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English Literature

Context

Heroes was published in 1998. Robert Cormier said that he was inspired to write the book by the 50th anniversary celebrations of the D-Day landings of World War II, and the desire to recognise the heroic acts of ordinary people.

Background

Robert Cormier (1925-2000) was an American novelist, best known for his many young adult novels, the most famous one being The Chocolate War. He was born and brought up in Leominster in Massachusetts, in the French-Canadian section of the town called French Hill. It is this place which is loosely fictionalised in Heroes as Frenchtown.

He was in his last years at high school when the USA joined the war – making him roughly the same age as Francis Cassavant in the novel. Cormier had poor eyesight though, and so could not join the army. He studied and worked instead.

Pearl Harbor

The United States were brought into the Second World War as a result of the bombing of Pearl Harbor by the Japanese on December 7th, 1941. It was a surprise attack by the Japanese on an important US naval base. Pearl Harbor is on one of the islands of Hawaii, which is part of the USA. Many US battleships and aircraft were destroyed, and over 2,000 people were killed.

The attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

The attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

The attack made public opinion in the USA switch overnight to pro-war patriotism. Unlike in Europe there was no conscription, but many Americans volunteered to go and fight overseas.

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