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The Chocolate War | Study Guide

Robert Cormier

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The Chocolate War | Chapters 7–9 | Summary



Chapter 7

In the Trinity parking lot, Archie happens upon fellow upperclassman Emile Janza, who is siphoning gasoline from another student's car. Emile, the reader learns, is the school bully, an "animal" who doesn't "play by the rules." A poor student—he is "not exactly bright in class"—Emile enjoys making people squirm. He has a mixture of fear and respect for Archie, whom he regards as a kindred spirit. Archie, however, has nothing but contempt for Emile, whom he sees as a mere tool for furthering his ends. Laughing, he leaves Emile to his gasoline theft, but not before Emile asks him about "the picture." The scene offers few details as to what "the picture" might be. Archie, however, sees the picture as "money in the bank": a way to blackmail Emile.

Chapter 8

This chapter opens with a bit of background on The Goober, who loves running and sees it as a source of personal strength. "When he ran," the reader learns, he "forgot about his acne and his awkwardness and the shyness that paralyzed him when a girl looked his way." The Goober feels smarter, more empowered, and even joyful when he runs. Now, however, he is in Brother Eugene's classroom, carrying out his Vigils assignment. Screwdriver in hand, he has been loosening the room's furniture screw by screw for the past six hours. A sudden noise alerts him to the presence of others, and a group of masked boys sneak into the room on all fours. Their leader offers to help him with the assignment but warns him not to tell anyone. The boys spend the next three hours finishing the job.

Chapter 9

Coming home from school, Jerry is pulled into memories of his late mother, who died of cancer the previous spring. He remembers his anger and helplessness when, after weeks of suffering, she finally passed away. He finds his father, James Renault, a pharmacist, napping on the couch. Mr. Renault wakes up and says hello, then shuffles into the kitchen to heat up a casserole. Jerry is struck by the boring sameness of his father's life and wonders if his own adult years will be as dull. "Was this all there was to life, after all?" he muses. He resolves to make something of himself—to "do something, be somebody. But what?"


With the introduction of Emile Janza, the novel's trio of bullies is complete. (Other characters, including Carter, may engage in bullying, but they don't get a kick out of it the way these three do.) Like the corrupt Brother Leon and the scheming Archie, Janza enjoys bullying people not just to establish his own supremacy, but for the sheer sake of watching them squirm. He gets what he wants through intimidation and humiliation—again, just like Archie in a Vigils meeting or Brother Leon in his classroom. Janza, however, is a coarser, more vulgar style of bully with less impulse control and less capacity to plan. He seizes and exploits moments of vulnerability in his victims, but he doesn't string those moments together into grand schemes as Archie and Leon do.

A point of tension in the Janza/Archie relationship is Janza's desire to become one of The Vigils. Janza thinks Archie is extremely cool and wishes to be like him. He (accurately) sees himself and Archie as similar on a deep level since they are both cynics who thrive on exploiting others. At the same time, Janza has a carefully protected softer side. He wants to open up to Archie, become his friend, and—horror of horrors—talk about his innermost feelings, even if those feelings are base and cruel. Intuitively, he seems to recognize this kind of sharing is not "cool" in Archie's book, and that Archie would be more likely to ridicule him than sympathize with him. Archie, in fact, thinks of Janza as a dull-witted brute, someone to be used rather than befriended.

The screwdriver scene in Chapter 8 is important for several reasons. It shows The Goober's vulnerability to peer pressure and dramatizes his fear of being punished by The Vigils. As Jerry becomes a victim of ever more violent types of bullying, The Goober's practical, nonconfrontational attitude will come to seem more and more like cowardice. The scene also shows how much Archie relies on his fellow Vigils to carry out his schemes. The boy in the mask—the "leader" of the screwdriver demolition crew—is later revealed to be Obie, the Vigils' secretary. So far, Archie has been presented as top dog in the Vigils organization, despite not being the official president. Now, however, Cormier shows that Archie is at the mercy of the boys he regards as his henchmen. If they refuse to support him, his position as "assigner" becomes worthless.

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