The Chocolate War

by

Robert Cormier

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The Chocolate War: Chapter 1 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Trinity High freshman Jerry Renault is getting “murdered” as he tries out for the school football team. As he is pummeled by the other players and repeatedly tackled to the ground, he hears his friend The Goober’s advice in his ears: “Coach is testing you, and he’s looking for guts.” Determined to prove he has the guts it takes to join the team, Jerry presses on, though he suffers great physical pain over and over with each play.
This opening scene introduces Jerry as someone determined to prove his worth, even under great physical or psychological strain. Jerry wants to be on the football team, believes he is good enough to be on the football team, and is going to show the touch coach that he deserves to be there.
Themes
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Eventually, the coach pulls Jerry aside. The coach asks why Jerry wants to play football in the first place, and wonders especially why Jerry is trying out for quarterback. Jerry does not answer—he is focusing all of his attention just on not passing out. After a moment, the coach begrudgingly tells Jerry that he can have a spot on the team if he shows up for more tryouts the next day at three p.m. sharp. Jerry walks back to the main building, elated but dazed. He takes pride in knowing that though he was “massacred” by the other, older players, he has survived. In the bathroom, Jerry goes straight to one of the toilets and vomits.
Jerry’s determination has paid off, and he has proved both to the coach and to himself that he can withstand great physical pain and psychological torment—a necessity in the hypermasculine, hyperviolent sport of football. When Jerry returns to school alone, though, he shows signs of weakness—he is not invincible, and the difficult tryout has taken a toll on him.
Themes
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon