The Chocolate War

The Chocolate War Summary and Analysis of Chapters 11-15

The consequences of Goober's assignment reveal themselves in chapter eleven. The students file into Room Nineteen, and their normal movements in the classroom set off the collapse of all the furniture. The noise is deafening, and the vibrations reverberate through the halls. The boys, impressed, call out "The Vigils!" Coolly, Archie times the collapse from the doorway at exactly thirty-seven seconds. Brother Leon sees Archie in the hall, and directly accuses him of orchestrating this destructive prank. Archie automatically denies everything, but Brother Leon scolds Archie and painfully squeezes his shoulder. The teacher in Room Nineteen, Brother Eugene, is so upset by the collapse that he weeps.

In chapter twelve, Jerry is again at football practice, attempting to complete a pass. The coach has put Carter, the senior varsity guard, in to help train the freshman. Carter is much larger than Jerry, and Jerry knows that a tackle will be devastating. Jerry manages to throw a perfect pass out to Goober before Carter flattens him. From the cheers of his teammates, however, Jerry knows that Goober caught the pass and made it to the end zone. For a moment Jerry feels elated and vindicated. When he gets back to school, however, he finds a summons from the Vigils. "Subject: Assignment."

Chapter thirteen begins with Brother Leon taking roll call, going through each boy alphabetically and asking them to accept the chocolates for the sale. Each boy accepts, including Goober, until Jerry Renault's name is called. Jerry flatly answers "No." Leon, taken by surprise, attempts to browbeat Jerry into accepting the chocolates, but Jerry stands firm. Finally convinced that Jerry will not be persuaded, the angry Leon continues calling out names. Brother Leon gets in a jab at the end of the roll call, saying that the "true sons of Trinity" can pick up their chocolates in the gymnasium.

Chapter fourteen starts with a vignette depicting a character named John Sulkey. He is a list-maker, busily totaling up to whom he will sell his chocolates and how many boxes he can get people to buy. He is not a good student or athlete, but in the past he has sold the most raffle tickets: his sole honor, of which he is very proud. He is a student who enjoys the sale, for these tasks are the only things at which he succeeds. John plans to make the rounds of his neighborhood, hitting up family and friends for the chocolate sale.

The chapter continues with another roll call by Brother Leon. Some students have begun to give insouciant answers to Brother Leon, perhaps inspired by Jerry's refusal to sell the chocolates.

Tubs Casper is the subject of the next vignette. He is actively participating in the chocolate sale, but for a different reason. He needs money to buy his girlfriend, Rita, a bracelet, and he plans to "borrow" some from the chocolate sale - temporarily, of course. He even contemplates stealing money from his father to make up the difference.

Paul Consalvo is also trying to sell chocolates to reluctant customers in the neighborhood. He is depressed, and disgusted by many of his customers. He has no luck that afternoon.

Brother Leon has recruited - or rather dragooned - Brian Cochran into being the treasurer for the chocolate sale. Each day, Brian must check the totals and collect the money from the homerooms. Brother Leon has Brian falsify the records so they show that more chocolates have been sold than actually have been reported. Cochran is a bit surprised that Leon would try to "hype up" the sale by creating false reports. At the end of the chapter, Renault once again refuses to sell the chocolates.

In chapter fifteen, Archie and Emile are talking about the "picture" that Archie supposedly has of Emile in a compromising position. Emile repeatedly asks Archie to give it back to him, but Archie refuses, enjoying the hold that he has over Emile. Emile vents his frustration by forcing an innocent freshman to get cigarettes for him. Archie is both repulsed and fascinated by the horrible Emile.


Cormier has often been criticized for introducing so many characters to the canvas of a teen novel, and also for introducing them once and then never mentioning them again (or only in passing). It is an unorthodox approach to any book, and certainly to a book for young people, but it serves a purpose. Cormier introduces characters such as Tubs and Paul Consalvo to give a picture of the general student body's experience of the Trinity chocolate sale, so that the perspective is not limited to The Vigils and their opponent, Jerry Renault. Interestingly, some of the "extra" characters add very little to the plot, and many don't even interact with the major characters. However, they do speak to the various responses the boys have to the sale - and the responses are rarely positive. Further, they introduce a variety of characters to which individual readers may find it easy to relate.

Cormier prefers to provide background and description by action-oriented or thought-centered vignettes rather than through descriptive passages. If Cormier had confined his story to only the main characters of the main action - Jerry, the tragic motherless freshman with some football talent, Goober, the good runner who is afraid of The Vigils, Carter, the president of The Vigils, Archie, the devious and sadistic Assigner, and Emile, the depraved "animal" - many readers would have difficulty relating to or sympathizing with the events in the novel. By offering several different types of students with different desires, backgrounds, faults, and talents, Cormier widens the appeal of the book and makes it easier for readers to engage with on an emotional level.

The wide net of characterization also serves to add verisimilitude to the high school experience. Trinity (and the name of the school is ironic, because it is ruled by a cruel and unyielding triumvirate of authority: Brother Leon, The Vigils, and the football coach) is not just made up of avoiders like Goober, cruel boys like Archie and Emile, and virtuous outsiders like Jerry. It is also made up of a great many "ordinary" boys, who, though unremarkable, are very different from each other in many ways. And the "believable teenage characters help the young see cruelty as selfish, stupid or vicious" (Morgan). Had Cormier offered readers only extreme characters, Archie's actions may not have seemed so obscene, but the addition of the regular onlookers and passive contributors such as Tubs and Obie makes the cruelty in a typical high school that much more vivid.

Brother Leon's mention of Nazi Germany is particularly apt in the sense that Trinity, under The Vigils, is a microcosm of a society headed toward war. "Cormier's portrayal of small school brutality is a cameo of war which sets off a chain reaction of far-reaching violence, senseless human devastation, and intense suffering" (Morgan). By this point in the novel, it has become clear that Jerry's refusal to sell chocolate will not end well. All the features of police state are already in place at Trinity - secrecy, intimidation, corruption at the top, blind loyalty from a fearful populace, organized and institutionalized cruelty - and Jerry is threatening them all.