It is clear to see that Robert Cormier has attempted to highlight the important quandary that is what exactly makes a hero. Our primary figure, Francis, is a decorated war hero, someone who others look at like a legend, a living symbol of heroism, honour and duty above all and so forth.
This is a rampant concept in society, the love of creating these heroic figures that we can all look up to, aspire to be, respect and learn from. However, Cormier makes it his mission to o place our perspective from that of the hero. We see through the eyes, walk in the shoes, and think in the mind of a living legend. What we see, feel, and think. However, is far from the fiction we’d like to imagine. We see Francis as a terribly scarred individual both physically and mentally.
His whole present life is dominated by a scare few things with his appearance being one of them. We are also aware of his intention to murder another. Immediately, we must question the idea of a hero. The act of murder and the title of hero are not two things we stick together in our heads but here we see the very two things existing in Francis.
This intention, as the novel progresses, is whittled out and we see every push and pull, every motive and reason Francis has for thinking of this, and we can see how this desire to murder is very human. That is prominent. We almost sympathise with this intention, we understand it. It brings us as the readers onto Francis’ level and he becomes so intensely human, far from the mystical hero.
Larry LaSalle is another example of the reality behind the mask of heroism and obviously a far more sinister reality of that. He is the celebrity hero, the face upon the papers, the name that excites crowds, the hand that signs photos and so forth. He is the smiling face of war behind which hides a deeply troubled individual capable of the most heinous of acts.
Francis and Larry, two characters that can be boiled down to protagonist and antagonist, are actually very similar though do have their striking differences. They both exist behind their facades as heroes. We also see how Cormier also targets this concept of heroism by using the idea of cowardice and merely fortunate timing or circumstances.
We see a constant reference to all participants in war as being simply there, all like scared children. None have a clue what they are doing but they do it anyway. We see and argument that this alone may warrant a title as hero but we also see that Cormier might indicate the opposite. Those who become heroes do not go out with the intention of becoming a hero and that very label is itself flawed.
Francis goes to war to die without shame, fearful of the things he might bring up in his family and those around him if he committed suicide outside of conflict. He did not go to war to find himself or to make a name, he went to die. We can see that the only thing keeping him going throughout most of the book is his desire to murder Larry but, after growth and revelations, we can see Francis himself realise the realities of war.
Francis was seen as a hero for an action he committed as a means to kill himself, not to save others. We are forced to wonder, therefore, what a hero really is, to see behind the mask and realise that, in war, everyone is just simply there, lost and confused.
Heroes is a 1998 novel written by Robert Cormier. The novel is centred on the character Francis Cassavant, who has just returned to his childhood home of Frenchtown, Monument, from serving in the Second World War in France and has severe deformities as a result of an incident during the war. The structure of the novel involves the use of flashbacks to Francis’s childhood in Frenchtown and the events in Frenchtown following the war, when Francis returns.