68 pages 2 hours read

Robert Cormier

After The First Death

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 1979

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Important Quotes

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“Who the hell are you anyway, out there looking over my shoulder as I write this?

I feel you there, watching, waiting to get in.

Or is anybody there?” 

(Part 1, Page 14)

These lines from Ben’s POV show a few things about his mental state following the bus incident. Ben frequently breaks from telling the story to acknowledge the reader, known as breaking the fourth wall (a term derived from theater where actors directly address the audience). Here, Ben calls out the reader for watching him while also wondering if he’s making up that someone is there. He feels the reader (if there is one) is intruding.

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“Think about it, Myra. How old were you when you were baptized? Two weeks, two months? Do you remember being baptized with the name Bonnie? Of course not. It’s what people have told you. Have you ever seen your birth certificate? Not the thing they give you when you go to City Hall for a copy, but the original? The one that says your name is Myra. You’ve never seen it, have you? But that doesn’t mean it does not exist. You have never seen me before but I exist. I have existed all this time. I might have been there when you were baptized. Myra.” 

(Part 2, Pages 22-23)

Artkin speaks these lines to a waitress at a restaurant where he and Miro eat before the hijacking. These lines show how Artkin uses words to make people question themselves. Artkin uses calm, unflappable logic to make his points, even if his points aren’t true. By doing so, he can convince people of things simply by sounding as if he knows what he’s talking about.

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“Besides, the bushes and trees and other growths in his homeland—ah, but he had no homeland—were different. Just as the people were different. And the food. In the matter of food, Miro felt himself a traitor; he was enchanted by American food, hamburgers and hot dogs and potato chips. He watched the television commercials for McDonald’s and Burger King and others with pleasure. He told no one about these small pleasures.” 

(Part 2, Page 24)

This passage of Miro’s thoughts shows the war that goes on inside his head, as well as the danger of thinking of others as “different.” Miro knows only his indoctrinated beliefs about his homeland. It may be that the place shares similarities in terms of plants, food, and people with America, but he has learned to think his homeland is different, allowing him to see America as opposite from himself.