The main characters in Heroes are Francis Cassavant, Larry LaSalle and Nicole Renard.
Francis is the first person narrator of the novel. It is told through his eyes, directly to the reader. At the end of the book it is implied he will become a writer, and that Heroes is his book, adding realism to the text.
Throughout the novel Francis reiterates his love for Nicole. Right from the outset we know that it will ‘always be Nicole.’ His love appears hopeless, and at first we think it is because he can never get up the courage to speak to her.
He describes his physical injuries from the war in grotesque, horrifying detail, emphasising his monstrous appearance. He tries to present his inner character as being similarly monstrous, by telling us very early on that he intends to kill Larry LaSalle. Despite this there are hints that he is not that monstrous – he describes the gun as being ‘like a tumour on my thigh’, which suggests he is not comfortable with it.
He is driven by the guilt of having left Nicole to be raped by LaSalle, an event for which he blames himself, because he broke his promise not to leave her alone that night.
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.
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.
When he returns to Frenchtown he remains anonymous, even asking Arthur to conceal his identity when he realises it. He lies to Mrs Belander and to others about who he is. This is not only to make it easier to kill LaSalle, but also to avoid the recognition and respect he feels he does not deserve – he is not a hero.
Francis is no fool: he knows that LaSalle lets him win the table tennis match. However, he accepts LaSalle’s assessment that the others need for Francis to win, and to believe in the possibility of David beating Goliath.
He spends the whole book waiting for LaSalle’s return to Frenchtown so that he can seek revenge. Yet when the moment comes his hand is shaking and he is overwhelmed. In the end LaSalle takes his own life – but it seems unlikely that Francis could actually have gone through with it, despite his plans and protestations.
He does do his best to ensure that he has no future, by burning the contact details of his friend from the hospital in England, and of the doctor who says he will repair his face. He calls this ‘closing doors to the future’. He seems to be doing this to leave himself no option but to go through with this plan. Hope returns to the novel in the final chapter when he thinks about tracking them down again.
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