Robert Edmund Cormier (KOR-mee-ehr) lived his entire life within three miles of where he was born. The second child of a French Canadian father, Lucien, and an Irish mother, Irma, he grew up with family and friends who immigrated to work at factories. His father, who worked in comb factories for forty-two years, was Robert’s hero. Though Cormier saw streets and playgrounds as bleak places, his home provided warmth and security.
Cormier attended St. Celia’s Parochial Grammar School, an experience both frightening and exhilarating. The nuns made him feel guilty about everything. Unlike many of his protagonists, Robert was an obedient student; he was fascinated, terrified, and astonished by anyone who broke the rules. When he was in the eighth grade, Robert saw his house burning through his classroom window. Knowing his mother and sister were home, Robert jumped from his seat to run home. His teacher refused to let him leave until he had said his requisite prayers, causing an anger to rage in Cormier for years.
Cormier was an easily intimidated young person who wore glasses. He was introspective and loved reading. He could not remember the days before he began writing. His mother, father, aunts, and uncles marveled at his desire and his ability to do so. The characters in Cormier’s books do things he would never have done; he was obedient because he was afraid to misbehave. Many of his characters’ traits are based on his childhood fears of elevators, dogs, and bullies.
His stories drew from the people he knew, the tales he heard, and legends that fascinated him during his boyhood. Monument, the city that appears in most of his books, is a thinly disguised Leominster. His characters were his own inventions, but neighborhood drama generated the tales told in his books. He viewed himself as a storyteller who put real people in extraordinary situations. Emotion, not thematic concerns, was what he wanted to transfer to his readers.
Cormier met his...
(The entire section is 818 words.)