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‘How does Cormier show his readers that life is not always fair and just?


In Robert Cormier’s riveting novel Heroes, a captivating story is told by Francis Cassavant, a war veteran seeking revenge against a fellow veteran in Larry LaSalle for his rape of lifelong love interest Nicole Renard. Through the terrible calamities of those who jeopardize the safety of their own lives to serve their country in the not-so-heroic misconception of warfare, and through the horrid situation in which a good woman is emotionally and physically scarred, author Cormier delivers us a stark representation of life that is ‘not always fair and just’ for the main characters in his novel. Francis Cassavant enlisted in the army during his youth; he was in fact only fifteen when he did so. He, along with a probable amount of many other young teenage males did not receive the ‘adventure’ and ‘enthrallment package’, which they perhaps expected when fighting in the war. Instead, Francis endured the damaging effects of a grenade’s explosion to his still-developing face. Upon his return from the horrific scenes of violent and cataclysmic battle, he must walk the streets of Frenchtown, his hometown, looking as though he is some unknown creature. This is evident through what he describes repeatedly to the readers as his ‘caves’, which he says are his alternative for a nose – he has only two nostrils and is entirely faceless. Pedestrians watch him in sheer frightfulness and disbelief as he strolls along the streets of Frenchtown, trying hard not to reveal himself as he subtly ventures to only the places which he must go to. Cormier uses vivid and explicit descriptions to describe the unfortunate state of Francis to the reader early on; "Oh, I have eyes… but no ears to speak of, just bits of dangling flesh." This technique causes the reader to immediately feel sympathetic towards Francis. The reader can also relate to an unjust and unfair life through Francis risking his life to save others at such a young age and yet as a reward, returning to his hometown with a permanently repulsive deformity. Francis is on a revenge mission to hunt down the malevolent and depraved Larry LaSalle, who is also a war veteran but responsible for the rape of Nicole Renard, his childhood sweetheart. Francis reveals that he is shy and unconfident when trying to spark a conversation with Nicole in the earlier parts of the novel - "was the look that passed between us that first day a wish of my imagination?". It is therefore perhaps somewhat understandable for Francis to have been reluctant, scared and maybe too innocent to intervene in the terrible event which sees Nicole get sexually abused in the 'Wreck Centre' by LaSalle and it is through this incident and the aftermath which Cormier depicts the clear unfairness of Francis' life. The guilt of letting this happen to Nicole which compels Francis to enlist in the army, as though he feels he owes his life to society as a result of allowing an innocent girl to be so cruelly violated. This can also be traced back to when Francis first met Nicole - 'I knelt there like a knight at her feet'. The irony becomes that Francis gradually turns out to be a knight for his country in World War Two. Cormier's main intentions when depicting Francis' misery is for the reader to feel empathy for him in his worthless world "He found me sitting alone on the back steps of the Wreck Centre, looking at nothing in

particular. There was nothing in my world that was worth looking at." The quote "the truth is that I don’t care whether I heal or not. Because I know that it doesn’t matter", also depicts the hopeless nature of the character and Cormier expresses in this passage of the novel that Francis is perhaps no longer seeking any sympathy as the days for him caring for his own wellbeing are over. Larry eventually shoots himself and prevents Francis from accomplishing his ultimate mission. One may argue that Larry's death was hereby justified as a result of what he did to Nicole, although Francis himself may have argued that it wasn't - because he didn't do it. Cormier also uses the character of Nicole Renard to exemplify to readers how life is not always fair and just. Nicole is described as being an all-round gem of a person by the infatuated Francis. He continuously mentions how Nicole is tremendously beautiful and overwhelmingly striking - "I silently pledged her my love and loyalty forever". Innocent, wellbrought-up and a respectable young woman, it comes across as utterly disturbing that Nicole is violated by the debauched Larry LaSalle. Cormier includes Nicole's rape scene in the story as though it is a representation of the fragility of life, and to show that dreadful things can happen to anybody, and most of the time, undeservedly. It can also be viewed as a decent action for Nicole not to inform her parents about her rape, which would inevitably have caused them much heartache and sorrow for their daughter. Nicole, in doing this deed, was fair and just - she placed her parents' content before her own needs and moral support. Through the fact that women are often encouraged to speak out about being raped or sexually abused, the decentness of Nicole is further epitomized by not revealing her ghastly and horrifying experience to her loved ones. In conclusion, it is ultimately through Cormier's use of characterisation and the revelatory scenes of the lives of these characters, which are not told in a sequential order, which illustrates that life is not always fair and just. Francis Cassavant, a deformed, broken man and war veteran, and the torn woman Nicole Renard, Francis' lifelong aficionado, both dramatise the reality of tumultuously unjustified lives in Cormier's gripping novel.