The title “Heroes” immediately highlights heroism as a key theme to the novel, because it is planted into the reader’s sub-conscious mind, so they identify heroism in everything they read, even if that is not the concept Cormier’s intended to present. Acting as an umbrella term, “heroes” represents the many values associated with heroism, repeated throughout the novel. Some may see it as an overbearing, forced title that Cormier uses to make heroism into the main focus, because he failed to do so in the novel. However, I believe that the plethora of themes investigated, particularly contrasts of love-hate, guilt-forgiveness, appearances-reality and fear-bravery, are brought together in “Heroes” during the search for the definition of heroism.
Cormier’s technique for developing heroism involves representing different heroic traits in each character. Even those who may not be views as heroes display occasional heroics, amongst their ulterior behaviour.
Taking Francis as the first example, Cormier’s chosen main character and narrator gains the reader’s preference, but this is done through pity and sympathy for him as he has “no face”, after his return to Frenchtown in Monument, since the “war is over”. These are generally unusual feelings to express towards a hero, different to admiration and gratitude. In the descriptions of the young, pre-war Francis, he is portrayed as timid, weak and lacking in confidence, forever living in the “agony of embarrassment” as he believes he is incapable of anything! Although the passiveness suggests innocence, it is not usually a trait of heroes, implying that heroes are not often a case of innocence. The war destroys Francis’ innocence through his dangerous storage of anger and the inevitable loss of his youthful naivety and inexperience. Psychologically the war infects Francis as it did with so many others, “impatient” to join “that great crusade for freedom” by “fighting the Japs and the Germans”. Suddenly, Francis becomes...
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