Heroes

Heroes

by Robert Cormier

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Overview

Francis Joseph Cassavant is 18. He has just returned home from the Second World War, and he has no face. He does have a gun and a mission: to murder his childhood hero. 
 
Francis lost most of his face when he fell on a grenade in France. He received the Silver Star for bravery, but was it really an act of heroism? Now, having survived, he is looking for a man he once admired and respected, a man adored my many people, a man who also received a Silver Star for bravery. A man who destroyed Francis’s life.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307530813
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Publication date: 03/19/2013
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 144
File size: 2 MB
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

Robert Cormier (1925–2000) changed the face of young adult literature over the course of his illustrious career. His many books include The Chocolate WarI Am the CheeseFadeTendernessAfter the First DeathHeroesFrenchtown Summer, and The Rag and Bone Shop. In 1991 he received the Margaret A. Edwards Award, honoring his lifetime contribution to writing for teens.

Date of Birth:

January 17, 1925

Date of Death:

November 2, 2000

Place of Birth:

Leominster, Massachusetts

Place of Death:

Leominster, Massachusetts

Education:

Fitchburg State College

Read an Excerpt

Oh, I have eyes because I can see and eardrums because I can hear but no ears to speak of, just bits of dangling flesh.  But that's fine, like Dr.  Abrams says, because it's sight and hearing that count and I was not handsome to begin with.  He was joking, of course.  He was always trying to make me laugh.

If anything bothers me, it's my nose.  Or rather, the absence of my nose.  My nostrils are like two small caves and they sometimes get blocked and I have to breathe through my mouth.  This dries up my throat and makes it hard for me to swallow.  I also become hoarse and cough a lot.  My teeth are gone but my jaw is intact and my gums are firm, which makes it possible for me to wear dentures.  In the past few weeks, my gums began to shrink, however, and the dentures have become loose and they click when I talk and slip around inside my mouth.

I have no eyebrows, but eyebrows are minor, really.  I do have cheeks.  Sort of.  I mean, the skin that forms my cheeks was grafted from my thighs and has taken a long time to heal.  My thighs sting when my pants rub against them.  Dr.  Abrams says that all my skin will heal in time and my cheeks will someday be as smooth as a baby's arse.  That's the way he pronounced it: arse.  In the meantime, he said, don't expect anybody to select you for a dance when it's Girls' Choice at the canteen.

Don't take him wrong, please.

He has a great sense of humor and has been trying to get me to develop one.

I have been trying to do just that.  But not having much success. -->


The gun is like a tumor on my thigh as I walk through the morning streets against the wind that never dies down. April sunlight stings my eyes but the wind dissipates its heat, blustering against store windows and kicking debris into the gutters.

At Ninth and Spruce, I pause and look up at the three-decker and the windows of the second floor, where Larry LaSalle can be found at last. Does he suspect my presence here on the street? Does he have a premonition that he has only a few minutes left to live?

I am calm. My heartbeat is normal. What's one more death after the others in the villages and fields of France? The innocent faces of the two young Germans appear in my mind. But Larry LaSalle is not innocent.

The steps leading to the second floor are worn from use and age, and I think of all the people who have climbed stairs like these, who have worked in the shops and come home heavy with weariness at the end of the day. As I stand at the door of Larry LaSalle's tenement, I touch the bulge in my pocket to verify the existence of the gun. The sound of my knocking is loud and commanding in the silent hallway.

No response. I wait. I rap on the door again, hand clenched as a fist this time.

"Come on in, the door's not locked," Larry LaSalle calls out. That voice is unmistakable, a bit feeble now, yet still the voice that cheered us at the Wreck Center.

Hesitant suddenly, uncertain--his voice giving reality to what I must do--I step into the tenement and into the fragrance of pea soup simmering on the black stove, steam rising from a big green pot.

He is sitting in a rocking chair by the black coal stove, and narrows his eyes, squinting to see who has come into his tenement. He is pale, eyes sunk into his 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. His eyes blink rapidly as if taking quick pictures of me. Is there a glimmer of fear in his eyes? My heart quickens at the possibility.

"Francis, Francis Cassavant," I announce. It's important for him to know immediately who I am. I don't want to waste any time.

"Ah, Francis," he says, his eyes flashing pleasure because he doesn't sense my mission.

"Come in, come in," he says, the old enthusiasm back in his voice.

He rises slowly from the chair, steadying therocker as he lifts himself up. As he holds out his hands in greeting, I go forward to meet him. We shake hands. At the last minute, when it seems we might embrace as old friends and comrades, teacher and pupil, I pull away. His white hands clutch the air before he clasps them together and settles back into the chair.

"Sit, sit," he says, indicating the chair next to the window opposite his own.

"Take off your jacket," he says. "Your Red Sox cap, too, and your scarf . . ."

I don't move. I don't take off anything. I don't plan to stay long, only long enough to carry out my mission.

"Don't be afraid to show your face, Francis. That face, what's left of it, is a symbol of how brave you were, the Silver Star you earned . . ."



an excerpt from Heroes

        My name is Francis Joseph Cassavant and I have just returned to Frenchtown
        in Monument and the war is over and I have no face.

        Oh, I have eyes because I can see and eardrums because I can hear but
        no ears to speak of, just bits of dangling flesh. But that's fine, like
        Dr. Abrams says, because it's sight and hearing that count and I was not
        handsome to begin with. He was joking, of course. He was always trying
        to make me laugh.

        If anything bothers me, it's my nose. Or rather, the absence of my nose.
        My nostrils are like two small caves and they sometimes get blocked and
        I have to breathe through my mouth. This dries up my throat and makes
        it hard for me to swallow. I also become hoarse and cough a lot. My teeth
        are gone but my jaw is intact and my gums are firm, which makes it possible
        for me to wear dentures. In the past few weeks my gums began to shrink,
        however, and the dentures have become loose and they click when I talk
        and slip around inside my mouth.

        I have no eyebrows, but eyebrows are minor, really. I do have cheeks.
        Sort of. I mean, the skin that forms my cheeks was grafted from my thighs
        and has taken a long time to heal. My thighs sting when my pants rub against
        them. Dr. Abrams says that all my skin will heal in time and my cheeks
        will someday be as smooth as a baby's arse. That's the way he pronounced
        it: arse. In the meantime, he said, don't expect anybody to select you
        for a dance when it's Girl's Choice at the canteen.

        Don't take him wrong, please.

        He has a great sense of humor and has been trying to get me to develop
        one.

        I have been trying to do just that.

        But not having much success.

Reading Group Guide

In Robert Cormier’s unforgettable novels, an individual often stands alone, fighting for what is right–or just to survive–against powerful, sinister, and sometimes evil people. His books look unflinchingly at tyranny and the abuse of power, at treachery and betrayal, at guilt and forgiveness, love and hate, and the corruption of innocence. Cormier’s gripping stories explore some of the darker corners of the human psyche, but always with a moral focus and a probing intelligence that compel readers to examine their own feelings and ethical beliefs.

The questions that follow are intended to spur discussion and to provoke thoughtful readers to contemplate some of the issues of identity, character, emotion, and morality that make Cormier’s books so compelling.

1. The title of this novel could be meant ironically. In other words, this may be a book about “heroes” who are not true heroes. How many examples of such non-heroes do you see in the book?

2. The book begins with Francis’s shocking statement that he “has no face.” In the context of the story, what are other metaphorical expressions about “face” that are relevant? How do these apply to Francis?

3. What is your definition of a hero? Francis feels that he is “a fake.” When he threw himself on the grenade it was not to save his comrades but to end his own life. Is a heroic act still heroic even if it’s done for the wrong reasons?

4. Francis says about the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, “We had discovered in one moment on a Sunday afternoon that the world was not a safe place anymore.” (p. 79) What was the significance of that event for America? What happened as a result?

5. Forgiveness is a major theme in many of Cormier’s novels. Trace how each of the three main characters forgive and are forgiven, and how they are affected when forgiveness is withheld and when it is granted. Which is harder–to forgive someone else or yourself?

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