The Chocolate War | Study Guide

Robert Cormier

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The Chocolate War | Chapters 25–27 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 25

Jerry receives another summons from The Vigils. He arrives to find Archie sitting at a card table with a box of chocolates. After a few attempts to intimidate, cajole, and peer-pressure Jerry, Archie "assigns" him to accept the chocolates. The other senior members of The Vigils are also present. Carter, the president, is bored and annoyed with Archie's nonviolent approach. Obie, the secretary, is triumphant when he realizes Archie has no better plan than to point-blank ask Jerry to sell the candy. He reflects with satisfaction that Jerry is "going to screw Archie up, at last."

Chapter 26

At home the next day, Jerry dials up Ellen Barrett, a girl he has a crush on. Stammering and croaking, he barely manages to get a few words out before she accuses him of being some kind of "pervert" or prankster. He hangs up, but despite the "miserable failure," he feels strong and empowered. He thinks about how he "had the courage ... to actually talk to the girl." Alone in the apartment, he declares: "My name is Jerry Renault and I'm not going to sell the chocolates."

Chapter 27

Another Vigil meeting is called to order. Frankie Rollo, a junior and a "troublemaker," is brought before the group, but he refuses to be intimidated by Archie's usual tactics. He jeers Archie and the others for their inability to "scare a punk freshman into selling a few lousy chocolates." In an instant, Carter jumps up and punches Rollo in the jaw, then the stomach. Rollo is dragged out of the storeroom as the other Vigils cheer.

Next, Carter orders Archie to sit down and proceeds to lecture him about The Vigils losing control of Trinity. Obie produces a handwritten poster found in the school hallway. "Screw the Chocolates," it reads, "and Screw The Vigils." Sensing panic in the air, Archie proposes a plan. The Vigils, he suggests, should "make it cool" to sell the chocolates, enlisting the help of the student council and other "kids with influence." Carter agrees to the plan, but he warns Archie he is "on probation until the last chocolate's sold."

Analysis

Earlier chapters have presented Archie as an almost fanatical believer in his own good fortune. His internal monologue is peppered with affirmations: "I am Archie. I cannot lose," he declares to himself after drawing the white marble in Chapter 5. As the "chocolate war" progresses, however, these statements begin to ring hollow, with Archie's mastery of his own fate seeming less and less absolute. Chapters 25 and 27 constitute a turning point in this regard. Up until now, Archie has felt in control—of himself, The Vigils, the school—on a fundamental level. Even during the tense and accusatory phone call from Brother Leon (Chapter 24), Archie sees himself as an agent rather than a victim: "It was always Archie's move."

Now, however, Archie's peers begin to turn against him in increasingly overt ways. In Chapter 25, Obie senses weakness when Archie "asks" Jerry to sell the chocolates, rather than ordering him to do so. Carter, meanwhile, vents his frustration with Archie by banging the gavel too hard, a gesture that also reminds the reader of Carter's capacity for physical violence. That capacity is brought into the open in Chapter 27, where Archie's loss of control is palpable. The meetings, which he prefers to run nonviolently, momentarily devolve into a police interrogation gone wrong as Carter whales on a fellow student. In the aftermath of this brutal spectacle, Archie struggles to reassert himself as leader and never completely succeeds in doing so.

Jerry, meanwhile, is beginning to embrace his status as a rebel. In a somewhat dramatic affirmation—"My name is Jerry Renault and I'm not going to sell the chocolates"—Jerry forges a firm link between his identity and his decision to boycott the sale. The unbearable uncertainty of Chapters 18 and 19, the guilt and fear that once swirled around Jerry and kept him up at night, are gone. The "new" Jerry, for however long he manages to last, is secure in his decision and heedless of its potential costs. The main purpose of Chapter 26 is to show this self-confidence spilling over, if only a little bit, into other areas of Jerry's life. His phone call to Ellen Barrett is, to all outward appearances, awkward at best and a disaster at worst. For Jerry, however, the call represents an inner victory over his own former shyness. One might say this chapter captures Jerry at his best, having broken free—momentarily—of the pressures of Trinity life and established his own independence.

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