Robert Cormier

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Themes and Colors
The Simplicity of Childhood Theme Icon
Flawed Heroes Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Appearance vs. Reality Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Heroes, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

The Simplicity of Childhood

By the time Heroes begins, Francis’s childhood is already over. Even before he was traumatized by the horror of war, his innocence was shattered by the rape of his childhood sweetheart, Nicole. Cormier uses flashbacks to present Francis’ childhood as an ideal time, characterized by innocence and a tendency to both simplify the world and magnify the significance of trivial problems. By presenting Francis’s simple childhood problems alongside his complicated postwar problems…

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Flawed Heroes

As the title suggests, Heroes raises significant questions about what constitutes heroism. Francis, the novel’s protagonist, and Larry LaSalle, the antagonist, have both received the Silver Star medal for heroism in combat. However, Cormier shows a significant disconnect between the public perception of both men’s “heroic” acts and the private motivations for those acts. By exploring the selfishness, cowardice, and even malevolence of publicly recognized heroes, Cormier questions whether heroism can ever be…

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Through the lens of Francis’s narration, Cormier presents a world that is suffused with religion, and the near-constant presence of religion shines a light, in particular, on the relationship between religion and suffering. The most notable manifestation of this relationship is the association of religion with violence. From a young age, violence and religion were linked in Francis’s mind, particularly due to the behavior of the nuns at his school who would use their…

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Appearance vs. Reality

Throughout Heroes, Cormier presents a disconnection between outward appearances and internal realities. By revealing the contradictions of characters, places, and even the war itself, Cormier highlights how pleasant appearances will never be able to erase the pain and suffering they conceal—and, in certain instances, they may even exacerbate the problem. In Heroes, a new appearance often has the purpose of attempting to erase an uncomfortable past. For instance, Francis’ scarf, hat, and…

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