that nobody in
Frenchtown would believe her and she could be right. Perhaps Larry relied on his public identity to be
able to conceal what he had done?
We know that he is ultimately a complex, flawed man; although he has done many good things which
are aspects of his identity, he has also committed a sin a number of times. This dark side – also
rumoured within the community – is a hidden aspect of his identity, which, when confronted, he shows
no remorse about, only acceptance.
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Suffering
Francis suffers throughout the novel. From the beginning when we are introduced to him, we learn of
his horrific experiences at war, and the damage to his face as a result. He suffers because he is isolated
from others because of his disfigurement, and he is isolated in terms of needing to conceal his identity
and complete his mission.
Francis also suffered as a young boy – he lost his parents at an early age, and lived with his Uncle Louis.
He suffers with low self-esteem and describes how he was a solitary boy. He also suffers after meeting
Nicole and falling in love with her. He suffers the pangs of unrequited love and is too shy to speak to
Nicole at first.
He suffers because of his lack of action during Nicole’s rape, and sees her feelings of betrayal in her
eyes. He even considers suicide because of his feelings of shame and guilt. His loss of Nicole makes him
suffer deeply. Does his suffering ease after his visit to Nicole? She forgives him for his lack of action.
There is a subtle indication that he may feel better at the end of the novel – he is beginning to reveal his
true identity to people, and also the weight in his bag feels more comfortable. A positive reading could
suggest that he is now comfortable with the burden of his past.
Larry suffers after the war. He returns to Frenchtown isolated and suffering from injuries. These injuries
are both psychological and physical, like Francis’s. He reveals to Francis that his dancing days are over;
he uses a crutch. He also keeps a gun and regularly contemplates suicide. The effects of war on
characters like Francis and Larry shows its negative impact and the amount of suffering which some
veterans experienced. Larry feels that he has lost his life prior to the war as he is damaged.
Although a minor character, Enrico shows the extent of suffering which war can
inflict on veterans. He has lost an arm and his legs, and plans to commit suicide as
soon as he is able to. Francis does not question this; he simply accepts it. He
understands Enrico’s motives, experiencing horrific injuries himself.
Joey LeBlanc is a war casualty. Arthur Rivier drunkenly reveals
that nobody really talks about the effects of war. The veterans
suffer, but are isolated in their suffering. Arthur wonders why
nobody talks about it.
Nicole suffers after Larry rapes her. She had relied on Francis for support and feels betrayed by him. She
refuses to see him and suffers in isolation; later, she reveals to Francis that she did not even tell her
parents. When Francis sees her she is still coming to terms with the past; she looks physically different,
Francis notices. Her hair is shorter and she seems to have lost her innocence. She helps to ease Francis’s
suffering by telling him that he should not feel guilty about that night.
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Use of Language
Cormier’s Techniques
Francis and Nicole – Francis’s language of courtly love
‘Courtly love’ was a concept reflected in literature between the 1300s and the 1500s. It was a popular
convention. An image of courtly love is a noble knight going to battle or committing heroic deeds.
Francis uses a direct comparison: ‘I knelt there like a knight at her feet, her sword having touched my
shoulder’ (Chapter 2, p. 8). The idea behind courtly love was that a man was hopelessly in love with a
beautiful, unobtainable woman whom he adored. A parallel can be made with Francis and Nicole.
Francis reveals: ‘I silently pledged her my love and loyalty forever’ (Chapter 2, p. 8). There are different
typical stages between the man and the woman. Roughly, these are: attraction when eye contact and
glances are made; worship from afar; declaration of love and devotion; rejection by the lady; renewed
wooing, and heroic deeds done to win her heart.
To do
•
•
•
•
•
Can you find examples in the text for each of the following between Francis and Nicole?
attraction when eye contact and glances are made
worship from afar
declaration of love and devotion
rejection by the lady
renewed wooing and heroic deeds done to win the lady’s heart
Francis’s language echoes feelings of a typical courtly lover in turmoil: ‘Standing at the banister in an
agony of love and longing, like a sentry on lonely guard duty, I waited for Nicole to come down the stairs
so that I could get a glimpse of her and perhaps catch her attention.’ We gradually see how Francis and
Nicole’s relationship blossoms to the courtship stage after he wins the table tennis tournament.
Winning the tournament leads to Nicole calling him her champion – she acknowledges him. He has done
a heroic deed which may have won her heart and affections.
Francis’s changing language for Larry
Francis’s first-person narration means that we get his perspective throughout. His language throughout
the text reflects his changing perception of Larry. We are confused when Francis presents him as looking
like a movie star who is full of different talents, at first.
However Francis hints at the darker side of Larry, firstly through the Frenchtown rumours about his mysterious
past. At times the language used is ominous, if subtle: ‘Larry LaSalle manipulated a spotlight’ (Chapter 7, p. 39).
Although the use of ‘manipulated’ is subtle, Francis’s words hint at Larry’s manipulative darker side.
We also see what Larry is capable of during the table tennis tournament. He manipulates the game, and
this darker side of his nature is subtly revealed through his eyes: ‘They were suddenly inscrutable,
mysterious. A shudder made me tremble...’ (Chapter 7, p. 44). This description again reminds us that
there is more to Larry than meets the eye.
The extent of Larry’s manipulation is shown when he tells Francis to leave him alone with Nicole: ‘The
words sounded false as I said them and I realized they were Larry’s words, not mine’. Francis has written
his story with the benefit of hindsight; he has reflected enough now to realise that he was manipulated
by Larry LaSalle. This is further emphasised when he describes how ‘we always did what Larry LaSalle
told us to do’ (Chapter 11, p. 62).
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Francis’s book and film references
Book and film references are another typical aspect of Francis’s style. His
narrative perspective is coloured by references to films and books. This adds
more detail and shows Francis’s imaginative ideas. Examples of film references
are when he likens himself to the Hunchback of Notre Dame and when he
compares Larry’s movements to Fred Astaire. Sometimes he makes unrealistic
comparisons between films and reality – this is apparent when he describes
the grim reality of war in Chapter 3, and reveals that this reality is nothing like
the war movies at the Plymouth.
Francis makes literary references which also colours his narrative. The reader
learns that the younger Francis loved going to the library and he reveals to
Nicole that his ambition is to read every book in the Monument Public Library.
He reveals that his favourite novel is A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway:
a love story within a wartime setting.
Cormier’s narrative style
Style is what the writer chooses to present a story; it’s not the plot, setting or the characters, but the
way in which a writer chooses to tell it. Different things combine to create effects such as choice of
narrative style, varying sentence lengths, making different paragraph choices, choosing a way of
describing something such as with a simile, or by using a particular adjective, use of imagery (pictures
created in the reader’s mind from a writer’s words) and symbolism (where a word or image can
represent something else).
First person narrative
Cormier chose to write using first person narration. He writes using the persona of Francis. All the
events which happen in the novel are seen from Francis’s perspective. This makes us feel closer to him
as we share the same experiences through his eyes. We also become used to his narrative style, which is
romantic and descriptive (such as the scenes with Nicole). However it is important to remember that the
extent to which we know the characters is as seen through Francis’s eyes. We don’t get any insight into
Nicole’s, Larry’s or any of the other characters’ feelings, only what Francis tells us from his point of view,
or what they reveal through their dialogue with Francis.
Because it is written entirely from Francis’s perspective, it is important for the reader to consider what
kind of person Francis is, as it will help to understand his perception of events. The reader should be
aware of how events could be interpreted differently from another character’s perspective, such as
Nicole’s, for example. Also the story would be different if it was told from an omniscient (all-knowing)
point of view.
? How different would the story be if it was told from a third person narrative perspective?
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Cormier’s use of sentences
Examples of the effects of different sentence lengths used by Cormier can be seen in Chapter 3.
Long descriptive sentences are used for events or to describe a situation, such as how Francis feels when
he walks the streets of Frenchtown:
I feel like a spy in disguise as I walk the streets of Frenchtown, hidden behind the scarf and the bandage, making
my way through the chilled morning, pausing on the corners, watching the people come and go, and then moving
on when I feel their eyes on me filled with either pity or curiosity.
(Chapter 3, p. 13)
In contrast, short dramatic sentences are used to create tension or suspense:
And I had not yet killed anybody
(Chapter 3, p. 15)
Cormier’s use of descriptive language
Cormier’s use of description provides more detail to both characters and settings. An example of this is
in Chapter 3, when Francis’s nightmare reminds him of his wartime experiences: ‘through the
abandoned village, ruined homes and debris-cluttered streets, our rifles ready...’ (Chapter 3, p. 18).
Tension is created through the description of the isolated village. Cormier also uses the senses when
writing his descriptions – the stench of war is shown through the soldiers’ diarrhoea.
Another example of effective description during this scene is when Francis kills the German soldiers: ‘the
head of one of the soldiers explodes like a ripe tomato...’ (Chapter 3, p. 19). The realistic descriptions
provide a more powerful emotional experience for the reader. Another emotional experience for the
reader is right at the beginning when Francis describes his face with a matter-of-fact tone: ‘I can hear
but no ears to speak of, just bits of dangling flesh’.
The attention to detail is also effective with other characters. Flashes of detail like Larry’s ‘dazzling
movie-star teeth’ (Chapter 5, p. 27) create an instant image in the reader’s mind of Larry as being
attractive. Francis’s first description of Nicole presents her in heightened terms: ‘The pale purity of her
face reminded me of the statue of St Therese’. The alliteration emphasises Francis’s perception of Nicole
as being innocent.
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Symbolism
Francis’s scarf
Links with themes of war, identity and appearance and reality
The scarf is white and silk like the aviators wore in their airplanes back during the First
World War, over the battlefields and trenches of Europe. I like to think that it flows
behind me in the wind when I walk but I guess it doesn’t.
(Chapter 1, p. 2)
Francis introduces his appearance in the first pages, and he describes the
scarf that he wears in a romantic way. However he then crushes his descriptive image by revealing that
the reality (at least, the way he sees it) is that is probably does not look this way.
The scarf that Francis uses to hide his face is symbolic. He uses it to hide from the public, but it also
hides who he is from himself. He finds it hard to come to terms with who he is and instead focuses on
his mission to kill Larry. Like Larry, he hides aspects of his identity. It is only towards the end of the novel
that Francis seems to be coming to terms with who he is now, as a result of what has happened to him.
The scarf also links with war and its effects. Francis has returned wearing this scarf with his bandage, to
conceal his damaged and changed appearance. It also helps to conceal his identity – something that is
important to Francis whilst he waits for Larry. However Francis’s mission is his way of not coming to terms
with the past events; this only happens when he confronts Larry and then visits Nicole. In this sense, his
scarf helps him to conceal from himself the truth of his past, and acceptance of it. It is a disguise.
The description has a romantic appeal; the white silk flows behind him, and he associates it with the heroic
aviators of the First World War. By the end of the novel it takes on a whole new meaning to us. It is a visual
symbol of Francis hiding his true identity, not only from everybody else, but from himself. He is a changed
person and he needs to find out who he is. He cannot do this when his disguise is used to hide truths.
Towards the end of the novel Francis starts to reveal his real identity to people he sees. This could
suggest that he could remove the bandage in the future and face his new appearance, as well as who he
has become. Francis’s concealed identity also provides a visual contrast to Larry’s dazzling looks which
conceal his darker nature.
Guns
Links with themes of identity and the effects of war
I pick up the duffel bag and sling it over my shoulder. The weight is nice and comfortable on my back ...
(Chapter 17, p. 90)
Chapter 17 is important in relation to the gun’s significance at the end of the novel. It can be interpreted
negatively – that he is still relying on the gun and that suicide is still a possibility, or it can be interpreted
positively – that the weight of the gun was a burden which Francis had to carry, but now he feels
comfortable with his burden as he moves on. The gun represents the burden of self-loathing, sin and
guilt which Francis has struggled with throughout the novel. After his encounters with Larry and Nicole,
is he ready to move on, feeling more comfortable with his burden of the past? Remember that by the
end Francis has had some experience of ‘closure’: Larry has killed himself and Nicole has forgiven him.
He has carried the gun throughout the novel and it has accompanied him on his search for Larry. It
reminds us of Francis’s mission. It also links with his wartime experiences – he killed two German
soldiers and this becomes part of his overall burden.
Francis and Larry are similar after the war because they both carry a gun and contemplate suicide. They
are both damaged physically and psychologically by the war. Larry’s motive for suicide is that he can no
longer be the person he was at a physical and psychological level. Through them, what is Cormier saying
about the effects of war?
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The Table Tennis Match
Links with themes of appearance and reality and love
Two games were being played at the same time, the sharp, take-no-prisoners game the hushed audience was
(Chapter 7, p. 44)
observing and the subtle tender game in which Larry LaSalle was letting me win.
Francis gains self-confidence with Larry’s help and through developing his skills at table tennis. The
relationship between Francis and Larry is subtly depicted through the table tennis match in Chapter 7:
Larry has power over Francis throughout the game as he subtly manipulates it and the crowd’s
reactions. Ultimately, he lets him win. Francis is aware of Larry’s actions which show that he can operate
on two levels – the surface level and perception,
and the manipulation which lies beneath.
Francis becomes the champion and
enjoys the applause from the crowds.
He sees Larry’s final actions in letting
him win as his gift to him. Larry’s skills
of manipulation, coupled with his
dark past, hint at the darker side of
Larry. They foreshadow his actions
later with Nicole.
? Is it for the reader to decide if Francis really is a true champion, despite him not really winning the match?
? Was Larry right to manipulate the situation to let Francis win by false means?
? Is this giving Francis false confidence?
These questions form an interesting basis for discussion.
The game can also be perceived as being a subtle battle for the hand of Nicole. Suspense develops in the
‘love triangle.’ After Francis has won Nicole calls him her champion.
Imagery
To do
1.
Imagery is the use of words to create images or pictures in the reader’s mind. A writer
uses imagery to make their words more powerful to the reader.
Read the following lines from the text. Cormier has written them to create a particular image in the
reader’s mind. Write out each line then draw out the image that comes to your mind:
I wear a scarf that covers the lower part of my face. The scarf is white and silk like the aviators wore in their airplanes
back in the First World War, over the battlefields and trenches of Europe. I like to think that it flows behind me in the
wind when I walk...
(Chapter 1, p. 2)
2.
I am like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, my face like a gargoyle and the duffel bag like a lump on my back.
(Chapter 1, p. 3)
3.
4.
the blue legs bulging like worms beneath her skin.
(Chapter 1, p. 3)
Standing at the banister in an agony of love and longing, like a sentry on lonely guard duty.
(Chapter 2, p. 9)
How are each of these images effective? Look at the language used, particularly the effect of specific words.
Do any more images stand out to you in particular? Why?
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Cormier’s Narrative Structure
The structure of a novel is the way in which the writer arranges the events which occur in the story (the
plot). Cormier has chosen the sequence of events: the start, middle and the end of the novel. Cormier
does not follow the conventional structure of a story where characters are introduced at the start, deal
with obstacles throughout the story and move to a resolution at the end. Instead, he uses a complex
structure which is not told in a straightforward way where one event follows the next. Tension develops
through flashbacks which reveal more information slowly, and questions are only fully answered in the
penultimate chapter.
At the start of Heroes the narrative structure is told in the present tense – just after World War Two. We
meet Francis Cassavant at the start of the novel; however, unusually, it is at the point where the
narrative is coming to the end. The story is then interspersed with narrative flashbacks which reveal
more of the plot to the reader. This way the whole story is revealed gradually, throughout the novel, but
the first chapter gives the reader the central points of the plot: that Francis is the central figure who was
disfigured in the war, and plans to murder his childhood hero, Larry LaSalle.
It is some time before Francis’s motives for his mission become clear; this builds up tension and suspense
as the reader wants to know why. Tension increases as Larry is presented in a positive light at first, which
contrasts with Francis’s reminders about how he wants him dead. This makes us question Francis’s
reasons for wanting to kill Larry at points in the novel, until we fully understand his reasons why.
The past events are important as it is vital for the reader to understand people’s present-day actions.
The flashbacks allow the reader to build up details about the characters slowly as they are gradually
revealed; through flashback, we learn more about Francis’s childhood and experiences in the war.
Tension is created through the slow release of information. This is especially significant in relation to
Larry and Nicole. The narrative structure allows Francis to move between the past and the present.
Cormier’s choice of narrative form builds suspense – we gradually learn more through flashback as
Francis chooses to reveal the information:
Chapter 1
starts in the present with Francis, then moves into flashback with
Enrico.
Chapter 2
flashback in which we learn more about Nicole’s character.
Chapter 3
moves back to the isolated dark feel of the present,
then switches to a flashback at war – the reader
discovers information about Nicole leaving
Frenchtown and suspense develops. Francis has a
dream which shows his one of his experiences at war.
Back in the present Francis vows to kill Larry.
Chapter 4
in the present; Francis is with Arthur.
Chapter 5
starts in the present as Francis visits the Wreck Centre but again the narrative moves into
the past with the description of the stories of the Wreck Centre. This chapter is significant
as we gain our first impressions of Larry LaSalle.
Chapter 6
is set in the present in St Jude’s Club as the reader learns more about the local veterans
and their opportunities.
Chapter 7
flashback to the Wreck Centre and the table tennis tournament.
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Chapter 8
is set in the present. Arthur is drunk in Pee Alley and wonders why nobody talks about the war.
Chapter 9
is set in the past and describes how Larry becomes a war hero and the changes in
Frenchtown after the war. Nicole and Francis’s relationship develops.
Chapter 10 is set in the present and focuses on Francis and his disfigurement.
Chapter 11 is set in the past and presents Larry’s homecoming followed by the rape of Nicole.
Chapter 12 is set in the past. Nicole does not forgive Francis for his inaction. He considers killing
himself but decides to die a hero’s death in the war.
Chapter 13 is set in the present. Francis overhears that Larry LaSalle has returned.
Chapter 14 is also set in the present. Francis finally
confronts Larry LaSalle.
Chapter 15 is also set in the present. Francis goes to
Sister Mathilde to find out where Nicole
is now.
Chapter 16 is also in the present. Francis goes to
see Nicole and she forgives him. The
reader’s understanding of Francis’s
past has gradually increased as the
story has continued. In this, the
penultimate chapter, all of our
questions about past events are
answered.
Chapter 17 is in the present. Francis is at the train
station; he leaves Frenchtown.
Effects of flashback in the narrative structure
We see the effects of Cormier’s narrative technique immediately in Chapter 1. From this chapter we
learn about important events in Francis’s early life. The effect of this technique is to build up suspense
by withholding certain information which the reader wants to know. It also makes it interesting for the
reader, who wants to read on. Cormier’s form also adds variety to the story.
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The Setting and its Importance to the Novel
The Wreck Centre
Chapter 5, p. 25 and 26
The Wreck Centre is boarded up and abandoned now, the words FRENCHTOWN REC.
CENTRE faded and barely visible above the front door. The door’s red paint has turned a faint
(Chapter 5, p. 25)
sickly pink.
To do
How does Francis’s description present the appearance of
the Wreck Centre in a negative way? Comment on his use of
language.
It’s a bad luck place, people had said. A place of doom, others added.
How do Francis’s words set up tension?
(Chapter 5, p. 25)
The Wreck Centre building has an aura of bad luck and a sense of tragedy. This is because of the story of the
shooting which happened there. The Frenchtown community tell the story as part of their history. The original
story centred on love, betrayal and ruined lives and this foreshadows what happens there in the future.
...until the wedding of Marie-Blanche Touraine. Marie-Blanche married a handsome Irisher by the name of
Dennis O’ Brien from the Plains, North Monument, after breaking off her engagement to Hervey Rochelle, the
shipping room foreman at the Monument Comb Shop. At the reception, during a pause between the dinner and
the dancing, as Marie-Blanche and Dennis cut the wedding cake, Hervey burst into the hall, a gun blazing in his
hands. A moment later, Marie-Blanche lay bloody and dying in her wedding gown. A bullet entered Dennis
O’Brien’s spine, leaving him paralysed for the rest of his life. Hervey hanged himself that evening in the tool shed
(Chapter 5, pp. 25–26)
behind the comb shop.
As a result of these events, the door was sealed and the windows shuttered. It became a ghost story. When
the Wreck Centre is finally reopened, it is significant that things go wrong when men work on re-establishing
the building.
What kinds of things go wrong?
The Wreck Centre is a pun (a play on words). Firstly, the name was shortened from ‘Recreation Centre’ to
‘Rec Centre’ and then eventually it became ‘Wreck Centre’ because of the past tragedy there. Eventually, we
learn that the lives of Francis, Nicole and Larry are wrecked after what happened there.
Before the war, the ‘Wreck’ Centre is the place which is the centre of the lives of Francis, Larry and Nicole.
This is the place where we see the best and the worst of Larry: at best, we see him encourage children to
develop their talents with confidence, direct musicals and arrange competitions. However this is the place
where he rapes Nicole.
How does the tragic story of the past link with the tragedy with Nicole?
It’s also important to remember that the Wreck Centre is the place where a lot of children develop their
confidence and talents under Larry’s guidance. The Wreck Centre gives Francis a home – somewhere where
he feels that he belongs. Life at home is very quiet and lonely for him, with his Uncle Louis.
Frenchtown
Cormier creates a vivid setting for Francis’s home town. He describes everyday life and people and his
descriptions run throughout the text. The reader is given names of specific streets for characters such as
Mrs. Belander and Nicole’s old family house. We discover that Marie LaCroix lived in the same building as
Francis. A sense of community is developed and there are central buildings which are of importance: St.
Jude’s Church, St. Jude Club and the Wreck Centre. The local children hang out at the Wreck Centre regularly
and they also visit the cinema on Saturday afternoons. Francis likes to go there and his regular Saturday
afternoon dates with Nicole are at the cinema.
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To do
Writing in Role Exercises
These tasks are designed to encourage you to think more deeply about each of the main characters.
Writing as if you are these characters will allow you to empathise with them – or not. You should think
about how Francis might feel after he has enlisted for the war, how Larry might feel after just reopening
the Wreck Centre and how Nicole might feel when she has just moved to Frenchtown. For Francis, is it
important to remember that he has a naïve view of war when he enlists, mainly based on films and
newsreel.
Francis
You are Francis
You have just enlisted for the war
Write down your thoughts and feelings:
These might include:
• How you managed to enlist underage
• Why you have decided to do this
• What you think the war will be like
• How you feel now that Nicole will not talk to you
Larry
You are Larry
You have just reopened the Wreck Centre
Write down your thoughts and feelings:
These might include:
• What your first impressions are of the children in Frenchtown
• What you remember about growing up in Frenchtown and your own dance lessons
• Why you want to inspire these children and help them to bring out the best in themselves
Nicole
You are Nicole
You have just moved to Frenchtown and experienced your first day at school
Write down your thoughts and feelings:
These might include:
• How nervous you feel about a new school
• What you thought about Francis when you saw him in class for the first time
• What you plan to do next at school: for example, are you going to become friends with Marie
LaCroix?
• What you plan to do
• Whether you had suspicions about Larry before what he did
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Use of ‘Point Evidence Explain’ when Describing Characters
You will be aware of the skill of point evidence explain as it’s important to use when you’re writing
about texts. For example if you were asked to write about how Francis is presented at the start of the
novel then you should use the structure of PEE to help you to write an answer. Here’s a reminder of PEE:
P: point
E: evidence
E: explain
Here’s a more detailed explanation with an example:
P: a point is made:
Francis’s first-person narration begins with shocking descriptions about the damage that has
been done to his face.
E: evidence – a quotation is provided to support the point:
I keep a bandage on the space where my nose used to be. The bandage reaches the back of my head and is kept in
place with a safety pin.
(Chapter 1, p. 2)
E: explain – a comment is made in some more detail, maybe on a particular word or group of words in
your quotation:
Francis’s matter-of-fact tone makes his descriptions more shocking to read. The visual image
of a bandage shows the extent to which he conceals his face.
Now, imagine that you take away the PEE scaffolding:
Francis’s first-person narration begins with shocking descriptions about the damage that has
been done to his face: ‘I keep a bandage on the space where my nose used to be. The bandage
reaches the back of my head and is kept in place with a safety pin.’ Francis’s matter-of-fact
tone makes his descriptions more shocking to read. The visual image of a bandage shows the
extent to which he conceals his face.
You can see that this is a paragraph which provides a small part of an answer to the question ‘How is
Francis presented at the start of the novel?’ To make a longer answer you could use more paragraphs
for different points, using PEE. Here’s an example of how a longer answer would gradually form from
your writing. The question is still how is Francis presented at the start of the novel?
P: Francis uses a lot of detail to describe his facial disfigurement:
E: My teeth are gone but my jaw is intact and my gums are firm so it’s possible for me to wear dentures. (Chapter 1, p. 1)
E:
Francis’s simple use of language continues to describe his facial changes in a matter-of-fact tone.
P: Francis reveals that his scarf and the bandage work for him on two levels; to hide his
E:
E:
disfigurement and to hide his identity.
...the scarf and the bandage were working in two ways: not only to hide the ugliness of what used to be my face, but to
hide my identity (Chapter 1, p. 3).
Francis’s words make the reader want to know why Francis hides his identity. Is it because
he is ashamed of his looks? Or is it for another reason? This creates suspense and makes
the reader want to know more about Francis’s motives.
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To do
Writing Activity
How does the presentation of Larry change as the novel progresses?
This activity focuses on how Larry changes throughout the novel.
Look at the PEE framework below. Notice that it’s there three times for three different points. If you’re
unsure about your points think about your opinions about Larry and how he is presented at different points
in the novel. Some ideas should come to mind which relate to Larry. Remember that this would only form
the beginning of a full essay answer in exam conditions. Copy the framework below to help you to
structure an answer.
P: We first hear about Larry when Francis describes how he is going to kill him. He goes to church
and prays for Larry:
E:
‘So I offer up an ‘Our Father’ and ‘Hail Mary’ and ‘Glory Be’ for Larry LaSalle. Then I am filled
with guilt and shame, knowing that I just prayed for the man I am going to kill.’ (Chapter 1, p. 6)
E:
Francis’s words reveal the strong religious beliefs which influence his feelings, as he is ‘filled with
guilt and shame’ about praying for Larry.
NB: For ‘explain’ don’t forget to comment on the language used in the quotation which you have chosen.
You could comment on a particular word or a phrase.
P: It is a surprise to the reader when Francis describes Larry for the first time in Chapter 5.
There is tension between the positive descriptions of Larry’s appearance and the fact that
Francis wants to kill him. We are not sure what to think about Larry at this stage in the novel.
E:
‘(...) a lock of blond hair tumbling over his forehead, a smile that revealed dazzling movie-star
teeth.’ (Chapter 5, p. 27)
E:
The ‘blond hair’ and ‘movie-star’ smile make it hard for us to believe that this man is a threat;
tension is created as we wonder why Francis wants to kill him.
Now complete this last one, and remember to comment on your quotation.
P:
E:
‘He was also a dancer, with a touch of Fred Astaire in his walk, his feet barely touching the
floor.’ (Chapter 5, p. 27)
E:
Remember that the focus of the question is: how does the presentation of Larry change as the novel
progresses?
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What other points would you make with reference to how Larry changes throughout the novel? Write
down your own points (at least six), and remember to refer to key points in the novel where there is a
noticeable change with regard to Larry’s character. The key is that our full understanding of Larry as a
character only comes about towards the end of the novel. Only then can we make a full judgment about
him.
If you’re unsure about what to do or have run out of ideas have a look this example for Larry
(without PEE in the margin):
Larry’s powerful influence is shown through Francis’s language:
‘I stood spellbound by his words.’
The word ‘spellbound’ suggests that Larry has such control over him that he is transfixed by what
he has to say, and does not question it. This is the effect Larry has gained over all the children in
the Wreck Centre (Chapter 7, p. 58).
Now look at these points about how Larry changes throughout the course of the novel (after the
introduction to him from Francis’s perspective in Chapter 5). Did you get similar ones?
He was most of all a teacher [...] musical shows
(Chapter 5, p. 27)
...there were dark hints that he had ‘gotten into trouble’ in New York City
(Chapter 5, p. 29)
Lt. LaSalle Earns Silver Star
(Chapter 6, p. 33)
His final gift to me
(Chapter 7, p. 44)
Shows Larry’s talents
Larry’s dark past is hinted at by Francis early on
We learn that Larry is also a war hero and gets a toast from the veterans in the St Jude Club
The tension between Francis and Larry escalates until we see that Larry subtly manipulates the
tournament, letting Francis win
We always did what Larry LaSalle told us to do
(Chapter 11, p. 62)
Does that one sin of mine wipe away all the good things?
(Chapter 14, p. 77)
Francis reveals how Larry manipulated the children subtly to get what he wants
After Francis has challenged Larry he questions him about whether or not his flaw should cancel out all
the other good things which he has done
Tips for Improvement
 If you’re unsure what to write at first it might help if you start with the quotation. Writing it could
get you thinking about any points that you would like to make and/ or you might notice a key word
in the quotation which you would like to use for your explanation!
 Remember that the focus of the passage is Larry. When you are in an exam situation, you may lose your
focus so always reread the question so that you are aware of what the question is asking you to do.
 Don’t be tempted to make your paragraphs long by over quoting from the text (this means when
you copy out long chunks of the text). The marker of your work will not be fooled and you want to
put down your ideas and responses!
 Embedding quotations is a sophisticated way of expressing your points. You might find that this might
come naturally to you or you may want to practise writing in this way. Obviously don’t embed all of
your quotations but sometimes embedding a quotation helps your writing to ‘flow’ more naturally.
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To do
Revising PEE
In order to write well and develop your points, you need to be confident with using PEE and finding
quotations from the text.
Copy and complete this practice page for PEE. Different parts of the PEE chain are missing:
1.
Francis is on a mission to kill Larry LaSalle.
‘ .......................................................................................................................................................................................
....................................................................................................................................................................................... ’
This line reveals .......................................................................................................................................................
........................................................................................................................................................................................
2.
The Wreck Centre is a place of bad luck and doom.
‘ .......................................................................................................................................................................................
....................................................................................................................................................................................... ’
This line shows .........................................................................................................................................................
........................................................................................................................................................................................
3.
........................................................................................................................................................................................
........................................................................................................................................................................................
‘a smile that revealed dazzling movie-star teeth.’ (Chapter 5, p. 27)
This line shows .........................................................................................................................................................
........................................................................................................................................................................................
Now make up your own PEE paragraphs for the following points. Try and use embedded quotations
for one or two:
• Francis is in love with Nicole
• Larry has a mysterious past
• Francis suffers with feelings of guilt
• Nicole has changed when Francis visits her at the end of the novel
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Exam Preparation
Exam Information
Read the information about the syllabus which applies to you
WJEC
 You will be entered for the Higher or Foundation paper
 Exam Unit 2: Section A. Individual Texts in Context: Literary Heritage Drama and Contemporary
Prose
 AO 1, 2 and 4
 This paper requires study of a drama text from the English/Irish/Welsh literary heritage and a
contemporary prose text. It will require candidates to answer two questions on each text.
 In each case the first question part (i) will require close reading of an extract
 The second question will offer a choice of tasks parts (ii) and (iii) relating to the text as a whole
Edexcel
 You will be entered for the Higher or Foundation paper
 Exam Unit 1. Understanding Prose Literary Heritage and Different Cultures
 AO 1, 2 and 4
 Two questions set; students answer one question. 4-part question (Literary Heritage) or bulleted
essay question (Different Cultures).
 The focus of this unit is: the study of one text from the Literary Heritage and the study of one text
from Different Cultures and Traditions.
 Students will have the opportunity to: develop and sustain independent interpretations of whole
texts, supporting them with detailed textual references, and relate texts to their social and historical
contexts and to the literary traditions of which they are a part and understand how the text chosen
from literary heritage has been influential and significant over time.
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General Guidance on Writing Essays
This section is for any essay, so it is important to read it before you focus on specific exam questions.
This is a reminder to help you with your essay writing skills. You should already have had experience of
writing essays, and this section is divided up into five sections:
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Planning
Writing an introduction
Writing the main part of your essay
Writing a conclusion
Tips for writing better essays
Planning
Before you plan, you should underline and examine the key words in the question. This will enable you
to focus on what the examiner as looking for and it will help you to prepare an answer.
Jot down any immediate ideas and read through the passage related to the question, if necessary.
Brainstorm an essay plan. If it helps put the question or the key words in the middle of the page. If you
have time, number your points in the order which you think is best for each paragraph in your essay.
Some pupils prefer to use bullet points.
Also note down any quotations which you think support your points. You should have a number of
points for your essay – four or five.
Remember to include page numbers for any quotations which you will use as they will be used as
evidence for your points.
Writing an introduction
An introduction is usually short and to the point. Addressing the question focus is a good idea and you
should introduce your ideas or arguments. With reference to Heroes you may want to bring in the
‘Different Cultures’ aspect, depending on the nature of the question. If you have some information about
Cormier which could link to the question, it would be good to use this. Similarly you may be answering a
question on how heroes are presented in the novel. This is where historical and literary context become
important. Remember to address the key words and focus of the exam question overall.
Writing the main part of your essay
After writing your introduction you may be feeling more confident. It’s important to have your plan
close to hand at this stage. You should now work through your plan creating a structured argument by
following each point.
If you have numbered your points, this may help you – or you could number them after writing your
introduction. You may prefer to work through your plan naturally, adding and crossing out different points.
Be aware of timing, however; you don’t want to still be working on the main part towards the end of
your time. Timing is essential; don’t dwell on one part for too long.
The structure of each paragraph could follow PEE, and if you have practised this regularly then you will
find that your writing flows naturally whilst following this form. Remember that for each paragraph the
quality of your analysis will be assessed.
Remember to keep quotations short and to comment on the effects of words and phrases in your
explanation. Look at good answers and be aware of what grade they received and why. Look at your
own past essays, their grades and how they could be improved.
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Writing a conclusion
After working through your main points your conclusion should be short and concise, like your introduction.
The conclusion should sum up the main points you have made and refer back to the question.
Tips for writing better essays
Read essays which have gained the grade that you are aiming for; look at what makes that particular
essay effective and consider how your own writing can improve to meet that target. Look at the
following in particular:
• how the introduction is approached and how the points are developed throughout the essay
• how the essay maintains its focus on the question throughout
• how quotations are used and to what effect: for example, does the writer use embedded
quotations to support their points at all?
• how effectively the essay is concluded
Information about the question
With a passage-based question, some
pupils may find it easier to actually
read the question first, so that they
know what they are focussing on
when they read the passage. This
saves time so that you don’t read the
passage twice. Also underlining the
focus of the question helps.
To do
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.
Answer these questions:
What should you focus on in the question?
What is the passage?
What is a text’s ‘historical context’?
How many points should you roughly aim for in your essay?
How should you sum up your main points?
Using bullet points and spider diagrams
Spider diagrams are helpful for getting ideas down and maintaining focus when writing. It’s also
something to refer back to and you don’t have to use all your ideas in it. You may even change your
mind about some. They may just be a starting point and may progress as you start writing. You may
choose to add to your diagram as you’re writing.
After studying your question, it’s helpful to write down as many ideas as you can in relation to the question.
You can also jot down any particular quotations or sections that you’re planning to use later. It’s an effective
way of making notes but remember to keep your focus on the question’s key words and phrases.
When to use bullet points and spider diagrams
If your essay title requires you to write about a character, theme or any aspect of a text then you could
use one.
Making notes on each character
Make notes on each main character and focus on:
• what they say
• what they do
• what other characters say about them
• any physical descriptions
• the way that they interact with other characters
• how they develop – do they change throughout the
course of the novel?
For this activity you will need to go through the text
looking at the parts where your particular character
features or is discussed by other characters.
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To do
Apply your own planning technique to the
following characters:
• Francis
• Nicole
• Larry
Remember to support your ideas on your
diagram with quotations as much as possible.
Further planning activities for revision:
• Different themes in the text
• Different settings in the text
© ZigZag Education, 2010
How you will be graded
You will be assessed on your ability to read and show your writing ability through the three different
assessment objectives at the start of this pack. You may choose to remind yourself about what these are.
Remember that it’s important that you can express your points imaginatively, show a good knowledge
of the text and its context, and possess a critical awareness of the writer’s language and techniques. To
prepare for this you should have read the novel at least twice, and be aware of it in relation to themes,
characters, culture, imagery, settings and the writer’s ideas. Here’s a taster of the level of expectation
for each grade boundary:
To achieve A* you will:
provide an insightful exploration of Heroes, analysing detail closely. You will
evaluate Cormier’s language and provide an imaginative interpretation of
ideas, themes and settings in the novel.
To achieve A you will:
explore Heroes using detail to support your ideas. You will analyse Cormier’s
use of language and its effects.
To achieve B you will:
provide a considered response which uses details. You will consider
Cormier’s use of language and its effects.
To achieve C you will:
respond to Heroes using details and you will comment on the effects of
Cormier’s language.
To achieve D you will:
provide an explained response to Heroes using details to support your
comments.
To achieve E you will:
provide a response which will have supportive details for your comments,
although they may be general.
However it’s important to know what your particular assessment board is looking for in relation to the
particular grade you’re aiming for. You should become familiar with the criteria for this grade and also
look for example answers which are available and meet your target grade.
Also remember that you will be entered for either the Higher or the Foundation paper.
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Sample Exam Questions
WJEC
Higher
Answer part (i) and either part (ii) or part (iii).
You are advised to spend about 20 minutes on part (i), and about 40 minutes on part (ii) or part (iii).
(i)
Read the extract below. Then answer the following question:
With close reference to the extract, how does Cormier’s choice of language present the war?
[10]
I close my eyes and see them advancing in scattered groups through the abandoned village,
ruined homes and debris-cluttered streets, our rifles ready, late afternoon shadows obscuring
the windows and doorways and the alley entrances, and we are all tense and nervous and
scared because the last gunfire seemed peaceful and vacant until sudden gunfire from
snipers erupted from those windows and doorways and cut down the advance patrol just
ahead of our platoon.
Now I can hear Henry Johnson’s ragged breathing and Blinky Chambers whistling between
his teeth, the village too still, too quiet. ‘Jesus,’ Sonny Orlandi mutters. Jesus: meaning I’m
scared and so is everybody else, clenched fists holding firearms, quiet curses floating on the
air, grunts and hisses and farts, not like the war movies at the Plymouth, nobody displaying
heroics or bravado. We are probably taking the final steps of our lives in this village whose
name we don’t even know and other villages are waiting ahead of us and Eddie Richards
asks of nobody in particular: ‘What the hell are we doing here, anyway?’ And he’s clutching
his stomach because he has had diarrhoea for three days, carrying the stink with him all that
time so that everybody has been avoiding his presence. Now gunfire erupts and at the same
time artillery shells – theirs or ours? – boom in the air and explode around us. We run for
cover, scrambling and scurrying, hitting the dirt, trying to become part of the buildings
themselves but not safe anywhere.
I find myself in a narrow alley, groping through rising dust, and two German soldiers in white
uniforms appear like grim ghosts, rifles coming up, but my automatic is too quick and the
head of one of the soldiers explodes like a ripe tomato and the other cries Mama as my
gunfire cuts him in half.
Either
(ii) Describe how suffering is presented in the novel.
[20]
(iii) What do you think of Nicole Renard and the way she is presented in the novel?
[20]
Or
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WJEC
Foundation
Answer part (i) and either part (ii) or part (iii).
You are advised to spend about 20 minutes on part (i), and about 40 minutes on part (ii) or part (iii).
(i)
Read the extract below. Then answer the following question:
What are your thoughts and feelings as you read this extract? Give reasons for your answer
and remember to support your answer with words and phrases from the extract.
[10]
I close my eyes and see them advancing in scattered groups through the abandoned village,
ruined homes and debris-cluttered streets, our rifles ready, late afternoon shadows obscuring
the windows and doorways and the alley entrances, and we are all tense and nervous and
scared because the last gunfire seemed peaceful and vacant until sudden gunfire from
snipers erupted from those windows and doorways and cut down the advance patrol just
ahead of our platoon.
Now I can hear Henry Johnson’s ragged breathing and Blinky Chambers whistling, between
his teeth, the village too still, too quiet. ‘Jesus,’ Sonny Orlandi mutters. Jesus: meaning I’m
scared and so is everybody else, clenched fists holding firearms, quiet curses floating on the
air, grunts and hisses and farts, not like the war movies at the Plymouth, nobody displaying
heroics or bravado. We are probably taking the final steps of our lives in this village whose
name we don’t even know and other villages are waiting ahead of us and Eddie Richards
asks of nobody in particular: ‘What the hell are we doing here, anyway?’ And he’s clutching
his stomach because he has had diarrhoea for three days, carrying the stink with him all that
time so that everybody has been avoiding his presence. Now gunfire erupts and at the same
time artillery shells – theirs or ours? – boom in the air and explode around us. We run for
cover, scrambling and scurrying, hitting the dirt, trying to become part of the buildings
themselves but not safe anywhere.
I find myself in a narrow alley, groping through rising dust, and two German soldiers in white
uniforms appear like grim ghosts, rifles coming up, but my automatic is too quick and the
head of one of the soldiers explodes like a ripe tomato and the other cries Mama as my
gunfire cuts him in half.
Either
(ii) Describe how suffering is presented in the novel.
Think about:
•
•
•
how characters suffer in and as a result of the war;
how Francis suffers, and why;
anything else which you think is important.
[20]
Or
(iii) What do you think of Nicole Renard and the way she is presented in the novel?
Write about:
•
•
•
her relationship with Francis;
what happens to her with Larry;
how she changes throughout the novel.
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[20]
© ZigZag Education, 2010
Edexcel
Higher
EITHER
How does Cormier present war in the novel?
Remember to consider the veterans and Francis’s changing perception of events in your answer.
(Total for question = 40 marks)
OR
How important is the narrative structure to the novel?
Remember to consider how Francis’s story moves between past and present events.
(Total for question = 40 marks)
Edexcel
Foundation
EITHER
Why is Nicole an important character in the novel?
In your answer you must consider:
•
Her relationship with Larry
•
Her relationship with Francis and her importance to him
•
The events which happen to her and the impact she has on others.
You may include other ideas of your own.
(Total for Question = 40 marks)
OR
Is Francis a hero?
In your answer you must consider:
•
Why Francis jumped on the grenade
•
Why he doesn’t consider himself to be a hero
•
Why other characters do consider him to be a hero
You may include other ideas of your own.
(Total for Question = 40 marks)
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Sample Essay A nswer s
Edexcel
Sample Answers
Higher
Grade B response
How does Cormier present war in the novel?
Remember to consider the veterans and Francis’s changing perception of events in your answer.
(Total for Question = 40 marks)
When you read the question you will also find that underlining key words will help to give you ideas and
focus for your plan. For this question war is the topic, and there are hints at what to include in your
writing: veterans and Francis’s changing perception of events.
Also be aware of the marks. The total for this question is 40, so be aware that it requires a full essay
response with analysis and use of quotes. Now you are ready to plan using the best format for you –
commonly either a spider diagram or bullet points. Remember that good planning will result in a wellstructured essay. Also remember that planning should be quick and you can amend it as you work
through it. You can also cross things out or tick them off as you cover them.
The plan below is made up of bullet points. Each paragraph has a different point and remember that it can
be developed using PEE. Sentences are used so that it makes sense, but you might choose to abbreviate to
save time. This plan is more detailed than an average plan so that the ideas are expressed and quotations
are shown, but there won’t necessarily be enough time to complete a detailed plan like this!
Detailed plan
Intro.
Brief summary of war as presented as a theme throughout Heroes; it ties in with the
theme of heroes and relates all of the characters in the community. It allows Cormier,
through Francis, to explore war by looking at war veterans, the effects of the GI Bill, the
Silver Star, what qualities a hero has, appearance and reality in relation to how the public
perceives heroes to be and how they really are. Cormier also explores the psychological and
physical effects of war on veterans, and Francis changes his mind about what a hero is
once he faces the reality of the horrors of war.
Refer to Pearl Harbour and the public reaction / sense of outrage. Also refer to how
veterans are generally treated with respect today, with special days held in different
countries. Also mention the Silver Star and the GI Bill. Also point out how post-traumatic
stress disorder was not recognised as clearly then and talking therapies were not available.
P1
Francis explores the concept of a hero throughout the novel. He does this because he feels
that he is not a hero, only a fake hero. ‘I am not a hero, of course, and I turn away in
disgust’ (Chapter 1, p. 7). This shows his strong feelings about not being a hero. At this
stage we do not know why he feels this way, but we do discover that he fell on a grenade
as Arthur describes: ‘You’re a goddam hero (...) How many men were you willing to die
for?’ This line shows that, to be a war hero, you risk your life for others.
P2
In Chapter 4 we learn more about the future of the able veterans. Their futures seem
bright as they discuss their opportunities, brought about by the GI Bill. ‘The government’s
willing to pay, so I’m going...’ This line shows how veterans had increased opportunities
available to them, as a result of fighting in the war.
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P3
In contrast, we see the negative effects of the war for other veterans: Joe LaFontaine was
killed, Enrico lost his legs and an arm, Larry returns from the war with damaged legs and
Francis has lost his face. Enrico, Francis and Larry are all psychologically damaged by the
war and regularly contemplate suicide. ‘I place it against my temple once in a while.’
(Chapter 14, pp. 77–78) The way in which the three are presented after the war shows
the devastating effects of the war on the human mind. Another example is how Francis is
plagued by nightmares. Is Cormier criticising war and its effects through the way that he
presents the impact on these individuals?
P4
War in relation to the theme of appearance and reality. The Silver Star is an honour to
receive in the public eye; it is linked with heroic deeds and brings great respect. ‘To the Silver
Star and the men who wear it...’ (Chapter 4, p. 33) The Strangler’s words show how the
Silver Star is held in great esteem. The veterans seem to uphold the idea of heroes being
acknowledged by medals and in the public eye. This presentation of the ‘Silver Star hero’
contrasts with the realities of war which Francis’s perception of events gradually reveals.
P5
The horrors of war – reality. Francis’s narrative gradually reveals the impact of war
through the structure of the story. A visual description shows how Francis is psychologically
tortured by past events: ‘the other cries Mama as my gunfire cuts him in half...’ (Chapter
3, p. 19). The language used is simple, yet direct, capturing the horrors of combat. There
are also descriptions of the reality of war which is not like on the movie screen. Instead
there are ‘grunts and hisses and farts.’ Francis’s description shows that there were no
heroic soldiers courageously moving into battle, but real people who were simply there.
Arthur also acknowledges that there are problems which people do not talk about after the
war: ‘We weren’t heroes. We were only there...’ (Chapter 8, p. 47). This line links with
Francis’s thoughts at the end of the novel: the heroes were the people who stayed.
P6
Heroes is about Francis’s emotional journey as he comes to terms with his past and
questions what makes a real hero. In the last chapter he reveals his thoughts: ‘We were only
there. Scared kids, not born to fight and kill. Who were not only there but who stayed, did
not run away, fought the good war.’ Francis agrees with Arthur: nobody displayed heroics
or bravery, but he feels that all were heroes, who fought and stayed.
Conc.
Francis’s experiences of the war had a negative impact on him both mentally and
physically. He also believes that he did not deserve a Silver Star. At war he discovers the
reality behind the public image: the real heroes were those who fought and stayed. Despite
the negative impact of the war on damaged veterans, Cormier shows how some veterans
benefited from the war because of the opportunities which came from the GI Bill.
When you have finished your plan you can number your points in the order in which you write them so
that you have a structure, or you can start your writing straightaway. Remember that this plan is
detailed. Here is the answer which evolved from the plan. It is a top B grade answer. There is an
introduction and a conclusion.
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Top B Grade Response
War is a theme which runs throughout Heroes and links with other themes such as heroes and
appearance and reality. It also relates to all the characters in the Frenchtown community. It allows
Cormier, through Francis, to explore war through the experiences of the war veterans, the effects
of the GI Bill, the Silver Star, what qualities a hero has, appearance and reality in relation to what
the public perceives heroes to be and what they really are. Cormier also explores the psychological
and physical effects of war on veterans, and Francis changes his mind about what a hero is once he
faces the reality of the horrors of war.
The historical context of Pearl Harbour is integral to Heroes. Japan’s attack created strong personal
outrage amongst the American public and many enlisted. Veterans today are usually treated with
respect and special days are held in most countries in honour of the veterans. The GI Bill was
established to provide the veterans with the possibility of a future with improved access to
healthcare and education. The Silver Star was another honour, a medal which was presented to
veterans who had committed a heroic act. However the effects of war caused a lot of psychological
as well as physical suffering for many veterans. Talking about such suffering was uncommon and
talking therapies were not available. Cormier explores many of these ideas in relation to war,
leaving the reader to make his own conclusions.
Francis explores what a hero is throughout the course of the novel. It is a period of emotional
change and growth for him. He suffers because he feels that he is not a hero; others call him a hero,
but he is a fake. He reveals how: ‘I am not a hero, of course, and I turn away in disgust’ (Chapter
1, p. 7). His language shows his strong feelings about not being a hero; at this stage we do not
know why he feels this way, but we do discover that he fell on a grenade, as Arthur describes:
‘You’re a goddam hero (...) How many men were you willing to die for?’ This line suggests that, to
be a war hero, you risk your life for others.
In Chapter 4 we learn more about the possible future for the able veterans. Their futures seem to be
positive as they discuss their opportunities, made possible by the GI Bill. ‘The government’s willing to
pay, so I’m going...’ This line shows how the veterans had increased opportunities available to them, as
a result of fighting in the war. Cormier is revealing how the war can benefit able-bodied veterans.
However, the social camaraderie at the bar contrasts with what the isolated Francis experiences.
Through Francis’s eyes we experience the negative impact of war directly. His perspective enables him
to see the extreme negative effects which the war has on veterans: Joe LaFontaine was killed, Enrico
lost his legs and an arm, Larry returns from the war with damaged legs and we are shocked by the
opening descriptions of Francis’s lost face. This mixture of major and minor characters all suffer as a
result of their experience of war. Francis, Larry and Enrico are all psychologically damaged by the
war and regularly contemplate suicide. With Larry, the reader becomes aware of his thoughts when
he reveals to Francis that: ‘I place it against my temple once in a while.’ (Chapter 14, pp. 77–78)
The way in which the three are presented after the war shows the devastating effects of the war on
the human mind. Another example of the destructive nature of war is in Chapter 3, when Francis is
haunted by the experience of killing two German soldiers. Is Cormier criticising the effects of war
through the way he presents the impact on these individuals?
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Cormier links the theme of war to the theme of appearance and reality. In the public eye war is
portrayed as a world full of brave heroes whose adventures are in the papers and on newsreel. The
public are not aware of the horrific reality of the war. The Silver Star is an honour to receive, but
this is on the level of appearance. The medal can be worn, but it does not reflect the suffering of
the individual who wears it. Nevertheless, it brings great respect: ‘To the Silver Star and the men
who wear it...’ (Chapter 4, p. 33) The Strangler’s words show how the Silver Star is held in great
esteem. The veterans seem to uphold the idea of heroes being acknowledged by medals and in the
public eye. This presentation of the ‘Silver Star hero’ contrasts with the realities of war which
Francis’s perception of events gradually reveals.
Francis grows to realise the horrors that soldiers face at war. His idealised image of the heroic
soldier going off to fight in the war becomes a grim reality. His visual description shows how he is
psychologically tortured by past events: ‘the other cries Mama as my gunfire cuts him in half (...)
(Chapter 3, p. 19) His language is simple, yet direct; it captures the horrors of combat. There are
also descriptions of the reality of war which for Francis, is far from the images on the movie screen
he has seen. Instead there are ‘grunts and hisses and farts.’ Francis’s description shows that there
were no heroic soldiers courageously moving into battle, but real people who were simply there.
Arthur also acknowledges that there are problems which people do not talk about after the war:
‘We weren’t heroes. We were only there...’ (Chapter 8, p. 47) This line links with Francis’s thoughts
at the end of the novel: the heroes were the people who simply stayed and fought.
Heroes is about Francis’s emotional journey as he comes to terms with his past and questions what
makes a real hero. In the last chapter he reveals his thoughts: ‘We were only there. Scared kids, not
born to fight and kill. Who were not only there but who stayed, did not run away, fought the good
war.’ (Chapter 17, p. 89) By the end of the novel, Francis agrees with Arthur: nobody displayed
heroics or bravery, but he feels that all were heroes, who simply fought and stayed.
Francis’s experiences of the war have a negative impact on him both mentally and physically. He
also believes that he did not deserve a Silver Star. By the end of the novel he may have been
reconsidering this. At war he discovers the reality behind the public image: the real heroes were
those who fought and stayed. Despite the negative impact of the war on damaged veterans,
Cormier shows how some veterans benefited from the war because of the opportunities which came
from the GI Bill. However there was an unspoken agreement not to talk about the realities of war,
and as a result many veterans’ mental wellbeing suffered. Although the theme of war is linked with
the context of World War Two, Cormier uses his story to explore universal ideas and these ideas can
relate to modern and future readers due to its timeless quality.
Points about the essay
 Notice how each point in the plan becomes a paragraph.
 Remember to focus on the question when you are writing. A plan will help you to do this.
 If you have an idea, don’t be afraid to follow it through – you can return to your plan when you have
finished it.
 Don’t worry if your answer is not as long as you thought it would be – a quality-driven answer is
always acknowledged, rather than a weaker piece which may be longer.
Grade of essay: Top B – 33/40
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Mark Scheme
This question is linked with the following assessment objectives:
AO1
Respond to texts critically and imaginatively; select and evaluate relevant textual detail to
illustrate and support interpretations.
For AO1 you can gain a maximum of 16 marks
A04
Relate texts to their social, cultural and historical contexts; explain how texts have been
influential and significant to self and other readers in different contexts and at different times.
For A04 you can gain a maximum of 24 marks
It is important to revise Heroes in relation to all three of the Assessment Objectives for Literature. The
mark schemes are different in relation to the different objectives. Remember that the breakdown below
is for the sample question alone.
AO1
Responding to ‘Heroes’ (in this case, the theme of war) critically and imaginatively, using textual
detail to support interpretations.
Why the sample answer gained 13/16 marks (top B)
For AO1 the sample B grade gained 13 marks (top B) for logical responses which linked to the
question focus, and were supported by relevant quotes. The selection of ideas was relevant and
the essay demonstrated an assured understanding of themes and ideas.
To move into A/A* category
The pupil could convince the examiner more with their arguments, perhaps providing lengthier
discussion of the ideas presented. Although textual evidence appears throughout the text to
support ideas, Cormier’s language could be commented on in more detail. More confidence
could be shown in developing ideas in relation to Cormier’s ideas and themes.
A04
Relating ‘Heroes’ to cultural and historical context, explain how Heroes is significant to self and
other readers.
Why the sample answer gained 20/24 marks (top B)
The context of the war was referred to and points were supported by relevant quotes. There
was assured understanding of the theme. Sentences were structured with purpose, and
punctuation used to effect.
To move into A/A* category
More relation of the writing to the context in a convincing manner would have improved this
grade to the higher band. Perhaps more developed arguments would support the writing. The
style of writing could have been produced with more sophistication throughout.
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Sample Essay Answer
WJEC
Foundation
Answer part (i) and either part (ii) or part (iii).
You are advised to spend about 20 minutes on part (i), and about 40 minutes on part (ii) or part (iii).
(i)
Read the extract below. Then answer the following question:
What are your thoughts and feelings as you read this extract? Give reasons for your answer
and remember to support your answer with words and phrases from the extract.
[10]
I close my eyes and see them advancing in scattered groups through the abandoned village,
ruined homes and debris-cluttered streets, our rifles ready, late afternoon shadows obscuring
the windows and doorways and the alley entrances, and we are all tense and nervous and
scared because the last gunfire seemed peaceful and vacant until sudden gunfire from
snipers erupted from those windows and doorways and cut down the advance patrol just
ahead of our platoon.
Now I can hear Henry Johnson’s ragged breathing and Blinky Chambers whistling, between
his teeth, the village too still, too quiet. ‘Jesus,’ Sonny Orlandi mutters. Jesus: meaning I’m
scared and so is everybody else, clenched fists holding firearms, quiet curses floating on the
air, grunts and hisses and farts, not like the war movies at the Plymouth, nobody displaying
heroics or bravado. We are probably taking the final steps of our lives in this village whose
name we don’t even know and other villages are waiting ahead of us and Eddie Richards
asks of nobody in particular: ‘What the hell are we doing here, anyway?’ And he’s clutching
his stomach because he has had diarrhoea for three days, carrying the stink with him all that
time so that everybody has been avoiding his presence. Now gunfire erupts and at the same
time artillery shells – theirs or ours? – boom in the air and explode around us. We run for
cover, scrambling and scurrying, hitting the dirt, trying to become part of the buildings
themselves but not safe anywhere.
I find myself in a narrow alley, groping through rising dust, and two German soldiers in white
uniforms appear like grim ghosts, rifles coming up, but my automatic is too quick and the
head of one of the soldiers explodes like a ripe tomato and the other cries Mama as my
gunfire cuts him in half.
Either
(ii) Describe how suffering is presented in the novel.
Think about:
•
•
•
how characters suffer in and as a result of the war;
how Francis suffers, and why;
anything else which you think is important.
[20]
Or
(iii) What do you think of Nicole Renard and the way she is presented in the novel?
Write about:
•
•
•
her relationship with Francis;
what happens to her with Larry;
how she changes throughout the novel.
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Planning an answer
With a question like this, it’s important to read the instructions so that you do not waste your time
answering all three parts. Part (i) is essential to answer, and passage-based. Pupils then choose from
either part (ii) or part (iii). For this sample response, the pupil has chosen Part (iii), the question about
Nicole.
It may be helpful to underline key words in the question first so that you can underline any lines from
the passage which will support your answer. For this sample question, the text has been highlighted
to show quotations which could fit in with the question focus.
For part (i) the pupil has written four points for their plan, based on quotations which stand out in
relation to the question: the pupil’s thoughts and feelings. Remember that it is important to be aware of
the time expectation and the number of marks for each part of the question. In this case, you will gain
10 marks and are recommended to spend 20 minutes on the first section. It’s important to be aware
that more marks can be obtained from the second part of the question, and that time management is
important. The pupil has chosen to develop three main points in relation to part (i). This plan is detailed
so that you can see what an ideal plan would look like; remember that in a real exam situation you
would probably not prepare a detailed plan, but would write things down as they come to mind, and
then number your points to help provide a structure for your essay.
Part (i) plan
Intro.
Thoughts and feelings about this passage – what is it about / flashback / whereabouts in
P1
This passage captures the general mood of tension and uncertainty which the soldiers
narrative structure / what do we discover about Francis at this point in the novel?
faced: ‘we are all tense and nervous and scared.’ Comment on the language Francis uses –
immediate effect on reader, as if you are there and part of it – Cormier’s journalistic
experience as an influence coming in?
P2
Contrast between the reality of war which the soldiers face and what the public perception
is. This links to the theme of appearance and reality. Francis shows his young naivety: ‘not
like the war movies at the Plymouth.’ This passage vividly captures how Francis’s experience
of war changes, and he suffers both mentally and physically as a result of it.
P3
Confusion of war links with Cormier’s presentation of the reality which soldiers face: feel
like experiencing confusion with Francis due to the direct, shocking language used: ‘nobody
knows (...) their or ours?’ As if in the moment, like a scene from a film. Feel that we see
‘first-hand’ Francis’s traumatic experience of war; even though we never experience when
Francis loses his face, we can imagine it after this scene.
Remember that this is a detailed plan to show you how an answer could evolve from it. Also the quality
of response will be of a ‘D’ grade standard – however, using the plan you could try and write your own
response and see what grade you get. You could even add some points of your own!
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The pupil has chosen to do the question about Nicole for part (ii). Remember that this part is worth
more marks, so it is worth spending more time and preparing a detailed (if slightly longer plan) for this
part. You have been advised to spend about 40 minutes on part (ii). Again, key words have been
highlighted, which is strongly recommended to ensure focus on the question. Also make sure that your
plan covers all three of the bullet points, and come up with ideas of your own if you can.
Part (ii) plan
Intro
Nicole is a main character. Francis loves her and is devoted to her. Both she and Francis
change throughout the novel and after the pivotal event at the Wreck Centre. She is
modest at the start. When Francis visits her it is clear that she is still coming to terms with
what happened to her and overcoming this obstacle.
Nicole’s relationship with Francis
Francis describes her as being beautiful and innocent; look at language and comparison to
the statue of St. Therese. She makes the first move towards Francis; he is too shy; ‘courtly
love’ style of language used. Francis suffers. Active/talented as a dancer, like Francis, she is
Larry’s ‘favourite.’ When she and Francis becomes close, it is an innocent relationship.
Nicole’s involvement with Larry
When Larry returns, he shatters this relationship. We know that he is besotted with her,
shown subtly through Francis’s language. Also he later tells Francis that his sin is the ‘sweet
young things’. The rape is tragic for the characters involved.
Nicole’s changing personality
The rape tragically destroys the relationship between Nicole and Francis; when she sees him
outside, betrayal flashes in her eyes and Francis’s heart breaks. She goes from being an
attractive yet modest young girl to becoming isolated: she and her family leave Frenchtown
soon after the event. Nicole does not even tell her parents as she felt that nobody would
believe her if she told them. It is tragic that Francis had already gone to enlist when she
went to apologise; events may have changed if they had spoken. When Francis finally visits
her in the novel’s climax, she is hardened and has seemingly lost her endearing innocence.
However she forgives Francis and this is crucial as a form of ‘closure’ for Francis; her
forgiveness, and encouragement of him to write, could enable him to move on.
Conc.
Nicole is a central character to the novel; it is Francis’s love for her that leads to his actions
and his mission to kill Larry. It is her act of forgiveness and encouragement which gives the
reader hope for Francis, as maybe he can move on. Like Francis, she has suffered a
traumatic experience, she has to come to terms with it and somehow moves on.
When you have finished your plan you can number your points in the order in which you write them so
that you have a structure, or you can start your writing straightaway. Remember that this plan is
detailed. Again, it may help you to have a go at writing up an essay from this plan, to develop your
writing style and technique.
On the next page is the answer which evolved from the plan. Remember that this essay is the plan for
part (ii). And then the plan for part (ii) follows on. It is a standard D grade answer. There is an
introduction and a conclusion.
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Top Grade D response
Part 1 (passage based)
This passage is at the end of Chapter 3 and it is when Francis has a nightmare about the war. My thoughts
and feelings are that I am shocked by what Francis describes. The descriptions make me picture that it is
tense until they start fighting. In this passage Francis and his platoon are in a village and they do not even
know which village. There is gunfire and they start to fight. Francis is haunted because he kills two German
boys. My thoughts are that this is an important flashback which is shown to us like a film. It is the only
time that Cormier shows us the war. He does not show us when Francis has his face blown away. In this
part of the book we learn that Francis describes the horror of war in a matter-of-fact way.
This passage makes tension as the soldiers are uncertain about what is happening. Francis says, ‘we are
all tense and nervous and scared’ (Chapter 3, p. 18). This line shows that all the soldiers were not like
heroes you might see in films. This makes the reader feel scared for them, and Cormier’s language makes
you feel a part of it all because it is direct.
Cormier uses this passage to make it horrific so that the reader can see what war was really like.
Perhaps Cormier’s career as a journalist helped him to do this. He makes a contrast between the reality
of war which the soldiers face and what people at home think it is like. This links to the theme of
appearance and reality. Francis shows us with this line that he is innocent when it comes to war: ‘not
like the war movies at the Plymouth’ (Chapter 3, pp. 18–19). This shows us that he thought it would be
like a film showing heroes fighting in battle. The whole passage makes me think that it shows how
Francis sees how real war is horrible. We know that he is suffering when he returns to Frenchtown to kill
Larry, perhaps because of experiences like this.
Cormier shows that the soldiers are confused as well: ‘...at the same time artillery shells - theirs or ours? –
boom in the air and explode around us’ (Chapter 3, p. 19). This line shows that the reality of war is
confusing and nobody knows what they are doing. We also feel like we are confused because of the direct and
shocking language used. It is like a scene from a film. We see at first hand Francis’s experiences which are
traumatic. This makes us able to imagine what it was like when Francis’s face is blown away the next day.
Why the sample answer gained 4 marks (top D) out of 10 and how it could move into a C grade
Overall the answer has good points, which makes it very close to the C grade; however the responses are
brief and underdeveloped. Each point could be developed further with more detailed analysis of the
language used in the quotes chosen. The points are effective but simply made, and to move into a C grade
category, each point needs to be more developed with more detailed comments on the topic in question.
For part (i) students can gain a maximum of 10 marks. This response gained 4/10 as it provided brief responses
which contained simple comments about what is happening. The response falls at the top end of a D grade overall.
Part (ii) (Nicole focus)
Nicole is one of the main characters. The reader finds out that Francis loves her and is devoted to her.
Both she and Francis change as we read the novel and the biggest event which changes them is
Nicole’s rape at the Wreck Centre. This event changes their lives for ever. Nicole is quiet and described
as being beautiful at the start but when Francis visits her at the end, he notices that she has changed.
She has become hardened by her experience and we find out that she is still coming to terms with
what happened to her. She has to overcome this obstacle, like Francis has to overcome his. It is an
important point that she tells Francis that she forgives him, because he can move on with his life.
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Nicole’s relationship with Francis is one of the important parts of the novel and links with the themes
of love, loss and betrayal. When he first sees her, Francis is obsessed with her straightaway. He
describes her beauty as being pure: ‘The pale purity of her face reminded me of the statue of St
Therese...’ (Chapter 2, p. 8). He compares her beauty to the statue of St Therese in St Jude’s Church.
But she makes the first move to him. Francis is shy and Cormier uses the language of courtly love
to show that he suffers in his love for her. Francis says things like, ‘Standing at the banister in an
agony of love and longing...’ (Chapter 2, p. 9). This makes me think that he is suffering because of
his strong love for Nicole.
She is also admired from afar; it is like she is unobtainable. She is a dancer and, like Francis, is
Larry’s ‘favourite.’ But when she becomes close to Francis after Larry leaves for the war, their
relationship is innocent. This makes it sad when it is spoiled by Larry’s actions at the Wreck Centre.
Francis shows that Larry is also interested in Nicole from the start when he makes her the star of
the musical show at the Wreck Centre. They even have a special dance. When Larry returns from
the war, he shatters the relationship between Francis and Nicole because he rapes Nicole. Francis
did not help and feels guilty. Larry tells Francis later that he does not feel bad about what he did
to Nicole and how it might have affected her. To him, she is a ‘sweet young thing’ (Chapter 14, p.
76) like the others he has abused. The rape is tragic for the characters involved.
The tragic event destroys the relationship between Francis and Nicole. It is never the same again. She sees
him outside and betrayal flashes in her eyes. Francis’s heart breaks. She goes from being an attractive yet
modest young girl to becoming isolated: she and her family leave Frenchtown soon after the event. Nicole
does not even tell her parents as she felt that nobody would believe her if she told them.
It is tragic that Francis had already gone to enlist when she went to apologise – events may have
changed if they had spoken. When Francis finally visits her, she is hardened and has lost her
innocence. However she forgives Francis and this is a form of ‘closure’ for Francis – her forgiveness
and encouragement of him to write, could enable him to move on.
Why the sample answer gained 9 out of 20 (top D) and how it could move into a C grade
This section is marked out of 20 so more marks are available. This answer gained 9 marks out of 20, which
makes it just short of falling into the ‘C’ category. This is because the answers are quite brief; they tend to
move on from point to point, rather than focussing on any development for an answer. It sometimes falls
into retelling events, rather than analysing their significance in relation to the question.
To move into a ‘C’ grade, the pupil could make clearer points in relation to the question, which is more detailed.
The selection fits with the question; however a more developed response would move it to the higher grade.
Points to remember
 It is important to become aware of the mark scheme, and how you will be marked. To do this it is
important to look at sample answers and mark schemes closer to the exam.
 It is also important to remember to practise timings and reading the question. You must be aware of the
time allocated to you, and be able to break up your time efficiently, so that you can focus on what needs
to be completed, with time left to check over your response.
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Exam Answer Practice
To do
Edexcel
Foundation Question
Examine either question on the following pages. The questions are taken from the samples earlier.
•
Read your question
•
Underline the key words in it
•
Spend 10 minutes brainstorming a possible answer. If you have time number your points
for a structure to your essay.
•
Some pupils may choose to use the plan for Foundation as a starting point, for guidance
or ideas
•
Write an answer in timed conditions
•
Practise your timings
Is Francis a hero?
In your answer you must consider:
•
why Francis jumped on the grenade
•
why he doesn’t consider himself to be a hero
•
why other characters do consider him to be a hero
You may include ideas of your own.
(Total for Question = 40 marks)
Bullet point plan example
(10 minutes average planning time)
Introduction
•
Context of where Heroes is set, community perception of a ‘hero’ on newsreel and in the papers,
private perception; refer to veterans, the Silver Star, the GI Bill for how veterans are rewarded.
Main body (addressing all 3 bullet points)
•
Intro to Francis – he does not see himself as a hero – explain how jumping on the grenade
came about. Is Francis a hero for jumping on the grenade? Refer to his own thoughts.
•
Throughout the novel Francis debates about what makes a hero – look at the reality of war –
Chapter 3. The confusion, no heroics. Also look at what Arthur says about heroes – again, men
who where there.
•
Bring in the other characters who consider him to be a hero – Arthur tells him that he is a
hero when he gains the Silver Star, Larry tells him that he is a hero when he sees him; even
when Francis reveals his motive for jumping on the grenade Larry still insists that he is a hero
and his instincts would have led him to save the other men. Nicole calls him a hero when he
visits her in the penultimate chapter.
Conclusion
•
Summing up ideas and conclusions – is Francis a hero? Refer to last chapter: Francis says that
all of the soldiers who stayed and fought were heroes. In this sense, he too is a hero.
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To do
WJEC
•
•
•
•
•
•
Higher Question
Read your question
Underline the key words in it
Spend 10 minutes brainstorming a possible answer. If you have time number your points
for a structure to your essay.
Some pupils may choose to use the plan for Foundation as a starting point, for guidance
or ideas
Write an answer in timed conditions
Practise your timings
Answer part (i) and either part (ii) or part (iii).
You are advised to spend about 20 minutes on part (i), and about 40 minutes on part (ii) or part (iii).
(i)
Read the extract on p. 103. Then answer the following question:
With close reference to the extract, how does Cormier’s choice of language present the war?
[10]
Either
(ii) Describe how suffering is presented in the novel.
[20]
(iii) What do you think of Nicole Renard, and the way she is presented in the novel?
[20]
Or
Plan
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Revision Checklist
Make sure that you know which Unit you are doing Heroes for and details of the exam – when and how
long it is.
Have you looked at sample questions?
It would help to look at the questions in this guide and plan some possible answers to them. Practise
planning and timing – five to ten minutes maximum planning time. Also practise writing full answers for
some questions, timed. Remember that it helps to plan and brainstorm before writing. The benefits of
this are that it will increase your confidence and you will become more efficient with time-management.
Remember that time-management is crucial so the more time you spend writing within the time limits
that you have for the text, the better. Have a rough plan for timing in your head – for instance: five to
ten minutes planning, 20 minutes writing and five minutes to read through your work and add any
points which come to mind when you read over it.
Remember to include revising the historical background to the text: America’s involvement in World
War Two and the bombing of Pearl Harbour. You may find that your knowledge in these areas links to
points you wish to make about certain characters in the text, and remember that this overall Unit is
focussed on ‘Different cultures’ and ‘Individual texts in Context.’
Re-read the text. This will enable you to gain a deeper understanding of the novel’s ideas, character
motivations and themes. You will also respond to subtle techniques such as imagery, the narrative style
and effects of the setting. You will also be more aware of how suspense develops and how Cormier
structures his novel to create tension. You may also wish to make notes for particular areas on your
second reading.
When writing exam responses
 Remember not to waste time with lengthy introductions – move straight into your answer and first
point.

Remember to use Standard English throughout your essay – make sure that it is formal.

Use a spider diagram or bullet points to help you with brainstorming and planning, but adjust your
plan if you need to – feel free to add or erase points in it.

Make the most of the exam time. Divide it up so that you are aware of how much to spend on each
section. This way you will spread your efforts out. Be aware of how many marks are available for
each question or section as this indicates how much you are expected to write.

Remember to build in planning time at the start and time to check through at the end.

Be confident when quoting from the text. Remember to keep quotations short and concise; use the
PEE chain and interpret key words and phrases in your own words. Bring your ideas to your writing;
remember that a writer’s ideas are open to interpretation. Try and use embedded quotations to
bring sophistication to your writing.
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