The Chocolate War Summary and Analysis
In chapter twenty-six, Jerry tries to call Ellen Barrett. He has tried all the Barretts in the telephone book, and on the last one a girl answers. He is certain that it's Ellen. When he says hello, she thinks that he is someone called Danny. Jerry tries to explain who he is, but she's having none of it, and she ends up asking him if he is some kind of pervert. Jerry hangs up, disappointed in the interaction.
Frankie Rollo, a normally confident student, has been chosen for persecution by The Vigils at the beginning of chapter twenty-seven. He's brought before Archie at a Vigils meeting to be given an assignment. Obie has chosen Rollo because he's almost certain to argue with Archie and cause a scene. When he challenges The Vigils about Jerry's refusal of the chocolate sale, Carter hits him hard enough to knock him to the ground. The crowd enjoys this, and Rollo is carried off to vomit. The Vigils' power, it seems, has been restored - but this time, not by Archie.
The meeting, we soon learn, was called to discuss what can be done about Jerry. Anti-chocolate-sale posters have begun appearing all over the school. Carter is annoyed that Archie would ally himself with Brother Leon and lend The Vigils' name to the chocolate sale, but all agree that the damage has been done, and that The Vigils must participate. Archie comes up with a plan to make selling chocolates the popular thing to do. Carter again challenges Archie, asking how this will solve the problem of Jerry, but Archie assures Carter that Jerry's rebellion will be contained. Carter is still unconvinced, and announces that Archie is on probation until every last chocolate is sold.
Chapter twenty-eight opens at football practice, where it quickly becomes obvious that the other players are targeting Jerry: he is getting hit more often and harder than necessary. He wonders who hates him so much that they would orchestrate such vicious behavior.
At home, the harassment continues: Jerry must endure a series of late-night phone calls during which the caller giggles evilly. The next day at school, he finds that his "Do I dare disturb the universe?" poster has been smeared with paint and ink, and his gym sneakers have been slashed. In art class, the watercolor Jerry has been working on all semester has been stolen, seriously damaging Jerry's grade. All this persecution strengthens Jerry's resolve to defy both Trinity and The Vigils.
Chapter twenty-nine opens with Brian Cochran being rewarded by the rising totals in the chocolate sales. Carter comes in with money from the sale of seventy-five boxes, a fact that surprises Cochran. The president of The Vigils would not usually stoop to such an errand, or concern himself directly with the chocolate sale. Carter checks the roster, and instructs Cochran to credit certain boys with various amounts of boxes, until the seventy-five boxes are all accounted for. Brian knows that these totals are false, and that the boys being credited are not the ones who actually made the sales. However, he likes the accolades Carter is giving him, and therefore has no problem falsifying the credits. The boys, it seems, are selling the chocolates in teams, and Carter is making sure that the boys he has chosen are given the credit for the sales.
In the next chapter, Brother Leon conducts yet another roll call, and Jerry once again refuses the chocolates. A boy named Harold Darcy challenges him, asking Brother Leon to have Jerry explain to the class why he is not selling the chocolates. Darcy says that the other boys have a right to know whether Jerry thinks that he is better than the rest of them. Jerry again refuses to back down, simply saying, "I'm Jerry Renault and I'm not going to sell chocolates." Goober, listening, wishes Jerry would bend just a little.
After school, updated totals are posted on the wall. A group of fifty or sixty boys are there, cheering as the names of those who have sold their fifty boxes are called out. Goober stopped selling at twenty-seven, to show his tacit support for Jerry, but someone calls out that Goober has sold his fifty boxes. Goober knows that this is untrue, but realizes that if he walks into the group and tells them to change it back to what he actually sold that his "days at Trinity would be numbered." Not wanting to rock the boat, the sickened Goober walks away, silently weeping.
Some of the most overt Christian imagery in the novel (in addition to the goal posts-as-crucifixes found in chapter two) occurs when Frankie Rollo is brought before Archie and questioned. After various insults, Archie says to Rollo, "You think you're a big shot," to which Rollo responds, "You said it, not me." Though Rollo is not a Christ figure, he is not deserving of the punishment of The Vigils. There is a direct parallel with the Biblical passage Matthew 27:11 ("Now Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, 'Are you the King of the Jews?' Jesus said, 'You have said so'"). The purpose of this passage is not to make Rollo Christ-like, but to show that Archie is like the unjust governor Pontius Pilate.
Jerry's abortive telephone call to Ellen Barrett shows that his confidence is beginning to fray. He no longer completely understands why he is defying the school and The Vigils, and he is unsure whether he is accomplishing anything good. His personal integrity, however, is what forces him to go on. After he hangs up on Ellen, he speaks his mantra aloud: "I'm Jerry Renault and I'm not going to sell the chocolates." It is the only thing he is able to cling to at that time. As stated before, in some people intimidation causes collapse, while in others it inspires rebellion and intractability of purpose. Jerry is the latter type of personality, and his determination is about to come to a head.
Brother Leon no doubt knows about the falsified totals being reported by The Vigils. The credit for the boxes that have been sold is being distributed throughout the student population, making the totals look more realistic and less attributable to a small segment of the student body. In reality, the mob has taken The Vigils' lead and is selling in teams, with the minority of good sellers actually doing the work, and everyone taking the credit. Leon does not care, as all that matters to him is that the chocolates are sold. Brian Cochran shows that his compliance can be easily bought by a few compliments from a popular and powerful senior. Again, some of the basest and most despicable aspects of the human character are shown to triumph, as Archie would have predicted.
The Vigils are certainly aware that the ridiculous numbers game of the chocolate sale serves only to inflate the already bloated ego of Brother Leon, but this cynical group sees the potential benefits (a promised day off, power over Leon, further control over the mob) and therefore rallies support for the sale under the banner of "school spirit." Though there is religious imagery and ideology throughout this novel, in this section it is particularly clear. The "false believers" of The Vigils are trying to move "the spirit" of the mob by making the students display a pride in the school that they do not share. This can be seen as a parallel to false believers of Christianity, such as Brother Leon, who have pious exteriors but are driven only by self-interest.
The violence in the story has escalated, as can be seen both in the example of Rollo and in the material destruction of Jerry's things. The most serious breach thus far is the theft Jerry's art project; a loss that will have real consequences for him. The prank phone calls at home are disturbing, but the fact that Jerry doesn't tell his father the reason behind them virtually guarantees that this persecution will continue.
The Chocolate War Essays and Related Content
- The Chocolate War: Major Themes
- The Chocolate War: Questions
- The Chocolate War: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Robert Cormier: Biography
- The Chocolate War Summary
- About The Chocolate War
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 1-5
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 6-10
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11-15
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 16-20
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 21-25
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 26-30
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 31-35
- Summary and Analysis of Chapters 36-39
- The Banning of The Chocolate War
- Related Links on The Chocolate War
- Suggested Essay Questions
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 1
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 2
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 3
- Test Yourself! - Quiz 4
- Author of ClassicNote and Sources