Themes and Characters

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

In this novel Cormier again focuses on subject matter that is very much part of the life of young Americans. Despite the fact that violence, vandalism, and related phenomena are to a certain extent common experience for all Americans, Cormier in his text takes this experience out of its commonness and establishes it as an incredible and unique incident. In this way he is able to create a sharp focus on his theme.

The theme of the novel is developed out of the random act of violence committed against the home of the Jerome family and their daughter Karen by four high school seniors. The major questions discussed in the text include the motives of the trashers for such behavior as well as the consequences for the people victimized.

The title We All Fall Down—derived from an old nursery rhyme—highlights this theme by providing the possibility of several interpretations of the subject matter developed in the text. As in his previous novels for young adults, Cormier presents a sophisticated view of his theme by giving different connotations to one and the same image. In this case, Cormier with his title seems to aim foremost at a negative connotation symbolizing fear, pain, and death: First of all, it points to a criminal act of four high school seniors who vandalize the home of the Jeromes and threaten to rape their daughter Karen. In the course of the events, she is pushed down the steps to the cellar and is injured, causing her to go into a coma. Second, the grandfather of Mickey Stallings falls down from his balcony when he is deliberately pushed by his grandson; and finally, Buddy Walker, one of the house trashers, falls down in the Wickburg mall when he misses the steps on the escalator. Although Buddy hurts himself this incident, it has a positive outcome. In contrast to the other characters, Cormier here uses the image to symbolize the beginning of something rather than the end. Buddy gets to know Jane Jerome which results in a special relationship. In a more general and philosophical sense, the theme of Cormier's novel deals with the moral responsibility of man towards his neighbors, and especially with the motivation of teenagers for committing acts of brutal violence against people and their property. In his plot Cormier thoroughly develops the value system of each of the vandals upon which their behavior is based. In this way he enables the reader to get an insight into various value orientations of young adults determined by different socioeconomic as well as family situations.

With Harry Flowers, Cormier introduces the spoiled son of an architect who obviously is too busy to deal with his son and his problems. Harry's parents have no idea what their son is doing after school when he spends"Funtimes" with his peers. They only seem to care about his report cards from school and try...

(The entire section is 1158 words.)