Francis has to wear a bandage and a scarf around his face to cover up his awful injuries, but it also acts as a disguise.
My nostrils are like two small caves… My teeth are gone… I have no eyebrows.
I wear a scarf that covers the lower part of my face.
People glance at me in surprise and look away quickly or cross the street when they see me coming.
Francis is very conscious of his appearance and knows that people are horrified and embarrassed when they look at his face.
Although Francis used to be well known around Frenchtown, he always felt as if he was on the edge of events rather than at the centre. After the war he feels this even more deeply.
...the scarf and the bandage were working in two ways: not only to hide the ugliness of what used to be my face, but to hide my identity.
Francis takes advantage of the disguise because he is on a mission to kill Larry LaSalle and therefore needs to be incognito.
Francis is extremely lonely and has no friends at all since his return to Frenchtown.
Francis is always an observer rather than a participant.
I am like the Hunchback of Notre Dame, my face like a gargoyle and the duffel bag like a lump on my back.
I watch the people coming and going in the late-afternoon rush, on their way somewhere.
By making this comparison, Francis is referring to The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a novel written in 1831 by the French writer Victor Hugo. One character is the hunchback, Quasimodo, who is deformed and ugly, and as a result is desperately lonely, like Francis.
Even at the end of the novel he does not take part in normal human interactions; he has nobody to confide in or to wait for him.
Francis falls in love with Nicole at first sight. Between their seventh grade and mid-teens, his feelings become stronger and more romantic.
She allowed me an innocent kiss, our lips briefly touching, the taste of peppermint transferred from her lips to mine.
Francis is devoted to Nicole. He thinks that she is perfect. He is delighted when he realises that she loves him in return, and when she praises him for winning a medal for composition, he feels both pleasure and embarrassment. This foreshadows his winning of the Silver Star medal later.
Since Francis first met Nicole he has wanted to protect her.
“...like a sentry on a lonely guard duty.”
Francis put himself in the role of Nicole’s protector when they were growing up. It is ironic that on the one occasion when she really needed protection, Francis was unable to do anything.
Francis has felt guilty ever since Larry LaSalle assaulted Nicole and he failed to help her.
Francis climbs to the top of St Jude’s church to kill himself.
Eventually he is relieved of the burden of guilt which has weighed him down for so long.
...my duffel bag which is always with me, slung over my shoulder.
"...I began to mumble a prayer, in French, the old Nôtre Père, the way the nuns had taught us, then stopped, horrified at what I was doing. Saying a prayer before committing the worst sin of all: despair.”
I pick up the duffel bag and sling it over my shoulder. The weight is nice and comfortable on my back as I cross the lobby, heading for the exit and the next train to leave the station.
The bag which Francis carries everywhere is a metaphor for his guilt. He is unable to rid himself of it because he blames himself for what happened to Nicole.
Francis is overwhelmed with guilt for even considering suicide. The Catholic Church regards it as a sin.
At the end of the novel, when Nicole has told him that she does not blame him for not helping her, and when Larry has told him that there was nothing he could have done as he was only a child, the guilt falls away from him and the bag is no longer a heavy burden.
At the celebration to welcome Larry home on leave, held at City Hall, Francis wants to please Nicole when he sees how she loves the dresses worn by the women.
I’ll buy you one like that someday,I whispered in her ear, my voice trembling a bit, betraying my love for her.
Francis believes that he and Nicole will be together for ever. He is unable to imagine how any problems could ever stand in their way.
He fails to pick up on signs of approaching danger.
Once, Nicole whispered: ‘Stay close to me.’
As they go towards the Wreck Centre with Larry, Nicole begins to feel uncomfortable, but Francis can see nothing wrong.
Larry tells Francis to go home and leave him alone with Nicole for one last dance.
I wondered if he had a big announcement for her.
Did she want to be alone with Larry?
This shows that Francis is hopelessly naïve. He is unable to read the signals coming from Nicole.
As Nicole urges him to stay, he wonders whether she is just being polite.