The Chocolate War | Study Guide

Robert Cormier

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The Chocolate War | Chapters 28–30 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 28

At a football scrimmage, Jerry finds himself not merely tackled, but assaulted by the other players. He struggles through the pain and keeps playing. Then, late at night, his telephone repeatedly rings. When he answers, he hears a faint laugh. At school, he finds his "disturb the universe" poster vandalized and his gym sneakers slashed into rags. Over the next few days, the mysterious phone calls keep coming, and Jerry's assignment for Brother Andrew's art class—a watercolor landscape—goes missing.

Chapter 29

Back in Brother Leon's office, chocolate-sale treasurer Brian Cochran is delighted to find revenues have greatly improved. He wonders how the sale turned around so quickly. The Vigils, he recognizes, have played a significant role. This afternoon, Carter—president of The Vigils—arrived with the proceeds of 75 boxes and told Cochran to mark various students down as responsible for the sales. Cochran feels it is safer to play along than to question Carter's actions. Brother Leon, meanwhile, is "giddy" with joy at the sale's sudden success.

Chapter 30

In his classroom, Brother Leon jubilantly calls roll and reports the sales totals for each student. The Goober has stopped selling chocolates "as a show of sympathy to Jerry," but he is still eager for the "showdown" between Jerry and Brother Leon to end. As expected, Jerry replies "no" when his name is called. However, a student raises his hand to ask why Jerry isn't selling the chocolates. Others quickly pile on to interrogate Jerry, who simply states, "I'm Jerry Renault and I'm not going to sell the chocolates." Later, in the assembly hall, The Goober is dismayed to find he has been given credit for meeting his quota. He wants to protest but cannot bring himself to confront his peers.

Analysis

This trio of chapters dramatizes the turn of the tide, so to speak. Previously, most of the boys at Trinity have been either tolerant or admiring of Jerry, or "indifferent" at worst. They have been willing to let Jerry "do his thing," as Howie Anderson casually declares in Chapter 21, even if it is not their "thing." Now, in one of the novel's most vivid displays of mob mentality, the entire school culture has shifted in just a few days. All of a sudden, Jerry is no longer viewed as a hero or even an eccentric loner, but as an enemy.

Some of the incidents in Chapter 28—the phone calls, the vandalism, the theft—might be written off as the behavior of a few bad actors. Perhaps, the reader is left to surmise, The Vigils are merely "assigning" a small number of individual students to torment Jerry. Stealing a painting and defacing a poster seem like just the sort of pranks Archie would appreciate. Creeping somebody out via a series of late-night phone calls also fits with the book's presentation of his character so far. Even at this point, however, there are clues of a more sinister and systemic antagonism toward Jerry. The beatings on the football field, in particular, seem far too unsubtle to have been carried out on Archie's orders.

As Chapter 30 shows, the anti-Jerry sentiment at Trinity extends well beyond a few Vigil assignments. The very air in Brother Leon's classroom is described as "filled with resentment. More than resentment—hostility." The Vigils, it seems, have succeeded in turning even ordinary Trinity freshmen against their classmate, shifting the task of bullying to the student body at large. Harold Darcy, the boy who calls Jerry out, is an excellent example. The Goober describes him as "a regular kid" who usually minds "his own business with no tinge of the crusader or fanatic about him." If even "live-and-let-live" students like Harold are antagonizing Jerry, his life is likely to get even more difficult from here on out. At heart, as Archie expected, the issue is one of "public relations." Once selling the chocolates becomes "cool," Jerry is necessarily singled out as uncool—a mortal sin in the insular and image-conscious world of Trinity High School.
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