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Free Study Guide for The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

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The protagonist of a story is the main character, who traditionally, undergoes some sort of change. He or She must usually overcome some opposing force. In this story, the protagonist and main character is Jerry Renault. Jerry, who has recently become motherless, must discover what he values and who he is. Through the chocolate sale Jerry is able to decide what he believes is right and wrong. Despite the efforts of Archie Costello, Jerry maintains his ground.


The antagonist of a story is the character that provides an obstacle for the protagonist. In this novel, the antagonist is Archie Costello. Archie creates various obstacles to cause Jerry to relinquish his beliefs.


The climax of a story is the major turning point that determines the outcome of the plot. It is the point to which the rising action leads. Sometimes, as in this case, the author will create a n explosive and attention grabbing scene for the climax. In The Chocolate War, the climax takes place in the boxing ring constructed by Archie. Jerry must decide if it is really worth it for him to make such a huge sacrifice for his beliefs.


The outcome is also known as the resolution or denouement, this is the place in the plot where the action is resolved or clarified. The outcome of this novel is unusual. Typically, the protagonist prevails and the antagonist suffers: the good guy wins and the bad guy loses. In this case, Jerry’s decision to fight Emile leaves him dangerously battered and in need of an ambulance. Jerry tells The Goober it is not worth it and to do whatever they tell you to do. Archie is saved from Brother Jacques’s rebuke by Brother Leon, who says that boys will be boys.


Jerry Renault has just lost his mother to cancer and is beginning his freshman year at Trinity school, an all boys Catholic school. He is trying out for the football team.

The Assistant Head Master of Trinity, Brother Leon, has doubled the quota and selling price of the annual chocolate sale, designed to raise money for the school. He asks Archie Costello, an important member of The Vigils, an underground but very influential student organization, to assist in the sale. Archie is concerned about his grade in Leon’s class, so he agrees.

Archie’s job as the "Assigner" for The Vigils is to pick students to perform absurd tasks. Because the group is so powerful everyone always does what The Vigils demand. Archie chooses Jerry Renault for an assignment refusing to sell chocolates for ten days. The Vigils have a black box which holds five white marbles and one black marble. Archie must choose a marble after each assignment. If he chooses the black marble, he must perform the task himself. He has never chosen black.

After ten days of refusing to sell chocolates Jerry continues to refuse because he does not agree with the sale, which is supposedly voluntary. His actions inspire other students to do the same, as most students never wanted to sell the chocolates to begin with. Sales are doing very poorly and Leon says that Archie better do something about it because he promised the support of The Vigils.

Archie and The Vigils transform the chocolate sale into something popular in the school and soon everyone becomes involved. Archie secretly terrorizes Jerry by calling him at all hours and laughing on the phone. He then makes Emile Janza call Jerry queer and beat him up. Emile brought some friends with him to hurt Jerry as well. Jerry is hurt very badly after the fight.

Archie calls Jerry and tells him there is a way he can get even with Emile and that he should come to the football field that night. When Jerry arrives, the entire school has also come. They are told there will be a fight between Emile and Jerry. Archie is selling raffle tickets: each boy gets to write how they want Emile or Jerry to hit the other, the winning shot gets one hundred dollars and fifty boxes of chocolate.

Before the fight Obie, another Vigil who hates Archie, decides that Archie must draw two marbles from the box. Archie is mad but agrees. He draws two white marbles and is safe. The fight begins and the participants follow the instructions. Then a card is read that should have been declared illegal: a low punch to the groin for Jerry. Without thinking Emile attacks Jerry’s groin, as Jerry tries to defend himself the crowd is worked into a frenzy. Emile and Jerry fight freely. Jerry is badly, badly hurt.

The lights go out, but not before Obie sees Brother Leon watching from outside--Archie tipped off Leon, thinking he would enjoy the fight. Archie goes to investigate the lighting situation and finds Brother Jacques has turned out the lights to end the fight. As Jacques yells at Archie, Brother Leon comes to his rescue saying that boys will be boys.

As they wait for the ambulance, The Goober (Jerry’s friend) holds Jerry and tries to comfort him. Jerry tells The Goober to do whatever he is told and to never stand up for himself because it is not worth it.

Later, Archie and Obie discuss the events. Obie tells Archie that he will get his one day-that maybe the black box will work, or he will meet another kid like Reynolds.


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