In the novel "After the First Death" by Robert Cormier, what is the relationship dilemma between Miro and Kate?

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Robert Cormier's After The First Death, Miro is a 16-year-old terrorist and Kate is the driver of the bus that Miro and his team hijack. We get the impression that Miro has grown up somewhere in the Middle East.

In the novel, Artkin, the leader of the terrorists, charges Miro with killing the bus driver, Kate. However, this execution is derailed when the sweets Artkin passes around to the school children (his idea of keeping them calm) accidentally kill a little boy, Kevin McMann. The candy appears to have been laced with drugs that Kevin's body reacts negatively to. Now the game changes and Kate is charged with keeping the rest of the schoolchildren from panicking. So the terrorists can't kill her yet.

The dilemma between Kate and Miro arises from the tragedy of the situation: although Miro is attracted to her (he likes American girls, and this is why he finds it difficult to kill Kate), he cannot act on that attraction. He has to seal his reputation as a terrorist to Artkin, the leader of the group, and he is terrified that he will fail that test. So he represses his own attraction and desperately tries to prove himself. He feels he must choose loyalty to Artkin rather than his natural attraction to a pretty American girl who represents all that his homeland is against. In other words, he must struggle between his adolescent urges and his nationalistic fervor. In the end, he kills Kate to atone for his earlier failure to protect Artkin from being shot to death.

Kate, on the other hand, is shown bravely fighting for her life and those of the children. In the beginning of the novel she is just another 17-year-old teenager, but as the novel continues we find that she has to act like an adult for the sake of the children now in her care. She is afraid of Miro but she must also try to keep him calm so that he doesn't hurt the rest of the children. She comforts this tortured young terrorist even though she is repulsed by what he represents. On any other occasion they might have been friends, sharing the same angst familiar to all teenagers, but on this occasion they are separated by violence, fear, and finally death.