Francis’s duffel bag, though it only appears a few times throughout the novel, is a symbol for the choices Francis must make upon his return home from the war. Literally, the duffel is the baggage Francis carries into the next stage of his life, and it gestures to the emotional baggage that Francis pulls along with him as he decides who to become and how to behave. The duffel contains Francis’s pistol and his back pay from the war, which specifically represent the two choices he now faces as a veteran. The pistol represents the cycle of violence started by Nicole’s rape, continued by the war, and culminating in the choice to murder Larry LaSalle, commit suicide, or both. The cash, on the other hand, represents the possibility of a new beginning for Francis, as it would allow him to start a new life. At the end of the novel, Francis lifts the bag onto his shoulders with both the gun and the cash inside and remarks at how the bag has a comfortable weight to it. In this, the bag represents the fact that Francis could possibly live the rest of his life without fully committing to either choice, although they would both continue to coexist inside of him.
The timeline below shows where the symbol The Duffel Bag appears in Heroes. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
...familiarity, Francis is still impatient for Larry’s return. He carries his pistol around in his duffle bag everywhere he goes, constantly prepared for the moment when he can complete his final mission. (full context)