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68 pages 2 hours read

Robert Cormier

After The First Death

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 1979

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Character Analysis

Benjamin (Ben) Markhand

Ben Markhand is a point-of-view character in the first half of After the First Death. Ben’s chapters take place an unspecified amount of time after the incident on the bridge and his direct thoughts/journal entries. Ben takes his own life by the end of the book, and leading up to this action, he feels dead inside, like “a skeleton rattling my bones” (9). As a result of the torture and gunshot he experienced on the bridge, Ben has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD symptoms come in four categories: intrusive memories (the fireworks that remind him of the gunshots during the attack); avoidance (refusing to think/talk about the event, not wanting to see his father); negative changes in mood (feeling numb about his life/suicidal thoughts, a general sense of hopelessness and detachment), and changes in physical/emotional reactions (difficulty concentrating as seen through his disjointed narrative, feeling guilt and shame). Ben taking his own life shows his inability to cope with the bus incident and the changes it brought within himself, and Cormier paints him as a victim even after the violence of the hijacking is over. Ben functions as an innocent polluted by the war of the feuding ideologists Artkin and the general.

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