The Chocolate War | Study Guide

Robert Cormier

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The Chocolate War | Chapters 22–24 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 22

Brian Cochran, the treasurer of the chocolate sale, is alarmed to find the sales figures "dropping at an alarming rate." He dreads giving the news to Brother Leon, who is "moody" and "unpredictable" at the best of times. Brother Leon comes into the office and snappishly interrogates Brian about the sales totals. He then instructs Brian to "read off the names of the boys who have reached or surpassed their quota." Leon appears to derive some consolation from this list, which he listens to as if it were a "beautiful symphony." Disquieted, Brian continues reading out the "weird litany" of student names and numbers of boxes sold. At the end of the list is Jerry Renault, with zero boxes sold. Suddenly angry and animated, Brother Leon accuses Jerry of carrying the "disease" of apathy into the school, undermining the sale.

Chapter 23

On his way to the bus stop, The Goober tells Jerry he is quitting the football team. Before Jerry can ask too many questions, The Goober suggests they both run the rest of the way. As they dash down the sidewalk, The Goober owns up to his feelings of guilt over Brother Eugene's departure. He insists there is something "evil" at Trinity that goes beyond The Vigils. The two sit down to catch their breath before reaching the stop and end up letting the first bus pass by. Eventually, they pick up their schoolbooks and walk the rest of the way.

Chapter 24

At home, Archie receives an angry telephone call from Brother Leon, who is distressed over the poor progress of the sale. Archie thinks back to a conversation with Brian Cochran, who revealed Leon had "overextended the school's finances" and was now desperate to make the money back. Leon, however, is "on the offensive" and accuses Archie of compromising the sale by telling Jerry not to sell. "You played games at the beginning," Leon contends. "Now, the game has backfired." Archie deflects blame by insisting the sale is simply too ambitious. In response, Leon levels a direct threat: "If the sale goes down the drain, you and The Vigils also go down the drain." With that, he abruptly hangs up, leaving Archie no chance to reply.

Analysis

Chapter 22 revisits a long-standing mystery from earlier in the novel. Why, several of the students have wondered, is Brother Leon so desperate to make this year's chocolate sale a success? Leon no doubt wants to look good to his superiors and be promoted to headmaster permanently. For most of the boys, this is as far as the mystery goes. Brian Cochran, however, gets to see Brother Leon's involvement in the sale from a closer vantage point. He is disturbed by how personally invested Leon seems to be in the sale. Understandably, he is particularly weirded out by Leon's request to have the sales figures read out to him one by one. Although Leon is an intense and unpredictable person, this behavior seems like overkill.

In Chapter 24, the mystery is laid to rest. Brother Leon, as Cochran reports to Archie, has "bought the chocolates with money that he wasn't supposed to use." Much like Archie, Leon has made some enemies with his domineering and manipulative style of leadership. Foremost among them is Brother Jacques, who openly confronts Leon about the sale's finances and later (Chapter 38) takes issue with his handling of student discipline. With Jacques and perhaps others watching his every move, Leon cannot afford for the sale to be anything but a success. If the sale is profitable, he may well become the next headmaster. If it fails, however, he will surely be ruined. Hence Leon's pacing, his sweating, and his second-guessing of Brian Cochran's every calculation.

In between, Cormier offers another snapshot of Jerry and The Goober attempting to sort out their feelings toward Trinity. Interweaving a "Jerry and Goober" chapter with the sordid business of the chocolate sale helps to underscore the innocence and idealism of the two freshmen. The Goober can still use the word "evil" without irony and still has enough moral sense to try to distance himself from it. His conscience stings him for his role in Brother Eugene's breakdown, and he wants to avoid involvement in any other cruel acts of this sort. Jerry, too, is innocent in his way, chalking up the Vigils assignments to mere "fun and games." Sandwiching the chapters in this way also reassures the reader The Goober is not merely imagining things or exaggerating the situation, as Jerry believes him to be. Trinity really is populated with power-hungry cynics, at the highest levels of school leadership.

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