Themes - HEROISM
~ LaSalle is seen as a hero to the children of the Wreck Centre as he brings out the best in them and they adore him. Even towards the end of the novel, he still makes Francis feel good about himself by preventing him from becoming a murderer.
~ Both Francis and LaSalle have been awarded the Silver Star, for saving the lives of other soldiers.
~ Arthur says that they weren't heroes instead they were scared boys. He says "we weren't heroes. We were only there."
~ Francis admits to LaSalle that he only fell on the grenade because he wanted to die, so therefore he is not a hero. LaSalle counters this, by telling Francis that it was a heroic act fuelled by his instincts to save his fellow men.
~ Francis tells us that he always wanted to be a hero like LaSalle, but that when he is one he wants to get rid of the "fakery". He feels like a coward for wanting to die and not saving Nicole so he is therefore not a hero. It links to the quote " does that one sin of mine wipe away all the good things?".
~ There seems to be a conspiracy not to reveal the heroes for what they are which suggests Cormier is inferring that we need heroes, even if they are fake and that even fake heroes can have a positive value in society.
Themes - INNOCENCE
~ Francis leaves Nicole with LaSalle in complete innocence of the danger she is in. Taking people at face value is something which the novel constantly warns us against.
~ LaSalle's abuse of Nicole is the end of the innocence for both Nicole and Francis. It is also symbolic of the end of their innocent belief in goodness.
~ Francis going to war with a faked age is a significant step out of childhood. He notices that the other soldiers are also very young - many soldiers signed up underage.
~ He maintains a certain sense of innocence even after the war - he goes out in London with his face uncovered and doesn't think anyone will notice until he makes a young boy cry.
~ The fact that Nicole does not want to see Francis again after their final meeting closes the idea of a happily ever after - although she is surviving, and continuing to recover, she cannot go back to that stage of innocence or to her past.
Themes - LOVE
~ Francis' love for Nicole is highly romanticised and is seen as religious - he is compared to a knight kneeling at the feet of a saint in their first meeting. Their relationship is sweet and innocent.
~ In the army, he is motivated by his love for her and the guilt he has for not saving her. At the end when Francis talks to Nicole again he realises that the love they had ended a long time ago.
~ The teens feel a hero-worship for LaSalle before the war, and then that the town feels for the returning heroes.
~ Much of what LaSalle does for the kids could be deemed as loving; he makes Francis more confident and even continues trying to make him feel better when he is about to kill him. He describes his sexual desire for young girls (" sweet young things") as love.
~ There is an element of brotherly love in Francis's memories of his fellow soldiers, in his remembrance of them every night. His sacrifice, of throwing himself on the grenade, could also be seen as a loving one.
Themes - FORGIVENESS
~ Francis is intent on taking revenge on LaSalle, instead of forgiving him. He, however, allows for LaSalle to redeem himself slightly by taking his own life.
~ Francis is driven by the need to find forgiveness from Nicole as the guilt of the action and also the fact that she blamed him, are overwhelming.
~ The theme of forgiveness is set in the context of Nicole and Francis's catholic school. After the attack, Francis wants to throw himself from the steeple, however stops himself as it is seen as the "greatest sin".
~ LaSalle gives Francis a sense of forgiveness as he says that he wouldn't have been able to stop him as he was just a "child".
~ Nicole offers Francis forgiveness as she regrets blaming him and wanted to tell him so but he had already left for war.
Themes - CONCEALMENT/REVEALMENT
~ Francis arrives with his face concealed - he is hiding his face from others, to stop horrifying others.
~ He is also concealing his identity - so he is able to walk around without being recongnised.
~ LaSalle has a secret concealed in his past - the reason why he left showbiz. We never find out however it could be inferred by LaSalle referring to "sweet young things" as plural. In the beginning the mystery is seen to add to his "glamour".
~ The theme is exemplified by the structure of the novel which weaves the three timelines together. Cormier uses foreshadowing extensively to create tension.