How does Cormier create sympathy for both Nicole and Francis in pages 68-69 of the novella? This extract has been taken from Chapter 11 of the novella: ‘Heroes’ by Robert Cormier. It is significant as this is the point of the storyline when Nicole is abused by Larry LaSalle. In this extract, Cormier uses dramatic language to suggest Francis’ fear of Larry and his feeling of distress. This can be seen with the phrases “a moment of panic” and “heart thudding” implying that Francis has almost become so ‘frozen’ with the fear and his worry for Nicole, that he just can’t bring himself to do anything to help her.
Also, these create a sense of sympathy for Francis as the reader can relate to his situation through the use of these phrases. The verb “whimpering” and the use of the simile, “like a small animal caught and trapped”, makes the reader feel sympathetic for Nicole. We feel this as she is revealed to be very vulnerable – shown with the adjective “small” – and helpless at the hands of Larry, demonstrated with the word “trapped”.
This also represents the juxtaposition of power as Larry is now seen as the ‘predator’ in relation to Nicole, linking to the theme of authority. The semantic field of pathos creates sympathy for Nicole here as she is strongly represented as the ‘victim’ in the situation. The listing technique used with “Her hair dishevelled, mouth flung open, lips swollen” creates impact as the powerful choice of language builds up a graphic image of the vulnerability of Nicole and suggests to the reader how the event has impacted upon her emotionally as well as physically. Towards the end of the extract, we feel greater sympathy for Francis as it becomes apparent that not only is he afraid of Larry, but he doesn’t want to ruin his image of him as a role model so won’t accept the truth about his character. The adverb “helplessly” increases our pathos for Francis as he feels he can’t do anything to help Nicole because he is frightened of the consequences.
This can be shown with “I was afraid” implying that he is scared of Larry because Francis is just a young boy who could be seen as an ‘easy target’ for him. “I closed my eyes, not wanting to see him” links with the themes of heroes and deceit as it displays to the reader how Francis is refusing to destroy his image of Larry as his own ‘hero’ and role model and won’t accept that Larry has tricked Francis into believing he (Larry) is a person with good intentions only. Finally, Cormier ends this extract using a very powerful sentence reading: “It’s amazing that the heart makes no noise when it cracks”. This creates a great sense of sympathy for Francis and Nicole as the simplicity of it makes it a particularly dramatic and powerful end to the chapter and it is also something that the reader can easily relate to so puts them in the shoes of the characters.
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