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Free Study Guide for The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

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Archie finds Emile Janza stealing gas in the school parking lot. Emile is a brute although he does not look like one. He is small and pale. Emile spends his time harassing people. He learned as a child that most people do whatever they can to avoid confrontation; he learned to take advantage of this weakness in people, although he notes that there are some exceptions.

Archie tells Emile that his work is beautiful and mentions a picture as he leaves. Apparently, this picture that Archie has is causing concern in Emile. Emile admires Archie and hopes to be cool like him someday, a member of The Vigils. Archie despises Emile because he is an animal.


Emile juxtaposes Archie in this scene. While both Emile and Archie exercise power over people--Archie has limitations. Archie’s power is through his position as The Assigner, which is always checked by the black box; he does not impose anything on anyone else that he would not do himself. Archie is often sickened by the things he does-for example, when he made The Goober call him sir.

Conversely, Emile’s power is unchecked and he enjoys tormenting people. He even likes hurting them physically. Archie thinks Emile is an animal. Although he dislikes Emile, Archie is clever. He pretends to respect him and has blackmail (it seems the picture is some kind of black mail) in order to avoid any potential problem with Emile.



This chapter opens with discussion of The Goober running. When he runs he is much more focused and powerful. The Goober is in Brother Eugene’s homeroom, loosening the furniture and crying in disgust. Just when The Goober thought he would never finish, help arrived. A group of masked boys showed up to help him finish the job. They completed the project in three hours.


Cormier juxtaposes The Goober’s freedom when he is running, in the beginning of the chapter, with how he feels in Brother Eugene’s classroom.

Although The Vigils are an oppressive group, they sent help for The Goober. The reader should consider if they did that to merely speed up the process, or to assist his peace of mind.



CHAPTER nine begins with a discussion of the death of Jerry’s mother. She died in the spring, and during her final week Jerry’s family took turns staying with her at all times. Jerry was angry when she died. His father seemed like a stranger; yet, at the cemetery they hugged and cried. That was their last moment of intimacy.

When his mother died, his father sold their house and they moved to an apartment. Jerry spent the summer on a farm in his mother’s hometown with a cousin.

Jerry comes home from school to find his father napping on the sofa. When his father awakens, they exchange a few words about their days. As Jerry’s dad heats the casserole made by their housekeeper, Jerry asks if all his days are really “fine.” When his father says that everyday is about the same in a drug store, Jerry wonders if his father’s life is that dull. Later, Jerry studies himself in the mirror, wondering who he wants to be.


From this chapter, it is apparent that Jerry’s mother died the previous spring. The chocolates that Leon wants the boys to sell are also from the previous spring--they are Mother’s Day chocolates and he wants the “Mother” ripped off. This is symbolic because it will be over these chocolates, stripped of their “Mother,” that Jerry will resolve the conflict of who he wants to become. Motherless, he is no longer a sheltered child.

This chapter develops one of the main conflicts of the book: Jerry is trying to discover who he is/ who he will become. He realizes that he does not want to be like his father. Yet, he is unsure of who he wants to be.


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