68 pages 2 hours read

Robert Cormier

After The First Death

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 1979

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Death Doesn’t Discriminate

Many characters die throughout After the First Death. The book’s title suggests one death with others to follow, showing how death is a domino effect. The titular death is supposed to be the bus driver, but instead, it is one of the children on the bus as a result of the hijacker’s tranquilizers. Both this death and the death of one of the hijackers at the hands of a sniper are accidental, but Cormier indicates that unintended deaths are inevitable in fraught, violent situations. Other deaths that occur indirectly as a result of the hijacking include Ben’s death by suicide and the possible death of the general at the end of the novel.

Following the accidental death of the hijacker, it is expected, but disturbing, when Artkin kills the second child, Raymond, showing how death is a bargaining chip in this conflict. Cormier intentionally develops an emotional connection between Raymond and Kate and introduces Raymond’s perspective so that the reader will recognize the senselessness and harsh reality of Raymond’s death (a representative of a total innocent). Death comes to both children and adults and to those on either side of the conflict.