The Chocolate Wars Study Guide

The Chocolate Wars By Robert Cormier

The Chocolate War is a story that alternates between several character's perspectives, including the main character Jerry, the villain Archie, his sidekick Obie, and a few others. The themes of the novel are Jerry's loneliness, sexual frustration, inability to control his environment, and the question he keeps posted inside his locker: a quote from T.S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" -- 'Do I dare disturb the universe?

Jerry Renault attends a prep school that is dominated by a secret society known as the Vigils, who keep the other students under their thumbs by giving them cruel 'assignments' and responding violently to those who fail. Jerry is trying out for the football team, getting battered and beaten over and over and over again, but continually standing up for one more try.

The Headmaster has just been hospitalized, and the Assistant Headmaster is taking over. He hopes to be permanently promoted, and believes that he can succeed if he makes a lot of money through the school's annual chocolate sale. He first doubles the price of the chocolates, and then approaches Archie and asks him (and thus the Vigils) for assistance in ensuring that the students sell twice as many as last year.

He agrees, understanding that the Vigils will be much more powerful with the implicit backing of the acting headmaster, and puts together a plan. Paradoxically, Jerry's initial part of the plan is to avoid selling any chocolate for the first ten days of the sale. When Jerry refuses to sell any chocolate even after the first ten days have passed, the Vigils take this as a direct assault on their control of the school.

At first, Jerry is seen as a hero by the student body (none of them like the chocolate sale), but when the Vigils rally behind the sale, his standing instantly crumbles to villain. Jerry begins to harassed, and eventually the Vigils convince him to have a "boxing match" with the school bully, Emile Janza.

Jerry is beaten into complete submission, even telling his best friend Roland Goubert (a.k.a. 'The Goober') to obey the Vigils regardless of the cruelty of their orders. The book ends with Obie confronting Archie about his cruelty, and Archie ignoring him completely.

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