Heroes

Heroes Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Back in the present, Francis is restlessly wandering the streets at night when he encounters Arthur Rivier drunk and slumped over in an alley outside the St. Jude Club. As Francis draws near to take care of his fellow veteran, Arthur begins muttering about how nobody talks about the war.
Here, the setting is crucial — even though Arthur is drunk, he will only begin to truthfully talk about his experiences in the war when he is not inside the St. Jude Club, surrounded by other veterans and thus pressured to repress his trauma and focus on the future.
Themes
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Helping him to his feet, Francis asks Arthur what he means, and Arthur enters a brief moment of lucidity. Confiding in Francis, he laments how none of the veterans talk about the harsh reality of the war they fought, only about their plans for the future. Sobbing, he cries out that he just wants someone to acknowledge how awful it all was, how the war was nothing like it was shown to be in the movies, that there had never been any heroes, only scared children with guns. Francis murmurs his agreement as the rest of the St. Jude Club veterans appear at the entrance to the alley.
Again, now that he is free from the societal pressure to “act tough,” he speaks truthfully about the horror of the war, and the struggle he now faces as a veteran who feels he does not deserve the title of “hero.” By confessing that he and the others were just “scared children,” he brings the childish definition of heroics into the discussion of supposedly adult “war heroes,” ultimately questioning all wartime heroics.
Themes
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Related Quotes
Before the other veterans reach Francis and Arthur, Arthur has fallen asleep. Whispering “poor Arthur,” the veterans pick up their drunken comrade, unaware of or unwilling to acknowledge his previous crisis. Together, they carry him away into the night, leaving Francis in the alley thinking, “poor all of us.”
As the other veterans approach, Arthur ends his moment of lucid honesty. Symbolically, then, the other veterans again represent the societal pressure for soldiers to repress the trauma of the war and appear as stoic “heroes,” even though they all share the same pain.
Themes
Flawed Heroes Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon