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Free Study Guide for The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier

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STUDY GUIDE / NOTES - THE CHOCOLATE WAR BY ROBERT CORMIER

OVERALL ANALYSIS

CHARACTER ANALYSIS

Jerry Renault

Jerry is the main character and protagonist of this novel. He is engaged in a battle with himself and with the outside world. He, upon entering high school, is virtually independent: his mother is dead and his father is emotionally absent. He wants to "disturb the universe", yet he is not sure how to do it. Jerry does not know if he should reject his father’s way of life: suit and tie, working 9 to 5; still, he does not think the hippies have the answer either.

Jerry’s greatest asset is his ability to trust his gut instincts. Although he initially does not sell the chocolates because of The Vigils, he comes to believe that he should not sell them at all. He says that it is a free country and he does not have to sell the candy. While this is true on the surface (the sale is voluntary) Jerry learns that it is not really a free country and he will pay a price for not selling the chocolates.


Archie Costello

Archie is the antagonist of this story. He believes that people are essentially animals, and he treats them that way. He believes there are the victims the victimized (the hunters and the prey). He feels no remorse when he manipulates people. Archie is saved from being merely a stock character-a character that is one sided and without dimension-by his feelings for Emile Janza. Archie feels disgust for Emile because he is a brute.

Throughout the novel, Archie undergoes very little change. The biggest moment for Archie is when he realizes that someone like Jerry Renault could be his demise because Jerry will not give in to Archie’s tactics. It appears inevitable that Archie will one day be defeated.


PLOT STRUCTURE ANALYSIS

The Chocolate War is a very cleverly constructed tale about how authority is not always honest and how when you stand up for what you believe, you should be prepared to face the consequences. Jerry Renault, the main character, is in search of his way of "disturbing the universe". At Trinity school, he is no longer a child and learns one of the tough lessons of young adulthood: the good guys do not always win.

Exposition

The exposition of a plot is the place where the reader is introduced to the main character and any important information to understand what is presently occurring. The exposition of this novel occurs in the first chapter where the reader meets the main character. Jerry Renault is the novel’s main character. He is a high school student and concerned with making the football team. His mother is dead.

Rising Action

The rising action of this novel began in chapter twenty-seven, where Obie believed that Jerry would be Archie’s downfall. The action quickly escalated when the students became interested in the sale: Jerry had to explain why he would not sell; he got prank calls; he was beaten up.

Climax

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.

Outcome

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 particular 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.

 

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