Heroes Key Themes - Cardiff High School

Heroes Key Themes Revision
Appearance and Reality
Heroism – Introduction
The theme of heroism runs through the
whole of the book. But the nature of
heroism remains unclear. Is Francis the
character who shows real heroism? Is it
Larry? Or Nicole? Or is it Enrico? Or Arthur?
Nowhere in the book does any character
find comfort or happiness in their heroism.
Picking out key details – Planning!
1. Propaganda newsreels portrays soldiers as heroes.
2. Francis shows great admiration for Larry who is
presented as a stereotypical war hero.
3. Francis reflects on war and the idea of heroism as a lie.
4. Mrs Belander, Arthur Rivier and Larry LaSalle show us
that perceived heroes are in fact victims
1. War heroes are portrayed as role models worthy of
admiration in the book. Cheers and applause fill the cinema when
Larry LaSalle features on the Movietone News after his award of a
Silver Star
Francis: ‘I was impatient to reach the age when I
could join them in that great crusade for
bravery and patriotism
2. Francis admires Larry who is described as a
stereotypical hero. He is presented as an inspirational
figure just like when he is working in the Wreck Centre
Francis: ‘I could picture him storming a hillside in
Guadalcanal, rifle in hand, bayonet fixed,
grenades dangling from his belt, pumping
bullets into the enemy.’
Language point - Strong verb choices reflect the
aggression war, but also foreshadow a darker side to
Larry and this is evident in his relationship with Nicole.
3. War heroes are portrayed as victims in the novel.
Francis: ‘Nothing glamorous like
the write-ups in the papers or
the newsreels. We weren’t
heroes. We were only there.’
4. War heroes are portrayed as victims in the novel and are
unable to return to normal life.
Mrs Belander’s face ‘softened’ and she calls him ‘poor
boy’ when she meets Francis because of his injuries.
Arthur Rivier is surprised that Francis, a war hero with a
Silver Star, should wish to remain anonymous. Francis
himself does not see himself as a hero because of his
hidden motive for joining up.
It is noticeable that Larry welcomes the adulation of
others and is happy to be a very public hero, however,
he is fragile at the end – ‘pale, eyes sunk into their
Examiner’s tip
Think about how, in the novel, other people
admire heroes but heroes do not seem to admire
themselves. As a result there are different
attitudes to heroism in the novel. Perhaps Robert
Cormier wants his readers to consider whether
Larry LaSalle is an anti-hero, someone who may
carry out acts of bravery and heroism but also has
unattractive and destructive qualities. Should a
person like that be regarded as a hero?
Appearance and reality – Introduction
The people in Frenchtown see a sanitised
version of glory and heroism in the cinema.
They are proud of the contribution they
can make to a war which is taking place
such a long way away. However, the
survivors bring back with them the reality
of their wartime experiences and are
unable to function.
Picking out key details – Planning!
1. In the veterans’ club Arthur Rivier hides his depression after the war.
2. Enrico Rucelli hides his despair behind a mask of humorous remarks.
3. Francis goes to great lengths to hide his identity on his return to
4. The theme of hidden identity is exemplified in the character of Larry
LaSalle, about whom there have been rumours since his first
appearance in Frenchtown.
5. Nicole hides the attack from her family in order to spare them pain.
3. Writing about Francis
• The white silk scarf and the Red Sox cap that Francis
wears serve not only to protect people from being
distressed by his terrible injuries, but also to prevent
them from recognising him: ‘I have no face’
• His desire to avoid recognition has a practical
purpose as he does not wish to be recognised before
he kills Larry LaSalle: ‘I feel like a spy’
• However, his disguise is also a symbol of his shame,
the shame that he carries everywhere with him and
which haunts him when actually his act of bravery was
motivated by the selfish desire to be killed
4. Writing about Larry
• We quickly become suspicious that Larry has a darker
side in the novel as ‘rumours’ spread which suggest an
unsavoury past and foreshadow later events
• Cormier tells us that the children ‘knew little about
him and he discouraged questions’
• Too many, however, still an idol and viewed as a
• Reality confirmed at the end ‘If I want one thing, it
would be to have you look at me again the way you
did at the Wreck Centre’
Final tips!
1. Describing and explaining characters
2. Understanding the links between the themes
and characters
3. Use quotations that matches your point
4. Identify and explore language techniques
5. Interpreting the messages within the story and
writer’s intentions
6. Aim to write at least 4 PEE+ paragraphs that
show your understanding of the whole text