The Chocolate War | Study Guide

Robert Cormier

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The Chocolate War | Chapters 10–12 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 10

Brother Leon calls a special assembly to announce the annual chocolate sale. Sitting among the students, Archie Costello is impressed by the "Academy Award caliber" of his speech, with its appeals to school spirit and Trinity's history of "do-or-die determination." The Vigils, he reflects, were surprisingly hostile to the idea of helping with the sale from behind the scenes. Although he was able to convince them, Archie now worries that even The Vigils might not be able to make the sale successful. His own quota of 50 boxes, he reflects with pleasure, will be passed on to younger students.

Chapter 11

As students file into Brother Eugene's homeroom, the furniture starts "trembling crazily" and falling apart. Within less than a minute, the desks and chairs have all toppled down and the blackboard has slid down from the wall "like a final curtain." Watching the chaos from the doorway, Archie encounters Brother Leon, who grips him by the shoulder and accuses him: "You! You did this." Archie denies any wrongdoing, though inwardly he wants to take credit for this "masterpiece" of a prank. To Archie's delight, the mild-mannered Brother Eugene is moved to tears by the disaster.

Chapter 12

Back on the football field, the freshman team is playing a scrimmage against some varsity players, including Carter. The coach is growing visibly annoyed, as the freshmen's "lousy, rotten, terrible" performance shows no sign of improving. In previous plays, Carter has tackled Jerry with insulting ease. This time, however, Jerry is ready, and he gets a pass off to The Goober, who scores. Carter, who tackles Jerry anyway, is impressed by the play. "We just might make a quarterback out of you yet," the coach proudly declares. After practice, however, Jerry finds a summons from The Vigils taped to his locker.

Analysis

At first glance, these three chapters seem to deal with two independent threads of the novel's plot. Chapters 10 and 11 underscore the conflict between Archie and Brother Leon, while Chapter 12 shows Jerry starting to succeed and fit in at Trinity. In fact, these two developments snap together like pieces of a puzzle. Jerry's Vigils assignment, briefly foreshadowed in Chapter 2 and mentioned again here, will place him smack in the middle of the Archie/Leon struggle. When he refuses to sell the chocolates, he will become—depending on one's perspective—either a pawn or a hero in the "chocolate war." Either way, he is caught between Brother Leon and Archie, the two most influential figures in the school, and is used as a proxy in their struggle for power. Grimly opposed to one another, Archie and Leon are like a pair of jaws ready to clamp down on the unsuspecting Jerry.

Chapter 12 also helps to develop the character of John Carter, one of the varsity stars brought in for the scrimmage. Carter can be something of a knucklehead at times, and he tends to prefer physical violence to more diplomatic types of conflict resolution. Still, he has a sense of honor, which Archie, Janza, and Leon all seem to lack. He is genuinely impressed by Jerry's football skills and seems to regard him as a fellow athlete, not just a runty freshman to kick around.

More broadly, the football scrimmage in Chapter 12 serves as a kind of proxy for the other boys' attitude toward Jerry. One might not think of a football field as a safe haven, given the violent collisions that characterize the game. For the moment, however, the field is a zone of fair play and good sportsmanship, overseen by a tough but honest coach. As the "chocolate war" heats up, though, the football field will lose this sacred quality. In Chapter 28, the other players will begin to conspire against Jerry, punishing him with illegal blows and dropping his passes on purpose.

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