After the First Death - Robert Cormier

Friday, December 12, 2014

After the First Death
Author: Robert Cormier
Published by: Laurel Leaf

*This post contains spoilers.* 

Told from multiple perspectives, After the First Death is a story about the difference between terrorism and patriotism and how sometimes those differences are nothing but a fine line. Artkin and Miro are freedom fighters who have taken a bus full of children hostage. Ben's father is a general in charge of capturing the terrorist and getting the children back safely. Kate, the bus driver, was in the wrong place at the wrong time; filling in for her sick uncle. Each person's narrative gives insight to the events that transpired on that day.

The book delves into strange and scary territory. 

Miro describes his childhood and how he became indoctrinated into the ways of the freedom fighters. You feel sorry for him. He who knows nothing but destruction and loss. He values a country he has never seen over the lives of innocents and even himself. He is patriotic to the cause. He will do anything to secure his land again. 

Artkin and the General are both fighting for their lands. One for the freedom of it and one for the safety of it. These men are willing to do whatever it takes in the best interest of their country. Both of these men put their children into battle. Who can say which of the two is more evil?

Miro's circumstances may have taught him how to be a terrorist but he too is nothing but a sacrifice for a cause. Why else choose children as soldiers in a war? Artkin may not have been Miro's father but he was a father-figure and Miro tries to please him. The same is true of Ben who tries to please his father and do his duty to his country.

This is what I found the most terrifying. We expect terrorists and "bad" people to resort to extreme measures. Artkin and Miro were obviously brought up knowing nothing else. Their value, or lack thereof, for life has been ingrained into them for years. What we do not expect is for the "good" guys to do the same. The General sends his own son to be a messenger in a negotiation standoff. We would think that the General should know better.

Does that make Artkin's use of Miro less evil? Should the General be punished more severely? The General suggests his own son to be the messenger. It seems ridiculous that the General would send a child to save the lives of children.

What also made me pause while reading was the fact that as an American, we view Ben as a child. An innocent. A scapegoat. We focus all the anger and hatred towards his father, the General. But Miro is himself a child. As Kate notices, his innocence is seen as more sinister because he doesn't understand what it is he does. Yet, we never see Miro as a scapegoat. We expect more humanity from him. We blame him as much as Artkin for his role in the terrorist act. 

Cormier does a good job of making believable characters and keeping the tension high through the entire novel. The end may upset you but it speaks of so many truths. Some that are unpleasant, unfair, and overall unjust. 

I give the book four out of five cat eyes.

You Might Also Like