The Chocolate War

by

Robert Cormier

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The Chocolate War: Chapter 16 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
David Caroni is meeting privately with Brother Leon after having received a failing mark on a test. Caroni, normally a straight-A student, is surprised by the unusually low mark; Brother Leon says the failure shocked him, as well. Brother Leon explains that the test was a particularly difficult one, and pass-fail to boot. Brother Leon admits that while grading Caroni’s test, he found Caroni making some good points, but that the argument ultimately didn’t add up.
David Caroni has been brought into a meeting with Brother Leon on suspicious pretenses. Caroni’s out-of-the-blue failure—and Leon’s admission that Caroni was close to passing—shows that Leon wants something out of Caroni, and is attempting to leverage Caroni’s disappointment for his own advantage.
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Brother Leon then begins talking about how teachers are humans, too—they have good days and bad days, and sometimes their judgement is impaired. Caroni listens intently, unsure of what Brother Leon is trying to get at. Brother Leon admits that he has been distracted with his other duties he has taken on in the Head of School’s absence—namely, the chocolate sale. Brother Leon congratulates Caroni on doing so well in the sale, but laments that some other students don’t have Caroni’s spirit, and are not doing as well. Brother Leon mentions Jerry Renault, who has not sold a single box of chocolate.
As Brother Leon waxes poetic about the difficulties of being a teacher, and of applying “good judgement” to everyday duties, Caroni begins to realize that something strange is going on. When the chocolate sale and Jerry Renault are brought into the equation, Caroni knows for sure that he is being used.
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Suddenly, Caroni realizes that Brother Leon is attempting to blackmail him. Caroni feels sick to his stomach, devastated to realize that teachers are just as corrupt as anyone else in the world. Caroni had thought, watching Brother Leon call Jerry’s name each day, that Jerry was Brother Leon’s victim—but now he realizes that it is Brother Leon who is disturbed by Jerry’s refusal to participate in the sale.
Caroni realizes that he is being targeted for blackmail—and, at the same time, sees that Brother Leon is more frightened of his students, particularly Jerry Renault, than he lets on. Once again Brother Leon reveals himself to be extremely petty and corrupt, with no qualms about abusing his power.
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Treading carefully, Caroni tells Brother Leon that Jerry Renault’s refusal to participate in the sale is widely known to be a Vigils assignment, and that after ten days, Jerry is due to give in and accept the chocolates. Brother Leon smiles as he realizes out loud that tomorrow marks ten days since the start of the sale. He dismisses David Caroni abruptly, but Caroni reminds Leon that they never came to a conclusion about what to do about his failing grade.
Caroni gives Leon what he wants, and is relieved to see that he has delivered the very information Leon was after. But when Leon dismisses Caroni without a second thought to the student’s failing grade, Caroni fears he has gotten the short end of the stick.
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Brother Leon suggests that at the end of the term, before marks close, he will review Caroni’s score—perhaps then, he says, he will be feeling “fresher,” and will see “merit that wasn’t apparent before.” Brother Leon warns Caroni, though, that it’s possible the F will stand. Caroni despondently realizes that there are no heroes in life, and nobody can be trusted. He leaves the classroom hurriedly, feeling sicker than ever.
Brother Leon continues blackmailing Caroni, seeming to imply that if the chocolate sale goes well—and if Renault consents to participate in it—the grade will be reversed. This puts a burden on Caroni to somehow involve himself in the underhanded power play, but Caroni is sickened when he realizes that he is a victim of chance—a random casualty in Brother Leon’s power grab.
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