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Free Study Guide for The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

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FREE BOOKNOTES - THE CHOCOLATE WAR BY ROBERT CORMIER

CHAPTER 17

Summary

By now everyone knows that Jerry refused to sell the chocolates because of The Vigils’ assignment. The Goober thinks about how Jerry’s football is suffering. However he feels better because Jerry said he would take the chocolates on the eleventh day.

On the eleventh day, The Goober waits anxiously. Jerry tells Leon he will not sell the chocolates.

Notes

Although Jerry is now allowed to sell chocolates, he refuses. This decision, made of his own volition, is extremely brave because it upsets Leon, who we now know is a terrible force of power.


CHAPTER 18


Summary

Jerry tosses in bed, interrogating himself about why he refused to sell the chocolates. Although he realizes it was a crazy move, he does not know why he did it. He thinks of his mother and wonders if people can be buried alive.

Jerry thinks of how Leon treats people, like poor George Bailey. Then he thinks of what the hippie said to him, how he though Jerry was missing the big picture. Jerry tries to calm himself with sexual thoughts of a girl he saw earlier; he cannot even masturbate.

Notes

Jerry’s inner discussion with himself reveal that he does have a purpose for resisting the chocolate sale, although he is not sure of what the purpose is. He trusts his instinct. Jerry felt dirty at first, for refusing to sell the candy--as though he should go to confession. Cormier is comparing this unfounded guilt (for not selling chocolates) with guilt placed on Catholics but the teaching of the Church. It is a common criticism of the Catholic Church (with which Cormier himself was disillusioned) that it uses guilt to coerce its followers into doing what the Church wants. Historically, the Catholic Church has often guilted its followers into donating money which, ultimately, served corrupt causes.


CHAPTER 19

Summary

Jerry feels sick the next morning. An older boy sits next to him on the bus and tells him how impressed he is by Jerry’s refusal to sell the chocolates. Jerry feels embarrassed by the compliment because he is not cool. He views his refusal to sell the chocolates as a private battle between him and Leon.

At school, many of the boys express their admiration of Jerry. The Goober begs him to take the chocolates because the whole thing is making him so nervous. Jerry says he cannot take them. Inside his locker Jerry has hung a poster that reads, Do I dare disturb the universe?

Jerry refuses the chocolates again. He feels sad, like the lone survivor on a beach in a world full of strangers.

Notes

Cormier, very cleverly, references the poet T.S. Eliot in this chapter. The poster hanging in Jerry’s locker has a line from an Eliot poem. Although Jerry mentions The Wasteland, which was Eliot’s most famous poem, the line on the poster is from The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. This poem is about a man who is surrounded by unthinking people who go about their daily lives without actually living. The narrator of the poem contemplates what he should do about the state of the universe. When Jerry feels sad and alone as if on a beach of strangers, Cormier is referencing the narrator of the poem who walks alone on the beach wondering what to do.

 

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