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Free Study Guide for The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

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FREE BOOK SUMMARY - THE CHOCOLATE WAR BY ROBERT CORMIER

CHAPTER 30

Summary

While it is no longer necessary for Brother Leon to call the boys names for the chocolate, since they now deal directly with Brian, he continues to call them and make a big deal out of the process. Even boys who have sold no chocolates are praised because The Vigils have attributed some sales to them. The Goober has stropped selling altogether, even though he sold twenty-seven boxes already.

After Leon calls Renault and Jerry responds “No” Harold Darcy asks Leon if he will ask Jerry why he is not selling chocolates like everyone else. Harold thinks it is everyone’s right to know, since Jerry is not doing his part.

Jerry answers that it is a free country. Leon says he would like a more original answer. Jerry says that Leon said the sale was voluntary and he will not sell the chocolates. Another student asks if Jerry thinks he is better than the rest of them. Jerry says he does not.

Later that afternoon, The Goober hears cheers as the poster with the chocolate sale totals is hung. Some one shouted that The Goober had sold his fifty boxes. The Goober is upset because he had stopped selling chocolates in support of Jerry. He considers telling them, but he is afraid. Instead, he cries.


Notes

Jerry takes an important stand when he does not back down in front of his classmates. Although Leon says that it is unoriginal for Jerry to express that he is refraining from the sale because it is a free country, this is an important statement. Jerry a right that is very fundamental to our American heritage--the right to dissent. In this novel, Cormier presents an oppressive authority (Leon) who is able to force the masses (the students) to do what he wants through coercion, and by equating his cause, which is not legitimate, with pride in Trinity. This method is similar to despots and illicit wars that are promoted by evoking sentiments of patriotism. Jerry refuses to buy into Leon’s rhetoric and is exercising his right to disagree, no matter how unpopular he becomes.

Although the line from T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock hangs in Jerry’s locker, the narrator of the poem is most like The Goober. In the poem, the narrator realizes what is wrong with the world around him, and although he considers disturbing the universe, he is too worried and too self-conscious to do anything at all. This is the same situation with The Goober. The Goober realizes that there is something fundamentally wrong with Trinity. However, when his one stand against the chocolate sale is foiled, he does nothing at all.


CHAPTER 31

Summary

After football practice Jerry is cornered by Emile Janza and Harvey Cranch, another bully. Emile taunts him. Jerry does not want to fight for the same reason he does not want to sell chocolates. He wants to make his own decisions, do his own thing. Emile says Jerry has a deep, dark secret. He says Jerry is a queer. Jerry calls Emile a son of a bitch. As Emile laughs, Jerry sees a group of guys come out from the bushes. The guys attack Jerry.

Notes

This chapter shows how going against the norm often makes people anxious and causes even great accusations. During the Cold War period, particularly in the 1950s and 1960s, if someone with any influence did something unpopular, a common tactical response from his or her opponents was to call him or her a communist. At this time, the idea that someone in power was a communist was very scary. Similarly, calling an adolescent boy in an all boys school, in the 1970s queer was very disturbing.

A note on the use of the word "queer": Cormier repeatedly uses this word in the book. For your reference, in the 1970s, “queer” was widely accepted as a term for homosexuals. In society today, we may more commonly use "homosexual" or "gay" as a description. However, today the official word in academic circles of study remains “queer studies.” This summary chooses to use “queer” because it is the word choice in the novel and certainly means no offense to the reader.

 

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