A tall slim man stepped into view, a lock of blond hair tumbling over his forehead, a smile that revealed dazzling movie-star teeth.He also has an attractive personality and seems to be good at everything he does, whether that is dancing or sporting activities;
But he was most of all a teacher, leading classes in dancing, arts and crafts, organizing a choral group, directing musical shows.He is constantly encouraging the children, telling them,
You are all stars.
That’s right – it’s real.It is likely that he guesses what Joey is saying as he has been in this situation before. When he tap-dances, it is
with machine-gun speed.This foreshadows his activities during the war, but also highlights a dangerous aspect to him, because a machine-gun is a lethal killing machine. In addition, there are
dark hints that he had ‘gotten into trouble’ in New York City, but nobody dares to ask about these. Francis tells the reader that nobody really knew anything about Larry and that
he discouraged questions.
His slenderness was knife-like now, lethal, his features sharper, nose and cheek-bones.In fact, Francis admits that his changed appearance makes it easy to imagine him
storming a hillside... rifle in hand, bayonet fixed, grenades dangling from his belt, pumping bullets into the enemy.Larry has become a ruthless killing machine, and it is no coincidence that his assault of Nicole takes place on the very same day that he arrives home from the war. It is as though nothing can stop him from causing harm.
the notorious schoolyard bully, whom Francis says was
tamedby Larry. He also trained a very shy girl, Edna Beauchene, to do a comedy act in the Wreck Centre’s first musical production –
under Larry LaSalle’s guidance… [Edna] became the hit of the show.He teaches Francis to play table tennis, telling him that it is a sport
known around the world.He promises Francis that it is a sport which Francis is
going to dominate with [his] quickness and [his] reflexes.In this way he flatters Francis, but also builds his confidence. When Francis is winning a match in front of the other young people, he notes that
Nobody had ever cheered me before.
Larry LaSalle tossed her in the air, letting her fly, defying gravity for a breathless moment, then caught her, pressing her close, their faces almost touching, their lips only an inch or so from a kiss, before he allowed her to slip down against his body.The reader sees this through Francis’ eyes but it should be remembered that Nicole is a 14-year-old girl and Larry is a grown man. In fact, Larry’s behaviour is known as grooming, when an adult subtly prepares a child for an inappropriate relationship.
You are our celebration... Your presence in this great city of ours, Lieutenant Lawrence LaSalle, is cause enough for jubilation.A huge crowd watches this take place and sees Larry’s response, which is to say a quiet
Thank you,as he stands
modestly before the crowd.The fact that Larry waits for silence to fall so that everyone can hear his reply illustrates how he manipulates the situation – he appears to be humble and modest but it is a careful act. It is deeply ironic when Larry tells the crowd that
we have to keep the world safe for these young people – they are our future...as it is that same night that he violates Nicole, the very opposite of keeping the world safe for her.
Don’t be afraid to show your face, Francis. That face, what’s left of it, is a symbol of how brave you were, the Silver Star you earned...He is telling Francis what to think and feel, just as he always did. Larry seems old and unable to walk, even though he says,
No wounds that you can see, Francis. But I’m worn out.Francis thinks to himself,
Maybe your sins [are] catching up with you.After the two of them have talked about the past, and Francis has told Larry that he wanted to die because of what Larry did to Nicole, Larry honestly seems surprised, and replies,
You wanted to die because of that?It is clear that he has attached no importance to the event, a fact which is supported by the suggestion that Nicole was not his only victim; he talks to Francis about
the sweet young things... e=Even their heat is sweet...He adds,
Everybody sins, Francis. The terrible thing is that we love our sins. We love the thing that makes us evil. I love the sweet young things.
Does that one sin of mine wipe away all the good things?We see now that Larry LaSalle admits that he is a paedophile. However, he balances his
all the good thingsthat he has done and manages to justify it. He sees himself as a good man with one small weakness. He has never thought about the harm he has caused or the young lives he has ruined. As Francis leaves him, he hears a gunshot, telling him that Larry has shot himself. Francis, and through him the reader, will never know whether Larry killed himself out of guilt or merely because his life was not worth living any more.
Larry is an instant hit with the children of Frenchtown.
He was our champion and we were happy to be in his presence.
The children of Frenchtown have never known anybody like Larry. He is full of energy and somehow manages to get the best out of even the most unpromising children. Of course, it is later obvious that Larry likes being near young people for the wrong reasons.
Larry creates situations which mean that he can take advantage of the children.
Time to go home, Francis… You look tired… it’s been a long day.
We always did what Larry LaSalle told us to do. Always carried out his slightest wish. And now I seemed actually to be tired, as Larry suggested.
...and parents who knew that Larry LaSalle had been a bright Pied Piper for their children...
Francis has always done exactly what Larry tells him to do and would not dream of disobeying him.
Such is Larry’s power over Francis that he can actually make Francis feel tired by saying he looks it.
Even adults are taken in by Larry’s charm. The reference to the Pied Piper introduces a sinister note. The Pied Piper of Hamelin is a long poem by Robert Browning (1812-1889). He is an unpleasant character who lures children away from their homes and families with music that promises all kinds of wonderful things. This foreshadows the way in which Larry lures innocent young people away from their childhoods.
Larry is sure that he will never be caught.
He was at the door, a shadow now, turning the knob, whistling a tune… whistling softly as he stepped through the doorway...
Larry’s calm actions as he leaves the Wreck Centre after raping Nicole show that he is confident that she will not report him, or that even if she does, nobody will believe her.
Larry is a genuine war hero and his brave actions saved other men’s lives.
He saved the lives of an entire platoon... Captured an enemy machine-gun nest. It was on the radio...
He was unshaven, face gaunt and drawn, eyes sunk deep into their sockets. But it was our Larry LaSalle, all right.
A New England Marine is one of the great heroes of Pacific action, receiving the Silver Star...
This action, for which Larry is rewarded with a bravery medal, is proof of his bravery. He acted without thinking of his own safety and as a result a large number of soldiers survived. This is one of the
good things which Larry considers gives him the right to behave as he does with young girls. It makes the readers think hard about the nature of heroism – can Larry be a true hero when we know what else he is capable of?
We stare at each other for a long moment.
Please,he says, and his voice is like the small cry of a child. I lower the gun. I remove my finger from the trigger. My hand trembles. I put the gun back in my pocket.
Go, Francis. Leave me here. Leave everything here, the war, what happened at the Wreck Centre, leave it all behind, with me.
What does this extract tell us about Larry’s situation at the end of the novel?
In this extract Larry has lost all his power. He is a sad old man, unable to leave his armchair. He is reduced to pleading with Francis, and the words
small child are a reminder of what he has been guilty of in his lifetime.
Even so, Francis finds himself doing what Larry tells him to do. Larry puts himself in the position of a scapegoat, willing to take on other people’s sins. This has the effect of making him sound like a good man, but the words
what happened at the Wreck Centre quickly remind us that he is not a good person. He is simply playing a power game with Francis.