Francis is an eighteen-year-old veteran of World War II. During the war he fell on a grenade and, as a result, is now horribly disfigured. His face is badly burned and there is little left of his features. His usual attire is a fatigue (i.e. army) jacket, a white scarf tied around his face, and a baseball cap pulled down low. He also carries a duffel bag containing a gun.
Francis is a man with a mission. He wants to kill his childhood hero, Larry LaSalle. It eventually transpires that Larry sexually abused Francis’ girlfriend, Nicole, and at the time he felt powerless to stand up to him. Ever since, he has felt responsible for what happened to Nicole. Initially he was so guilty and despondent that he contemplated suicide, but he chose to join the army instead, hoping that he would be killed in action. Having survived the war he has decides to live long enough to exact revenge, after which he plans to kill himself.
Francis suffers from a very poor self-image. In his childhood he was very shy and a bit of a loner. He didn’t have a best friend and couldn’t integrate himself into any of the gangs of Frenchtown. He was also too shy to speak to Nicole for many years.
He enjoys a brief happy period under the tutelage of Larry LaSalle, who works hard to instil a sense of self -worth in Francis. This is so successful that he finally gets the courage to ask Nicole out. It is ironic that it is Larry LaSalle who destroys the happiness he has helped Francis achieve.
Francis accepts responsibility for what happens to Nicole, unquestioningly. He suffers from extreme feelings of guilt and depression. He finds it hard to accept that there can be anything good left in him, and is constantly self-depreciating, comparing himself unfavourably to others. He seems to rely on others, especially Nicole, for his own happiness. In the end, Nicole is able to rebuild her life, but Francis cannot. He is alone in the world and has no hope of a good future for himself. In this respect he is a negative person.
Francis does have very strong moral principles, which he tries to live by. He is also keen to please others. His reason for wanting to kill Larry LaSalle is not for personal glory – he doesn’t even tell Nicole what happened – rather he wants to put right a wrong he feels he did. However misguided he may be, Francis always acts with good intentions, having reasoned out his actions.
Nicole is presented as an innocent victim of other people’s evil. She is abused by Larry LaSalle, while Francis stands by and does nothing. Afterwards she feels that Francis has betrayed her. This event robs Nicole of her childhood. Before this she was open and friendly, and it was she who made the most effort to establish a relationship with Francis. This said, there is nothing improper about Nicole. It is some years after she meets Francis that she actually starts to date him, and their relationship is based mostly on friendly conversation. Her innocence at this time is emphasised by her love of butterscotch bits, while her goodness is shown through the work she does with the nuns.
As Nicole grows older, her good looks and talent as a dancer mark her out as attractive. Francis comments on her appearance and is also aware of how closely Larry LaSalle holds her when they dance. She is becoming more of a sexual being and her relationship with Francis becomes slightly more intimate. Nicole, too, is probably aware of the attraction men feel towards her, as she is desperate not to be left on her own with Larry LaSalle. However, her reliance on Francis to protect her is perhaps her downfall. When she is attacked by Larry LaSalle she is violated and nothing can restore her innocent state.
Larry LaSalle is an enigmatic character, who appears to have two sides – a kind of Dr Jekyl and Mr Hyde. On the one hand he is a respectable and charismatic youth worker, who is sensitive and dedicated. He comes from a glamorous show business background - although the mystery surrounding his arrival in Frenchtown is the first hint of the darker side of his character. He is popular with children and adults alike for the work he does in the Wreck Centre and his heroic actions in the war. Although he is a little larger than life, Larry LaSalle’s public persona is hugely likeable. He cares about all the children and is careful to include them all in the life of the centre. He works tirelessly to provide for them and to make them happy. His relationship with Francis before the assault on Nicole is very close. He looks after him and helps him to develop into a strong and confident young man. Given that Francis is an orphan, Larry LaSalle is a father figure who Francis can turn to for emotional support.
When Francis returns to visit Nicole, years later, he is hoping that things can be the same between them. Nicole, however, is mature enough to realise that the damage can never be reversed. While Francis thinks revenge will put things right and constantly dwells on the past, Nicole finds the strength to look forward to the rest of her life and to concentrate on herself. She has forgiven Francis for his part in what happened, even though he will never forgive himself. She suggests that Francis do something positive to help himself, but it appears to be too late to save him.