Francis finds Arthur drunk outside the back of the St Jude club one night. Arthur is crying, because he is haunted by the war but nobody will talk about it. He scoffs at the idea of ‘heroes’ and says they were all just scared boys, and that there was no glamour involved. He says ‘We weren’t heroes. We were only there.’ This can be interpreted in two ways. One is that it is wrong for people to call them heroes, because they didn’t act like heroes. It was merely chance that they were there in the war. But when Francis remembers Arthur’s words right at the end of the book, it gives them a different interpretation. Francis is suggesting that merely by being there they were heroes – scared or not, they did what they had to do and did not run away.
The Silver Star is the only medal awarded for ‘heroism’, we are told. Both LaSalle and Francis have been awarded this ...view middle of the document...
The other men regard it as something of a symbol, something to be proud of, but Francis is ambivalent.
Before they even go to war, LaSalle is a hero to the kids of the Wreck Centre. He brings out the best in them and they adore him. Even at the end he is still making Francis feel better about himself, and prevents him from becoming a murderer. Is this more or less heroic than his war record? Francis is something of a peacetime hero as well – by becoming table tennis champion and beating LaSalle he becomes an icon to the other children.
“Then i am filled with guilt and shame, knowing i just prayed for the man i am going to kill”
Francis is driven by the guilt of having left Nicole to be sexually assaulted by Larry LaSalle, an event for which he blames himself, because he broke the promise not to leave Nicole that night.
Although he was awarded a Silver Star in the war, for falling on a grenade and saving his platoon’s lives, Francis feels that he is not a hero, and as if he is a fraud. He joined the army because he wanted to die, and believes he fell on the grenade in order to do so. He does not believe he is a hero because his motives were not heroic. Again we see he has a sense of shame and guilt.
Francis always carries around guilt; this is represented through the gun in his duffel bag, being carried around on his shoulder.
LaSalle stops Francis from shooting him, but instead shoots himself. Is he trying to redeem himself, or can he simply not face life in his state of health, the fact that there will be ‘no more dancing’ and ‘no more sweet young things’? LaSalle never expresses a sense of guilt over the crimes he committed, so we are left in doubt.
Francis has a strong sense of guilt. He has had a Catholic education and in chapter one he prays in church. He says he is filled with a sense of shame and guilt because he is praying for the man he wants to kill (LaSalle). Similarly he decides to join the army because suicide would not only be a sin, but shameful when there were soldiers sacrificing their lives for others in the war.