Prose – ‘Heroes’ by Robert Cormier

Heroes Booklet

‘Heroes’ timeline

Heroes mindmap

http://www.slideshare.net/numan99/heroes-key-quotations#

Check out the BBC Bitesize website at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/schools/gcsebitesize/english_literature/proseheroes/

Robert Cormier explores the dark side of human nature in many of his novels for teenagers. What makes his treatment of this theme so effective, thought-provoking and, at times, chilling is his belief that evil is often to be found in the most unlikely of places. Consequently, whilst his heroes are often lonely and emotionally vulnerable teenagers, his ‘evil’ characters are either extraordinarily charming or so ordinary as to be almost invisible.

In “Heroes”, Larry LaSalle falls into the former category. His “Fred Astaire” walk and “movie-star smile” are the perfect disguise for hiding his dark secret: his weakness for “sweet young things”.

In a series of flashbacks, Francis Cassavant, the teenage narrator of the novel, tells of how, to the young people of Frenchtown, Larry LaSalle was a “hero”. He not only gave them a place to be themselves when he opened up the Recreation Centre (the Wreck Centre, as they called it) but also gave them a sense of pride in themselves and helped them discover their hidden potential. Even the school bullies were “reformed” under his influence – at least temporarily.

At fifteen, Francis (an orphan living with his uncle) was shy, withdrawn, and unable to speak to Nicole, the girl he had worshipped since she had arrived at his school when they were both thirteen. It was Larry who gave Francis the courage to approach Nicole by encouraging him at table tennis, helping him to become a champion at the sport and thus boosting his confidence.

Nicole and Francis were special to Larry and Larry, in turn, was a hero not just to them but to all the town’s children long before he earned a Silver Star for his heroic actions in the South Pacific during World War II.

However, in the present, the now eighteen-year-old Francis, his face badly disfigured as a result of throwing himself on a grenade apparently in a bid to protect his fellow soldiers, has returned to Frenchtown on a “mission”. That “mission” is to kill Larry LaSalle. With this in mind, the reader is then alert to the subtle early warning signs from Cormier that Larry is not all he seems; that beneath the smile and the glamour lies a dark purpose. Thus, whilst the townspeople think little of the rumours that he had “gotten into trouble in New York City” it arouses the reader’s suspicions, as does the foreshadowing of tragedy to come in the ill-fated Wreck Centre.

It is not until halfway through the novel that Francis reveals the nature of Larry’s crime and with it the dark side of this outwardly charming man. During his triumphant wartime return to Frenchtown as a Silver Star recipient, Larry rapes Nicole and, with this single act of violence and betrayal, ruins Nicole and Francis’ future.

Yet it is only when Francis finally tracks down Larry towards the end of the novel that the depth of Larry’s evil is revealed. Confronted by Francis, Larry is unrepentant. Shockingly, he regards what he did as simply a weakness.

Moreover, as he claims that we all “love our sins” and he cannot help loving “the sweet young things”, it becomes chillingly clear that Nicole was not his only victim. This man, trusted and worshipped by so many children, has betrayed them horribly over and over again. This then is the nature of the “trouble” in New York.

“Does that one sin of mine wipe away all the good things?” he asks.

It is a question not only aimed at Francis but at the reader too.

However, the reader is not taken in by Larry. The so-called “good things” were simply a means to an end. Cormier has hinted all along, albeit in a subtle manner, that even when Larry seemed to be inspiring the children he was actually imposing his will upon them. He made a musical star out of a bully but at school the bully still terrorised the other children: he told Nicole she would be a great dancer but later as she was picking up the pieces of her life she realised that had been his dream not hers.

Still in control, as he was in the Wreck Centre, Larry sends Francis away, his mission unfulfilled. As Francis is leaving the tenement building, he hears a gunshot. Larry has killed himself, not out of guilt or shame or remorse for his crime but out of self-pity. Ravaged by the effects of war he is no longer the physically attractive, glamorous young man who dazzled the townspeople of Frenchtown and their children. He can never again attract and ensnare the “sweet young things”. His ruined outward appearance now more accurately reflects his ruined soul and dark nature.

Francis, on the other hand, is able to look to the future, despite his ruined face, for he is forgiven by Nicole for his “crime” of failing to protect her and can leave the past where it belongs.

It is the complex nature of Cormier’s characters, all of them flawed, and his insightful exploration of the dark side of the human psyche that makes this novel so memorable.

Questions to think about:

What are the main themes in Heroes and how are they developed? What incidents and / or quotes would you refer to if you were to write an essay on a theme?

Which incidents / chapters would you consider to be the most important in the novel and why?

Is Larry a hero? Does the good that he does make up for his love of ‘the sweet young things’?

Is Francis a hero? What is Cormier’s definition of a hero in the novel and how far do you agree with him?

How important are the various settings of the novel? What do they contribute to the novel in terms of dramatic impact, theme etc.?

Useful quotes from Heroes 

WAR – We didn’t think of ourselves as soldiers but only two Frenchtown boys in uniform. And I had not yet killed anybody.

…not like the war movies at the Plymouth, nobody displaying heroics or bravado.

…my bursts of gunfire killed the soldiers quickly…I saw how young they were, boys with apple cheeks, too young to shave. Like me.

FOR THE VETERANS – this is the pause between one life and another

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?

HERO? – I am not a hero.

I am not the hero he thinks I am, not like the other veterans here in the St Jude Club.

There are lots of medals for outstanding service but only the Silver Star is for heroism.

CHAPTER 8 – Arthur Rivier – ‘Nobody talks about the war … I want to talk about it, my war … The scared war…We weren’t heroes. We were only there…’

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…’I am not a hero,’ I tell him… ‘I went to war because I wanted to die.’

‘I don’t know what a hero is any more, Nicole…’

‘Write about it, Francis. Maybe you can find the answer that way.’

I think of my old platoon…of Enrico…of Arthur Rivier…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.

APPEARANCE v REALITY (Identity / Disguise) – I have no face.

… 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.

I feel like a spy in disguise as I walk the streets of Frenchtown.

Now in Frenchtown, my face is healing…When I study myself in the mirror, I don’t see me any more but a stranger slowly taking shape.

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.

I am like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, my face like a gargoyle and the duffel bag like a lump on my back.

NICOLE (LOVE, BETRAYAL AND FORGIVENESS)– I knelt there like a knight at her feet, her sword having touched my shoulder. I silently pledged her my love and loyalty for ever.

‘Don’t go,’ Nicole whispered into my ear. But Larry LaSalle had told me to go.

‘I’ve got to go,’ I told her. ‘You and Larry stay. One last dance…’ The words sounded false as I said them and I realized they were Larry’s words, not mine.

I recognised in her eyes what I could not deny: betrayal. My betrayal of her in her eyes.

‘You didn’t do anything.’ The accusation in her voice was worse than the harshness … ‘Why didn’t you do something?…’

NICOLE TO FRANCIS – ‘…You weren’t to blame for what happened. I realised that later…I know what he was. For a while there he made me feel special…Made me think I was a ballerina. Now I’m starting to find out what I am, who I really am…’

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, had lost her a long time ago.

LARRY (BETRAYAL, APPEARANCE v REALITY) And, finally, I pray for Larry LaSalle … Then I am filled with guilt and shame, knowing that I have just prayed for the man I am going to kill.

LARRY – “a touch of Fred Astaire in his walk”; “broad shoulders of an athlete and the narrow hips of a dancer”; “But he was most of all a teacher.”

‘You are all stars,’ Larry LaSalle always told us.

Rumours told us that Larry LaSalle had also been a star.

…there were dark hints that he had ‘gotten into trouble’ in New York City.

Dazzled by his talent and his energy, none of us dwelt on the rumours. In fact, the air of mystery that surrounded him added to his glamour.

He tamed the notorious schoolyard bully … ‘But he still beats up kids in the schoolyard,’ Joey LeBlanc observed.

‘My hero from the war,’ Joey LeBlanc called out, clowning, of course, but saying what we all thought. Larry was our war hero, yes, but he had been a hero to us long before he went to war.

‘I’m not supposed to play favourites, Francis, but you and Nicole are special to me.’

We always did what Larry LaSalle told us to do. Always carried out his slightest wish.

Larry LaSalle has returned to Frenchtown. And I know where to find him.

The gun is like a tumour on my thigh.

What’s one more death after the others in the villages and fields of France? The innocent faces of two young Germans appear in my mind. But Larry LaSalle is not innocent.

He is pale, eyes sunken into the sockets …and he seems fragile now, as if caught in an old photograph that has faded and yellowed with age.

‘Oh, Francis…You couldn’t have stopped me…You were just a child.’

‘The sweet young things…Even their heat is sweet…’

‘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.’

‘Does that one sin of mine wipe away all the good things?’

‘No more dancing for me, Francis. No more sweet young things. No more anything…If I want one thing, it would be to have you look at me again the way you did at the Wreck Centre … But it’s too late, isn’t it?’

THE WRECK CENTRE –  “a bad luck place”; “A place of doom.”

Nicole Renard’s visits to the Wreck Centre made my life there complete.

That’s why Joey LeBlanc angered me when he said he could feel that old doom hanging over the place …poor Joey LeBlanc…had been right, after all.

Larry LaSalle’s enlistment caused the Wreck Centre to close for what people now called ‘the duration’.

THE ENDINGHOPE?

(The novel ends with:

Maybe …I should write about them

Maybe I should buy a typewriter

Maybe I should…

I should …

I think …  And then Francis heads off to catch a train.

Intermediate 2 Model Essay Exercise

Choose a novel or short story in which the lives of characters are disrupted for good or for bad by some person or force.

By close reference to more than one scene in the story, show how your attitude to this disruptive element developed in the course of the narrative.

This question is asking you to focus on the disruption caused to the lives of particular characters by either a ‘person or force.’ This question lends itself to Heroes as we know that the actions of Larry LaSalle have such a profoundly negative effect on Francis and Nicole.

There is another element to this question as well in that it asks you to ‘show how your attitude [… ] developed in the course of the narrative.’ To some extent this might seem like the trickier part of the question.

Model Essay

The outwardly charming Larry LaSalle has a profoundly negative impact on the characters Nicole and Francis in Cormier’s novel, ‘Heroes’. After Larry rapes Nicole the lives of these two characters are severely disrupted. The author’s choice of narrative structure and his focus on the themes of betrayal and confrontation create both a sense of suspense and tension, which affect and alter the reader’s attitude as the narrative progresses.

The novel is written in first person and it is narrated through the main character, Francis Cassavant. This is significant as this gives us insight into the life and thoughts of Francis as the story is narrated from his perspective. However, although the author’s use of flashback is used to give the reader background details, this information is received at stages throughout the novel so that the reader is kept in suspense. Despite this, there are hints of what is to come from the start.

The author’s use of symbolism provides an example of this. It is significant that the reader does not immediately know what has happened to Francis. Francis wears a scarf because he wants to maintain his anonymity at the beginning of the novel: (quotation)

This scarf is arguably symbolic of both Francis’s explicit desire to hide his face from the outside world and an implicit desire to hide from himself. The use of flashbacks help to add to this sense of Francis returning to his past in stages as he finds it difficult to confront his past.

Initially, this would seem a direct consequence of Francis’ time at war. However, on further reading it becomes clear that, in fact, this is a consequence of much earlier actions, which lead Francis to enlist in the first place. It is a result of the life-shattering actions of Larry LaSalle that so devastated both Francis and Nicole’s lives.

The use of flashbacks allow the reader to get a sense of the charisma of Larry LaSalle. The impression the reader is initially given of Larry is designed to be similar to that of the impressions of the ‘Wreck Centre’ children when they first knew Larry. (Quote and comment)

Despite the use of flashbacks, the plot continues to progress in present time on the basis of Francis’s mission. As it becomes clear what Larry has done to Nicole, so too does Francis’ mission. The motivation for Francis is conveyed through the theme of betrayal. Not only did Larry betray Nicole and Francis’ by breaking their trust and physically and emotionally harming them, but Francis also betrayed Nicole by not stopping Larry…

How did Larry make them feel special? How does this make his betrayal worse (all the more devastating)? What happened to Francis as a result (wanted to kill himself, etc)? What happened to Nicole as a result? How does this make the theme of confrontation so important? i.e. why must Francis confront Larry? What will this do for Francis?

In conclusion…

Sample Intermediate 1 essay

Choose a novel or short story which has an important turning point that changes things for one of the characters.

Show how the story builds up to the turning point and say why it is so important for the character.

In the novel ‘Heroes’ by Robert Cormier it is tempting to see the part in the novel where Larry LaSalle assaults Nicole in the Wreck Centre as an important turning point. After all, this causes Francis to lie about his age and go to war at fifteen. However, the ‘important turning point’ actually comes near the end of the novel when Francis goes to Larry’s flat to confront him and to kill him for what he did to Nicole and to Francis that night in the Wreck Centre.

The whole of the novel has been building up to this meeting. In chapter one, Francis Cassavant, still only eighteen, has returned to his hometown, Frenchtown, on a ‘mission’ to kill Larry LaSalle. At this point we have no idea why.

Through a series of flashbacks we learn about Francis and his life before the war. Francis was shy and quiet. His parents were dead and he lived with his uncle. He had few friends and spent a lot of time reading. When he first met Nicole Renard he fell in love with her but was too shy to speak to her.

Then Larry LaSalle came back to Frenchtown and dazzled the children with his ‘movie star smile’ and ‘Fred Astaire walk’. He opened a recreation centre (the Wreck Centre) and involved all the local children. He made Francis a table-tennis champion and gave him the courage and self-esteem he had always lacked. That is what made Larry’s betrayal of Nicole and Francis so much more terrible.

When Larry sexually assaulted Nicole, Francis blamed himself for not protecting her. Nicole turned him away when he tried to speak to her and asked why he had not helped her. Francis contemplated suicide but instead joined up even though he was much too young. He was badly injured when he threw himself on a grenade and now has ‘no face’.

The turning point comes when Francis discovers that Larry has returned to Frenchtown. As Francis goes to Larry’s lodgings, he describes the gun he is carrying as a ‘tumour’ on his thigh.

Larry is no longer the dazzling star that he was. His good looks have gone and his legs have been wasted away with disease. Larry will no longer be able to charm the young people as he once did. He is surprised when Francis tells him he was there at the Wreck Centre when Larry attacked Nicole but he does not say he is sorry. He says he has a weakness for the ‘sweet young things’ meaning young girls like Nicole. We, like, Francis suspect that he has done this before to other girls. What is even more horrible is that Larry just sees this as a weakness and thinks that the good things he does make up for it.

Larry tells Francis to put away his gun. He says that he has thought about killing himself many times. When Francis is walking down the stairs from the flat he hears the sound of the shot as Larry kills himself.

Francis is now able to move on with his life. If he had killed Larry he almost certainly would have committed suicide as he intended from the start. Now he has been spared killing a man in cold blood. He can also see that the guilt was not his but Larry’s. Larry may have been a hero to his platoon in the war, and a hero to the children in the Wreck Centre but he preyed on young girls and felt no shame or guilt.

Francis is brave about his injuries and cares about other people. He is a much better person than Larry and he deserves to put the past behind him and get on with his life. Now that he has discovered the truth about Larry he has a chance to do that.

 

95 Responses to “Prose – ‘Heroes’ by Robert Cormier”

  1. Mrs C Johnston Says:

    The quotes on the “Heroes” page are arranged by theme rather than character but it is a useful revision tool to go through them and work out who said what. As to the real meaning of the novel, it is probably best summed up when Francis says: “I think of my old platoon…of Enrico…of Arthur Rivier…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.”

    • Sasha tee Says:

      Hi! I’m a little confused on the role of minor characters. What is their role and importance in the book?

      • Mrs C Johnston Says:

        The minor characters you might look at – Enrico, Dr Abrams, Arthur Rivier, Mrs Belander – all contribute to the novel in different ways. Enrico is one of the young men who has suffered horrific injuries in the war. He masks much of his pain through humour but he intends to kill himself. He gave Francis the scarf he now wears as part of his disguise and calls Francis a hero. He knows about Francis’ feelings for Nicole. Dr Abrams is pragmatic about Francis’ injuries and offers him hope for the future – that is why it is significant when Francis burns his contact details but considers finding his phone number again in the final chapter. Arthur recognises Francis despite his disguise but respects Francis’ request not to reveal his identity to others. The chapter where Arthur is drunk is very important to the central theme of the novel about what a hero really is. He talks of the ‘real war’ the ‘scared war’ which no one talks about. He says they were just scared boys. He also remembers Francis as the table tennis champion at the Wreck Centre. Mrs Belander used to get Francis to run errands for her; he tests his disguise on her; he hears of Larry’s return through her – “Mrs Belander, bless her, asks the question I myself want to ask.

  2. Kirsty Says:

    You have literally just saved me from failing my exam tomorrow! If only my teachers actually taught all this! Thank you so much, seriously.

  3. Cameron Says:

    Man can you write an essay! This is really useful, thanks!

  4. emma Says:

    i have got a heroes test tomorrow AAAAAAA the teacher changed the test paper sooooo we all have to revise everything

  5. Sana Says:

    These have given me great points(: Was just wondering, how does Francis change throughout the novel, other than revealing his ‘dark side’? thanks

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      I’m not sure that Francis does have a ‘dark side’. Even at the beginning of the novel when he has returned to Frenchtown intent on carrying out his ‘mission’ to kill Larry, we are aware of how hard this is for him. He feels quilty about praying for Larry. In the chapter where he is on his way to confront Larry, he talks of the gun as ‘a tumour’ on his thigh. He dreams of the two young soldiers he killed, night after night. He feels he has betrayed Nicole and blames himself rather than Larry. He is not self-pitying about his injuries. Larry has a ‘dark side’ but I would not say the same of Francis. Francis does develop, however. By the end of the novel, he has a better understanding of himself. He accepts that there is no future for him with Nicole. (His feelings for her were always unrealistic and romanticised.) He talks of his leaving her as his ‘gift’ to her. He is also able to contemplate a future for himself.

  6. Sarah Says:

    What impact does the war have on both the people of frenchtown but also frenchtown itself?

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      Chapter 9 (‘Larry LaSalle was one of the first Frenchtown men to enlist in the armed services …’) tells of how life changed for the ordinary people in Frenchtown.

      Towards the end of this chapter, Francis remarks that because of the attack on Pearl Harbor: ‘We had discovered in one moment on a Sunday afternoon that the world was not a safe place anymore.’

      ‘Patriotic fever, mixed with rage over the sneak attack in the Pacific, ran rampant through the streets of Frenchtown… Recruiting offices were immediately thronged with men and women answering the call to fight for their country.’

      The factories in Frenchtown manufactured material for the war effort day and night. Francis’s uncle told him that whilst the factories did not make guns or bombs, the everyday things that they did make, such as combs, brushes, knives and forks, were needed by their fighting men too.

      Because Larry had enlisted, the Wreck Centre was closed for ‘the duration’.

      ‘Within a short time, the absence of young men on the Frenchtown streets was noticeable.’

      Women joined the Waves and Spars and they walked through Frenchtown in uniform ‘with a pride in their step that wasn’t there when they were shop girls or in the factories.’

      The jobs left vacant as men enlisted were now filled by young people and women. Francis himself had a part-time job in Mr Laurier’s drugstore and Nicole knitted socks and scarves for the armed forces with the nuns at the convent.

      The people of Frenchtown would watch reports of the war in the cinema on the Movietone News and listen to the news on the radio played between war songs. Nicole heard on the radio about Larry saving the lives of his platoon and the story then featured on the Movietone News the following Saturday at the Plymouth movie theatre. The people of Frenchtown ‘jammed the Plymouth’ to see ‘the town’s first big war hero on the silver screen’.

      In Chapter 11 when Larry returns to a hero’s welcome, Francis tells of how the war has changed Larry physically: ‘His slenderness was knife-like now, lethal, his features sharper, nose and cheekbones…’ In Chapter 14, Larry’s health has been damaged irreparably: ‘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.’

      Francis, too, has been terribly injured in the war: ‘I have no face.’ (Mrs Belander calls him, ‘Poor boy.’)

      There are Frenchtown boys who will never return home such as Joey LeBlanc who died on a beach on Iwa Jima; there are the men and women in the Strangler’s black leather book of Frenchtown Warriors; and there are the veterans like Arthur and Armand and Joe who talk in the St Jude Club of what they will do next – ‘become cops or fireman or go to college or back to the shops’ – and reminisce about their schooldays and baseball but never discuss the war that a drunken Arthur Rivier (in Chapter 8) describes as the ‘scared war’.

      When Larry is given the silver key to the city, we learn that during the war there are no bonfires, fireworks or parades; there is a blackout; there is no chocolate due to wartime restrictions.

      In the final chapter, in the railroad station, Francis watches the people coming and going. There are two sailors and a master sergeant and a young man in ‘an old battle jacket’ whose smile ‘turns into a grimace’. Francis thinks of all of the men in his platoon. The scars from the war are not restricted to those we can see.

  7. Aysha uddin Says:

    wowwww i have a hero exam on thursday helped alott. just anxious about the essay and extract question im going to get!

  8. valentinna Says:

    whoa…i have hero’s exam tomorrow,a lit bit nervous

  9. suzier Says:

    Mrs C Johnston……. I think you know this book better than Robert Cormier. Thanks for all the help!!

  10. Kamaroon Rasheed Says:

    lOVELY WORK MRS.JOHNSTON. YOU ARE AN UNSUNG HERO HELPING KIDS WITH THEIR WORK…I AM A GRATEFUL MUM WHO HAS NO CLUE ABOUT LITERATURE.

  11. tiaC Says:

    need help as this essay is for tomorrow! how does the writer use the theme of identity in the book?

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      Sorry. I did not read this until Friday. Hopefully in your essay you mentioned how Francis is anxious to conceal his identity from the people of Frenchtown when he returns after the war to complete his ‘mission’ to kill Larry and then himself. He talks of testing his disguise on Mrs Belander when he deliberately uses her name when he rents a flat from her. He used to run errands for her and she even baked him a cake for his birthday but she fails to recognise him because of his terrible facial injuries which he partly conceals with the silk scarf Enrico gave him. (His voice, too, has been changed.) Mrs Belander believes his lies and calls him ‘poor boy’ and makes him soup.
      Francis is also anxious to hide who he really is when he is with the other veterans. His picture is in the Strangler’s book and he was awarded the Silver Star but Francis does not consider himself to be a hero. He joined up at aged fifteen to die in the war rather than commit suicide by throwing himself from the church steeple. He insists that he threw himself on the grenade, not to save others, but to kill himself. He believes the real heroes are the young men like Arthur Rivier who were there, far from home, afraid, who did not win any medals but simply did what they had to do.
      Of course, no discussion of the theme of identity would be complete without reference to Larry. He conceals his true nature behind his dashing good looks and forceful personality. Only at the end of the novel when Francis at last confronts Larry do we see that Larry is as damaged on the outside as he was on the inside those years before when he betrayed both Nicole and Francis – and, indeed, all the other children who misguidedly put their trust in him.

  12. sarah Says:

    i really need help i have an exam on this book and the question is How does Robert Cormier develop the character of Francis and shape our views about his relationship with Nicole

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      As Francis is the narrator we form an opinion of him from what he tells us about himself and those around him as well as what he does and how he reacts to the situation in which he finds himself. For instance, when he tells us at the very start of the novel that has has ‘no face’, despite being only 18, an age when most young people might be expected to be very concerned about the way they look, he deals with his horrendous injuries in a very matter-of-fact way with little or no sign of self-pity. In the first chapter we also discover that Nicole is seldom far from his thoughts. He mentions his surprise at not having thought of her for two hours which suggests that he normally thinks about her all the time. When Enrico suggested (possibly half in jest) that Francis find himself a blind girl who would not care what he looked like, he thought about it for a while before telling Enrico that for him it would always be Nicole.
      It is through his use of flashbacks, that Cormier shows us what Francis was like before Larry came back to Frenchtown and when, in the seventh grade, Francis met Nicole for the first time. Look at that part in the book (chapter 2) when she comes into the classroom and Francis compares her to a statue of a saint (already putting her on a pedestal in his mind), thinks of himself as a knight at her feet yet also mentions the ‘hint of mischief’ in her eyes. Recalling that very first meeting he says: ‘I silently pledged her my love and loyalty for ever.’ It might be argued that both this image of her and his promise are unrealistic and it is inevitable that both Nicole and Francis will fail to live up to Francis’ expectations. (Much of the guilt Francis feels over what he sees as his betrayal of Nicole stems from his failure to keep the promise he made years before and repeated the night of the rape.) There are plenty of examples of Francis being shy in her presence yet wanting to please or impress her, and of her ‘mischief’. (You should refer to a few of these in your essay.) Francis also tells us of his feelings towards her changing as he gets a little older and they talk about books and films and go to the cinema and his hand ‘ accidentally dropped and brushed her sweater’. Because we see the events through Francis’ eyes it is not until he meets with Nicole after Larry’s death that we hear directly from Nicole herself and we hear about those ‘dates’ from her point-of-view. In any essay about their relationship you have to consider that second last chapter of the novel in some depth as it is here that Francis recognises that there is no future for him with Nicole. Even when he sees that leaving her is his ‘gift’ to her he still finds it hard to accept that he will never see her again. ‘I knew I had lost her, had lost her a long time ago.’ Like Francis, we can see that Nicole always had a far less romanticised view of their relationship than Francis. Francis learns a lot about himself throughout the novel. The guilt that drove Francis to contemplate suicide, to go to war at fifteen, to return to Frenchtown to kill the man who was once his hero, was not his alone. The lifting of a great deal of this burden from his shoulders, makes it possible for Francis to contemplate the future with hope – even if it is a future without Nicole.

  13. emily Says:

    Help please, I have a question for homework which says ‘how does Robert Cormier present the theme of heroes’ would be so grateful if you could help me

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      You can start with the title. Who is Cormier referring to in the title? Both Francis and Larry were awarded the Silver Star (see the Strangler’s comments on what the Silver Star represents) but Francis does not consider himself to be a hero because he failed to protect Nicole and he joined the army because he wanted to die but did not want to bring shame on his family by committing suicide. When he threw himself on the grenade, he claims it was to kill himself rather than to protect others. However, he bravely bears his horrific injuries – he does not wallow in self pity – and the guilt he feels is genuine. Larry, on the other hand, may have genuinely risked his life to save his platoon but he feels no guilt whatsoever about what he did to Nicole and to Francis. His comment about the ‘sweet young things’ is particularly chilling. He was a hero to the children of the Wreck Centre because he could transform the bully into a star of the stage but his influence did not extend to the playground where the bully was still a bully. Ultimately he betrayed all of the children, not just Francis and Nicole, because he wanted and needed their adoration and it seems that ‘the trouble’ he got into in New York probably involved other ‘sweet young things’. If Larry and Francis are not heroes, then the title of the book may be ironic, or it may refer to the real heroes – those like Arthur Rivier, a young man from a small town – who went to war, were afraid, but did their duty then came home; those who survived and got back on with their lives. These are the young men who don’t talk about the war ‘the scared war’ and didn’t get any medals. Look again at the chapter where Arthur is drunk in the alleyway and the final chapter when Francis is at the station.

  14. ffion Says:

    Help please! I have a question for homework which says “How is religion used in the novel?”. If you could help I would be very grateful.

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      If you check out the Heroes booklet on the Heroes page you will find a short section on Religion, Sin and Forgiveness:
      In Chapter 1, Francis goes to St. Jude’s Church to pray for the souls of his parents, his wounded friend Enrico, Nicole, and Larry LaSalle, the man he intends to kill. In Chapter 2, we learn that Francis attended a Catholic school and was taught by nuns (like Robert Cormier himself). In Chapter 12 Francis goes to Confession in the church and then climbs the steeple intending to kill himself, “the worst sin of all”. In Chapter 14, Francis tells Larry to say his prayers before he shoots him. Larry talks about his weakness for the ‘sweet young things’ as a sin but unlike Francis he feels no guilt and feels no need for forgiveness. This is all the more terrible, perhaps, when we consider that he too was educated by the nuns in Frenchtown.
      In Chapter 15, Francis goes to see the nuns to ask where Nicole is. Sister Mathilde says she will pray for him.
      The church is often referred to in the descriptions of the town. Why do you think it’s always there in the background?
      Religion is present throughout the novel from the opening chapter when Francis talks about how difficult it is to pray for Larry 1) because of the way he feels about him and 2) because he intends to kill him to the end when he asks the nuns for help to find Nicole. When Francis meets Nicole for the first time he compares her to a statue of a saint; the veterans tell stories about the nuns and their time at school; Nicole spends time with the nuns after Larry has gone off to war; Francis wonders if Nicole will become a nun but it is Marie LaCroix who is about to do so. The themes of guilt, forgiveness and religion are all inextricably linked.

  15. Happy days Says:

    Consider the use of symbolism in the novel, focusing on the scarf, the gun and the table tennis

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      ‘I haven’t always worn the scarf and the bandage’.
      Francis did not cover his face whilst he was at the hospital in England. On a trip into London, however, a young boy screamed when he saw Francis’ face and Francis realised for the first time how upsetting his injuries looked to those who were not used to treating ‘the wounded and the maimed’. He wears the scarf, bandage and Red Sox cap to hide his face from those who might be distressed by his appearance. (Francis describes his horrific injuries without any self pity.) They also serve to protect his damaged face from the cold.
      Enrico gave him the scarf. It reminds Francis of those worn by the heroic First World War aviators. The irony is that Francis does not consider himself to be a hero. That the scarf is white suggests that it might represent cowardice.
      In the first chapter Francis states: ‘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.’ Yet, Francis feels he has already lost his identity. He says when he looks in the mirror: ‘I don’t see me anymore but a stranger slowly taking shape.’
      Francis is on a ‘mission’ to kill Larry. He intends to confront Larry, kill him then kill himself. He wishes to keep his identity a secret and tests his ‘disguise’ on Mrs Belander. When Arthur Rivier recognises him he asks him to keep quiet about it. Francis does not want to be thought of as a hero. He believes he threw himself on the grenade in ‘an act of cowardice’ to kill himself rather than to save others. Thus the scarf that he hides behind is a visible sign of his guilt and shame.
      When he visits Sister Mathilde to find out from her if she knows where Nicole has gone he removes his cap but is relieved when she cannot see his reaction beneath the scarf and bandage. He cannot hide his identity from her but he can hide his feelings.
      Larry, however, tells him to remove the scarf because his face is a symbol of his bravery.

      In Chapter 1 Francis mentions the ‘gun hidden away’ in the duffel bag he carries with him everywhere. The bag is ‘like a lump’ on his back. Later when he goes to confront Larry he compares the gun to a ‘tumour’. The burden of his ‘mission’ to kill Larry has been eating away at him and growing like a cancer inside him.
      When he does confront Larry, Larry tells him to put away his gun. Larry has his own gun and has contemplated suicide: ‘I wonder how it would feel to pull the trigger and have everything come to an end.’
      He tells Francis: ‘…one gun is enough for what has to be done.’
      When Larry does kill himself, Francis describes the sound of the gun shot as being ‘almost like a ping-pong ball striking the table.’
      In the final chapter, Francis is still carrying the gun but now the weight of his bag is ‘comfortable’. This suggests that Nicole’s forgiveness has eased the burden of his guilt. That he still has the gun means that suicide is still an option but at least he is contemplating having a future.
      It is significant that the sound of the gun shot that kills Larry should be compared to the sound of a ping-pong ball because Larry helped Francis to become a table tennis champion. Francis was a shy, lonely boy. He did not think he was good at anything but Larry told him: ‘You’re going to be a champion.’
      Francis was disappointed at first when Larry first introduced him to table tennis. He dismissed ‘ping-pong’ as a game but Larry insisted that table tennis was a sport and Francis had the potential to excel at it. Larry was right. Francis tells us: ‘Nobody had ever cheered me before.’ When Nicole tells him she loves to watch him play he has the confidence to tell her he loves to watch her dance. Francis wins the table tennis tournament in the Wreck Centre. (At the end of the novel, Nicole refers to him as her ‘table tennis champion’ and Arthur Rivier remembers him as a ‘champ’ at ping-pong. Larry made Francis a hero in the Wreck Centre.)
      The final match between Francis and Larry is significant in that Francis realises that Larry is controlling the game. On the final point Larry could, if he chose to do so, humiliate Francis completely but he lets Francis win. In their final confrontation, Larry is still in charge. He tells Francis to put away his gun and to leave and Francis does so. Larry kills himself – the final shot is his. He also tells Francis to: ‘Leave everything here, the war, what happened at the Wreck Centre, leave it all behind, with me.’ In the final chapter, when Francis is at the train station with the gun in his bag, ‘comfortable’ on his back now that he has Nicole’s forgiveness, we hope that he can do just that – leave everything behind with Larry and move on with his life.

  16. Joka feva Says:

    Consider the presentation of tension in the novel. Examine the way the narrative is structured. Why does Cromier use flashback?

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      The novel does not have a straightforward chronological structure. Instead it moves from the present to the past in a series of flashbacks which show us how the characters have changed and developed and also represent the different sides of Francis’ character. The flashbacks, which all build up to the confrontation with Larry in Chapter 14, create suspense as they slow the action down by gradually revealing details of the past. These flashbacks offer us an insight into his early teens, his war experiences, conversations with Enrico and Dr Abrams etc. In Chapter 1, Francis recalls the words of Sister Gertrude who taught him to pray for his enemies.
      In tackling a question about how the writer creates suspense and/or tension you should look at how each chapter ends.
      For instance, Chapter 1 ends with “I wonder if I will ever see her again” (referring to Nicole) – and we too wonder if he will. Chapter 3 ends with another reference to his ‘mission’ to kill Larry.
      In Chapter 5 Joey warns Francis that the Wreck Centre is still unlucky: ‘Doom,’ he pronounced. ‘Wait and see.’ (This is exactly what the reader does. We wait for Francis to tell us, at last, what happened to cause him to wish to kill Larry.) The chapter then ends with the information that Joey never made it home from the war and then foreshadows the horror that is to come.
      There are lots of examples of foreshadowing in the novel which also create tension and suspense.

  17. Anon Says:

    Amazing! Helped a lot thanks!

  18. Angela Says:

    Hi, i have a question. What made Larry behave as he did? Did he give any thought to how it would affect Nicole? Did he know that Francis had not left the building? How long had he planned the attack for?

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      We do not know how long Larry had been planning what he did but he certainly seemed to single Francis and Nicole out as his favourites. We also suspect that he did something similar in New York and that is the ‘trouble’ that is referred to earlier in the novel. From what he says to Francis it seems that Larry is not at all guilty about what he has done – he likes ‘the sweet young things’ – and after all, he says, everyone sins. He has no conscience and lacks the empathy to understand how he has hurt Francis and Nicole. He cannot understand why Francis should feel guilty about doing nothing to stop him. Larry does not appear to have been aware Francis was there but he did leave Frenchtown very quickly afterwards.

  19. Oguzhan Topac Says:

    can you help me please, I have an example soon and I dont have enough notes on Francis and can you answer the question , how does cormier present the character of francis, can you put some quotes on it when you write the answer, thanks

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      There is a lot of information on this blog about Francis and quotes too. If you read through the information here, that should help you put together a good essay.
      Start with the first link to the Heroes booklet and then look at some of the other questions and answers on this page. Sara asked about Francis and my reply to her should help you. There are quotes on the page that you can use but you will have to find them for yourself.

  20. tabitha Says:

    Just some themes I’m having difficulty with, it would be great if you could help 🙂
    Forgiveness
    power and powerlessness
    minor characters in heroes
    suffering

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      There is some information to be found in the ‘Heroes booklet’ on this page if you click on the first link. The best chapter for forgiveness is the second last one where Francis goes to speak to Nicole. Not only does he ask for her forgiveness but, to his surprise, she asks him to forgive her. It was because of his overwhelming sense of guilt that he went to war in the first place; that guilt also brought him back to Frenchtown on his ‘mission’ to kill Larry; and it is his guilt that has led him to believe that he has no future after he has carried out that mission. Suffering is tied up with the guilt. In considering suffering as a theme, this same chapter is crucial. Both Nicole and Francis have been changed forever by what has happened. There is, of course, the wider suffering of those touched in some way by the war – those who fought and died or were wounded or maimed; those who returned and wait to go on with their lives – like Arthur Rivier – but have been scarred mentally by the war. Power and powerlessness – again there is the wider issue of the war but the central issue here is Larry’s power or control over the children at the Wreck Centre. Bear in mind here that his control is not absolute. The bully who is a star of the Wreck Centre show is still a bully in the playground; Larry, the Silver Star hero, is damaged physically by the war and can no longer dance. He will never again attract the ‘sweet young things’ he has preyed upon in the past. The minor characters you might look at – Enrico, Dr Abrams, Mrs Belander – all contribute to the novel in different ways. Enrico is one of the young men who has suffered horrific injuries in the war. He masks much of his pain through humour but he intends to kill himself. He gave Francis the scarf and calls him a hero. Dr Abrams is pragmatic about Francis’ injuries and offers him hope for the future – that is why it is significant when Francis burns his contact details but considers finding his phone number again in the final chapter. Mrs Belander used to get Francis to run errands for her; he tests his disguise on her; he hears of Larry’s return through her – “Mrs Belander, bless her, asks the question I myself want to ask.

  21. Sara Says:

    please help me, i have a question to answer as homework.How does Cormier present the effects of war on the characters in heroes?

  22. Sara Says:

    Sorry to disturb you but ive just been through this page and wondering if you can help me with a question i need to answer for homework, its due in tmrw a bit late notice, but the question is How does Robert cormier present the effects of war on the character of francis?

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      This may well be too late for you Sara but this is a relatively easy question considering that Francis tells us in the very first line that he has ‘no face’. You need to write about his physical injuries and the fact that at the beginning of the novel he ‘closes doors’ to (or on) the future by tearing up the contact details for Dr Abrams and possible plastic surgery. How he deals with and talks about his injuries and their cause tells us a great deal about Francis as a character and about the war itself.
      You should also look at how the war has scarred him mentally and emotionally. Think about the routine he goes through before going to sleep, about his dreams. Look at his account of when he killed the two young soldiers.

  23. tolly Says:

    i need to write an essay on the themes of heroes please help

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      If you have a look at the information on this blog – and the other comments and answers – you will find lots of help with this task. Themes to consider include: appearance and reality/disguise; war and how it affects the people of Frenchtown, Francis, the soldiers etc.; betrayal; guilt; religion; what is a hero?

    • tabitha Says:

      This is a really easy essay if you plan it out as follows:
      1) Official definition of a hero (awarded a silver star for acts of bravery)
      2) Larry as a peace time hero (Wreck centre, Francis, Nicole, tamed notorious school bully and Edna the gawky girl)
      3) Larry as a war time hero (when he comes back from the war, talking about the japs, saved his platoon from enemy attack)
      4) Larry as a flawed hero///Francis as a flawed hero ( he has raped Nicole and done the same to other “sweet young things”, but he believes he should be forgiven for this, “should that one sin of mine wipe all the good things…////he only jumped on the grenade because he saw this as an easy way to commit suicide without it actually looking like the sin of despair, is this really the intention to have? Should he really have been awarded the silver star?”)
      5) Arthur Rivier- (pours scorn on idea that ordinary soldiers were heroes – only boys with apple cheeks – write about consequences on the soldiers)
      6) Francis understands what a true hero is at the end ( his old platoon – “fought the good war”)
      7) Nicole is the true hero (suffered in silence, tried to move forward, copes with horrors of rape, forgives francis, aspires to be an English teacher)

      Hope this helps and make sure to develop each paragraph 🙂

  24. karen vickery Says:

    i am a learning coach in a secondary
    school and i have just read all your answers. if students follow these examples they should make a mighty fine job of their exam. i have learnt a lot too and i thank you. karen vickery 12thmay 2014

  25. luke Says:

    help please!! I need help with this question for my homework. How does Robert Cormier immediately challenge our preseptions about what it means to be a hero

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      If you read through the entries on this page including the other comments you will get plenty of ideas for your homework. If you were asked what you think a ‘hero’ is what would you say? Do Francis and Larry fit the criteria and if not why not? Cormier makes it clear that he believes that the young men like Arthur Rivier who went to war and did not win any medals, who were scared but did what they had to do were the real heroes. Your homework needs to focus on these points.

  26. Kobe Johnson Says:

    How is the theme of loneliness portrayed in Heroes?

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      Many of the characters in the novel are portrayed as lonely figures. Robert Cormier once said: “I have always had the sense that we are all pretty much alone in life, particularly in adolescence.”
      A character’s loneliness is often linked to the secrets they carry within them. This secret or hidden identity sets them apart from others. You can see this most clearly when Francis returns to Frenchtown intent on carrying out his ‘mission’. He tests his disguise on Mrs Belander. His facial injuries, the cap and scarf serve to hide the young boy she once sent on errands. However, even before the events in the Wreck centre, Francis was lonely. His parents were dead, his uncle was kind but quiet and undemonstrative. Francis was shy. It was Larry who gave him confidence through the table-tennis and that makes the betrayal even more of a blow.
      At the end of the novel, Larry who had always been surrounded by people, is a sad figure, alone and crippled by his injuries. He is most disturbed by the knowledge that he will never again be admired by the children who once considered him their hero. Francis finds Arthur Rivier alone and drunk one night. Arthur tells him that no one talks about the real war, the ‘scared war’. When they are together, the young men back from the war talk about the past and the future but they do not talk about the war itself. There is a loneliness in keeping the horrors of their experiences inside – secret – because of a sense of shame in admitting the truth.
      Nicole is alone in the convent at the end of the novel,far away from the friends she made in Frenchtown. For a long time she could not even read letters from Marie. She is beginning to put her life back together again but she can never go back and there is no future for her with Francis.

  27. gajann Says:

    How Does Cormier challenge the idea of what a hero is in Heroes?

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      You only have to read through the various comments on this page to see how Cormier challenges the reader to think about their own definition of what a hero is. When Larry asks Francis if his one sin wipes away all the good he has done, the writer is asking us that same question. How you answer that very much depends on who or what you consider a hero to be. Larry saves the lives of his platoon but he damages the lives of the children he preys upon.Can an action be good or heroic if the motivation behind it is evil? Does an action that saves lives or makes lives better outweigh other actions or a lifestyle that damages others? Cormier makes it clear who he thinks the real heroes are. I, for one, think that a hero can be flawed, as all human beings are flawed. Being afraid does not make you a coward; staying and facing whatever it is that makes you afraid might (should?) be considered heroic. Saving lives by putting yourself at risk may well be heroic but preying on children is not.

  28. emma Says:

    can anyone help with this essay? How does Robert comier portray the character of francis at the start of the novel?

  29. emma Says:

    help please I have a assessment and falling behind on this assessment question – Explore ways Robert Comier develops sympathy and dislike of two characters in the novel. Any help would be great

  30. Mrs S Says:

    Hi Mrs C Johnston, could you please help. I have an assessment next week. The question we will be asked is like this.

    Explore Cormier’s presentation of Larry LaSalle and Examine the ways he presents him as the villain of the novel.
    I would really appreciate your help. Thank you.

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      You might find the essay on the dark side of human nature at the top of this page the most useful.
      You need to consider the impact of learning in the first chapter that Francis has returned to Frenchtown on a ‘mission’ to kill Larry La Salle and how that contrasts with the description of Larry’s arrival in town to open the Wreck Centre. It gives extra weight to the ‘rumours’ that he had ‘gotten into trouble’ and makes us look out for signs/evidence that Larry is not the ‘hero’ he appears to be. Of course, you cannot write an essay about Larry without examining in some detail the chapter towards the end of the novel when Francis confronts him in his flat and Larry talks of his weakness for the ‘sweet young things’.

  31. Mrs S Says:

    Thank you Mrs C Johnston, your advice was very helpful.

  32. Brooke Says:

    Please help exam question – explore the ways in which cormier challenges the notion of heroism through the presentation of the two central characters? ?????mainly Larry lasalle and how he empowers francis, he challenges francis’ own view of himself as a failure, only kills himself for selfish reasons? ,
    conclusion – nature of heroism returned to “the unsung” heroes = the “real heroes” I don’t understand this could you please help thanks I have the controlled assessment on Thursday and I don’t understand this at all?!

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      If you break down the task it is not so daunting. First of all think about what the term ‘heroism’ means. Who or what is a hero? Francis and Larry are both awarded the Silver Star for acts of bravery. Their actions save other soldiers. Larry is given a hero’s welcome in Frenchtown and rapes Nicole. We later learn that he has a weakness for ‘the sweet young things’ – he has done this before. Surely we cannot still see him as a hero? Francis, on the other hand, claims to have thrown himself on the grenade to kill himself. This raises the question of whether this was in fact an act of cowardice. However, it also leads on to us questioning Francis’ own view of himself. He did not commit suicide after Nicole’s rape because he did not want to shame his dead parents; he killed the two young soldiers and relives the experience every night – the killing was instinctive – leading us to believe that throwing himself on the grenade was instinctive too – risking himself to save others; he talks about his ruined face without self-pity; he takes upon himself the guilt that belongs to Larry. Francis is only fifteen when Nicole is attacked by Larry; he has no parents and only an uncle who is kindly but not the sort of person you could go to in times of trouble. Francis tries to speak to Nicole to explain himself but is sent away by her. He has no one to help him having been betrayed by his ‘hero’ and having in turn ‘betrayed’ the girl he worships. The writer makes it clear that he believes the real heroes to be those like Arthur Rivier who were afraid but fought nonetheless and then came home and quietly got on with their lives. Look at the chapter where Arthur is drunk and at the last chapter. The chapter where Francis confronts Larry is crucial to our understanding of Larry’s true nature. Can we really consider him to be a hero in any sense of the word?
      Hope this helps you think about how to tackle the task.

      • Brooke Says:

        Thank you!

      • Brooke Says:

        There is just two things which I’m confused on : does he kill himself for selfish reasons? ?? And nature of heroism returned to the “unsung heroes” =”the real heroes

        These are what I’m confused on the most and I have the exam tomorrow please help me understand thank you

      • Mrs C Johnston Says:

        If you look at the chapter where Francis goes to see Larry with the intention of killing him you will find your answer to the first part. Larry does not feel any remorse for what he has done to Nicole and to Francis and to all the other young people who trusted and looked up to him. All he feels is self pity because no one will ever look up to him again; the war has damaged his health and he will never dance again or impress the young and vulnerable. He has already contemplated suicide and Francis’ visit only confirms what he suspected – there will be no more ‘sweet young things’ for him. He does not kill himself to put things right or out of guilt. Look at the part where he says to Francis: ‘Don’t look at me … But it’s too late, isn’t it?’ Does that sound like someone who is sorry for what he has done or simply sorry for himself?
        As for the ‘nature of heroism’ it is stated quite clearly in the final chapter: ‘I think of Arthur Rivier, drunk … Scared kids, not born to fight and kill… the real heroes.’ This is where you will find what Cormier thinks true heroism is.

  33. Niya Says:

    Hello, the are some very helpful points!! Mrs C Johnston, can we say that the war changed everyone and everything around Francis but he remained as his old 13 year old self?

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      I would not say that at all. Of course Francis has been changed by the war. For a start he has been disfigured by the war – ‘I have no face’. However, he has also been mentally scarred by the war. Look at where he talks about reciting the names of the young men in his platoon before he goes to sleep and of the dream he has every night. Even before Francis joined up at 15, Larry’s betrayal of both him and Nicole meant that he would never again be the shy, naive boy he was at thirteen.

  34. Jamie Says:

    This book is my fav I cry every time

  35. emma Says:

    What are the main themes in the novel heroes? i am going to be sitting the exam this month on the WJEC exam board but am slightly unsure of the themes the questions could be based upon? thankyou.

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      You will find lots of information on themes and potential essay questions if you scroll through the comments and replies on this page.

  36. emma Says:

    In my York Notes revision guide it says that you should comment upon the language used in the episodes centered around her and that you will notice that the vocabulary is softer and gentler than in other parts of the novel. I have not noticed this myself and don’t really understand what it mean or what I could comment bout it? Any ideas? thankyou

  37. emma Says:

    what could I write in an essay about the theme of loneliness?

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      If you scroll down the comments and replies, you will find some info on how to tackle this question.

  38. emma Says:

    okay thankyou.

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      Emma,
      The best way to check the truth of this statement about Nicole is to go through the novel and look at what she says. This does not take as much time as you might think as, until the second last chapter, she does not actually say all that much. She visits Marie and he is sitting on the banister reading, thinking that he might be able to be a writer like Hemingway (which is significant). As she passes him she says, ‘Don’t fall off, Francis” and he almost does in shock. He then agonises over what she must think of him because he doesn’t reply. She might be teasing him but it is gentle; she shows that she knows his name; she also shows concern for his safety. In the Wreck Centre she says hello to him and before the tournament she wishes him good luck and tells him: ‘I love to watch you play. You play table tennis like a dancer dances. The way you move … it’s like you’re dancing to that song.’ This is just the affirmation that Francis needs. She invites him to the party she is having after the show. After he has won the tournament she calls him her ‘champion’ and says, ‘See you tomorrow.’ In the second last chapter she remembers,’That was a sad party, wasn’t it?’ because it was the day Pearl Harbor was attacked. Nicole is the one who shares his interest in books and films but, more importantly, she is the one who encourages him, both when they are fifteen and at the end of the novel, to write a book. She tells him,’I think you could.’ Her interest in him is not for personal gain or because she is manipulating him as Larry does but because she understands him and has faith in him and knows that he simply lacks confidence in his abilities. She wants to ‘help more in the war’ and talks about perhaps becoming a nurse if the war lasts that long. Later at the convent school she is considering becoming a teacher – both of these jobs show her desire to help others. When Francis makes what he thinks is a ‘clever’ remark about the convent smelling of cabbage, she tells him it is ‘not a bad smell. This is enough to let him know that she disapproves of his remark without her making a big deal of it. During Larry’s return she simply asks Francis to ‘Stay close to me…Stay and watch…Don’t go.’ She does not say why or explain that she is afraid. After the attack she says nothing to Francis as she passes him and later, when she eventually sees him at her house, she simply says, ‘You were there all the time. You didn’t do anything. You knew what he was doing, didn’t you…’ She even calls him ‘Poor Francis’ then tells him to ‘go away’.
      When they meet for the last time, Nicole asks how he is and about his face. She also surprises Francis when she says, ‘I’m sorry about one thing … What I did to you that day. You weren’t to blame for what happened.’ Francis still blames himself – at least in part- but Nicole is asking for his forgiveness because she knows that Francis was betrayed by Larry too. If you are looking for evidence that Nicole speaks in a gentle way then here is the perfect example: ‘… when you said your name, I almost panicked. And I’m sorry. Because you were part of the good times, Francis. Always so shy, I couldn’t help teasing you …’ The teasing was never hurtful though. She advises him to ‘write about it, Francis. Maybe you can find the answer that way.’ Finally she says,’ Have a good life, Francis. Be whatever will make you happy.’ Unlike Larry who manipulated the children, who made a bully the star of the show but did not stop him being a bully in the playground, Nicole wants Francis to be the best he can be but on his own terms. She wants him to do whatever will make him happy.

  39. Emma Says:

    Thankyou so much, this will definitely help me a lot!

  40. Robert Cormier Says:

    Thanks Alot this helped. Feel prepared for my exam 🙂

  41. Andy Says:

    Firstly, thank you so much because these tips have really helped me.
    My exam is tomorrow and I feel prepared, but one question that popped up last year that really confused me was ‘Do you think the ending to Heroes is a satisfying ending’, or something along those lines.
    How would I go about writing this? I personally did not think the ending was satisfying, but how would I justify my opinion and incorporate context into this essay?
    Thank you!

  42. Shan Says:

    I have an exam on this topic soon and was wondering if you could help on this question
    How were war heroes treated

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      This is a rather strange question but you should look at the part of the novel where Francis is in the St Jude Club and the Strangler brings out his scrapbook. There is also Mrs Belander’s behaviour towards Francis when he asks for a room in her three-decker and Frenchtown’s reaction to the news of Larry being awarded the Silver Star and his triumphant return to the town after that. All of these are excellent examples of how the townspeople treated their heroes.

  43. molaris Says:

    Hi I was wondering if you could write an essay about the theme of suffering for the novel Heroes because I’m really struggling in that and I’ve got an essay to write for my school. I appreciate it if you could help me. thank you.

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      If you look at the other questions and answers on this page, you should be able to gather together lots of ideas for your essay. You should be looking not only at the impact of Larry’s actions upon Francis and Nicole but also at how the war changed the lives of the people of Frenchtown – particularly the young men who came back injured like Francis and/or psychologically scarred.

  44. Sm Says:

    can you help me on the question ‘Examine how Robert Cormier presents Francis and the war.Cnsider what is written and how it is written’ i need some ideas on this topic
    Thank you

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      This is quite an open question so I can understand why you might be at a loss as to how to tackle it. There are, however, a number of replies/comments on this page that should help you. For instance, look at my reply beginning: ‘Chapter 9 (‘Larry LaSalle was one of the first Frenchtown men to enlist in the armed services …’) tells of how life changed for the ordinary people in Frenchtown.’ This shows the impact the war has on the people of Frenchtown. As to how Cormier presents Francis, see: ‘I’m not sure that Francis does have a ‘dark side’. Even at the beginning of the novel when he has returned to Frenchtown intent on carrying out his ‘mission’ to kill Larry, we are aware of how hard this is for him…’ and ‘As Francis is the narrator we form an opinion of him from what he tells us about himself and those around him as well as what he does and how he reacts to the situation in which he finds himself…’ (This should help you with the what and how.)

  45. Alexandria Says:

    i have the question ‘how does Robert Cormier develop Francis as a flawed hero on ‘Heroes?’ Reading through this page has helped a lot but i have an assessment in two days thats 1200 words long but im struggling on reaching that

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      You might have been asked whether or not you consider Francis to be a hero and you would be making more or less the same arguments.You need to write about what Francis says and does that we would consider heroic – not just during the war but afterwards when he copes with his injuries in a way that is admirable and brave. You also need to consider those aspects which might cause some readers to argue that he is not a hero – his flaws. Francis himself does not believe that he deserves to be in the Strangler’s book. He thinks this because he signed up rather than commit suicide in a way that would bring disgrace to his parents and he tells us that he threw himself on the grenade, not to save others but to kill himself. However, in a way Francis might be considered an unreliable narrator because he takes all the guilt for Nicole’s rape upon himself rather than blaming Larry. He makes no allowances for his youth and inexperience and the fact that Larry has misled and betrayed him too. The reader may also decide that there is enough evidence – Francis’s nightmares over killing of the two young German soldiers – to suggest that Francis could never kill Larry in cold blood and he might also have instinctively thrown himself on the grenade to protect others.

  46. sion Says:

    thanks for the help but how does Cormier present the character of Nicole? thanks

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      If you scroll through the comments on this page you will find my answer to Emma’s question about Nicole. It is not exactly the same as yours but it should give you some help. You should also read the second last chapter of the book again. Here we see Nicole as she is now – years after the rape – and can hear directly from her how she feels. Our view of Nicole has until this point come from Francis. He had no idea, for instance, that she was shy too when they went to the movies together. He has been so busy blaming himself that he has not considered for a moment that she might not blame him. He can accept that they can never be together again when it comes from her.

  47. alex Says:

    I have to write an essay on this question could you please help me. The question is “war has a lasting effect on those who fight in it” How does Cormier present this in Heroes

  48. Alex Enerson Says:

    I have an essay due and I would like help answering this question on Heroes. The question is “war has a lasting effect on those who fight in it” How does Robert Cormier present this in Heroes?

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      Alex, there is a similar question on this page already if you scroll through the comments. The question was: What impact does the war have on both the people of Frenchtown but also Frenchtown itself?
      You will find some information on how the town and its people were affected by war. As for its lasting effects, think about Enrico. Although he is a minor character he represents all those who returned from the war with horrible injuries. He hides the pain – both physical and psychological – behind humour but he is contemplating suicide. Francis has ‘no face’ and has nightmares about the two young Germans that he killed. He too has both physical and emotional scars. Larry talks about everything being different: ‘No wound that you can see…But I’m worn out.’ Arthur Rivier wants to talk about the war – needs to talk about the war – but no one will talk about it. Have a look again at the chapter when Francis comes across Arthur drunk at the entrance to Pee Alley.

  49. Isobel Says:

    Any tips on tackling extract questions on ‘Heroes’? It’s really hard to make inferences and analyse Cormier’s language at depth!!

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      His style is deceptively simple. Francis mentions Hemingway a number of times in the novel and the style of the novel is similar to that of Hemingway. Watch out for pathetic fallacy where the weather mimics Francis’ mood. The verb tense is important – present tense for the part where Francis returns to Frenchtown to wait for Larry and past tense for the flashbacks. Think about the dialogue and what it reveals to us about the characters. Sometimes Francis’ thoughts are recorded in italics as if they are part of the dialogue. Of course he only thinks them. You can see this when he talks to Nicole towards the end of the novel. You may also identify examples of irony. The title of the novel itself is ironic. The Wreck Centre is aptly named because the lives of Francis and Nicole are wrecked there as a result of what happens there. It is also poorly renovated. It still looks unfinished and the shutters sagged. This imperfection and decay fits well with the events that take place there and is only one example of foreshadowing. Cormier also juxtaposes contrasting scenes. The light-hearted tennis tournament and Francis’ triumph is brought to an abrupt end by the statement that the next day was 7 December. There are symbols – the gun ‘like a tumour’ eating away at him as is the guilt the gun symbolises. The silk scarf, given to him by Enrico, is part of his disguise but also symbolises heroism as it reminds him of the scarves worn by WWI aviators. There is an irony here too. It is likely that any extract will contain similes and/or metaphors. You need to identify them and comment on their effectiveness.

  50. Mustafa Says:

    Hi Mrs C Johnston…could you explain how heroes is a book of “secrets, lies, and deceit” aswell as explaining how the chapter where Arthur is drunk helps to let the reader know what Cormier believes a true hero is….I have my wjec exam in a week so would really appreciate an early reply, thanks

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      If you read through the notes and comments on this page you will find all the information you need. Secrets, lies and deceit – look at appearance v reality. You have Francis in disguise (the scarf he wears hides his face from those who might be frightened of or pity his injuries but also allows him to walk around Frenchtown unrecognised); Larry’s attractive outward appearance and his knack for bringing out the children’s hidden talents allow him to hide his true nature and intentions. I have explained elsewhere in the comments on this page the significance of the chapter where Arthur is drunk and talks of the ‘real’ war. Look again at the chapter itself. Significantly it is halfway through the novel. The point made here is re-stated in the last chapter and tells us who Cormier felt the true heroes were.

  51. Wet Says:

    Hi, I have exam next week, the question bother me is explore the way how Cormier present relationship between Nicloe ,Larry and Francis. Thanks so much

    • Mrs C Johnston Says:

      I have had a few emails asking about this. If you read through the page and the comments it should give you help with your exam. Francis talks about Larry not making him come to the front to do the callisthenics even though he is quite short and then encouraging him to play table tennis because he has all the attributes needed to be a good player. The final match between Francis and Larry is a perfect example of Larry both giving Francis a chance to shine yet being always in control. How much of his singling Francis out and boosting his self-confidence is motivated by Larry’s desire to get closer to Nicole? Think about how Francis feels when he sees Nicole and Larry rehearsing the dance for the show and when Nicole calls Larry by his first name instead of Mr LaSalle. It is also worth thinking about why Nicole always goes home after practising her dance rather than staying behind. Look again at the final meeting between Francis and Larry and at the second last chapter when Nicole talks about what happened to her. What she sees herself doing in the future is very different from what Larry seemed to think she would do or be. Why is this significant? Good luck with the exam.


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