The Chocolate War

by

Robert Cormier

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The Chocolate War: Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next morning on the bus, Jerry feels sleep-deprived and sick. He tries to cram for a geography test, but cannot focus. A boy from school slips into the seat next to Jerry and tells him he has guts—he really let “Leon that bastard” have it. Jerry realizes, for the first time, that the struggle he’d seen as being exclusively between himself and Leon has also had a farther reach. The boy, a transfer student, admits that he is sick of selling chocolates, too, and admires Jerry’s ability to just say no. He tells Jerry that he is “cool,” and yet even as Jerry relishes the compliment, he is sickened by the thought of facing Brother Leon, and the terrible roll call, this morning and for many more beyond it.
Though Jerry is preoccupied with his decision and worried sick over his own actions, it seems as if other students in the school are actually admiring of Jerry’s small rebellion. Even this newfound popularity, though, is not enough to distract Jerry from the very real terror of facing down Leon, whose vendetta against Jerry is certain to be stronger than ever now.
Themes
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Tradition Theme Icon
The Goober is waiting for Jerry outside the school’s entrance, looking concerned. Jerry worries that his friend is not the cheerful, happy-go-lucky boy he was when school started up. The Goober asks Jerry why he refused the chocolates even after the assignment, and Jerry admits that he isn’t sure. The Goober tells Jerry that he is asking for trouble, and warns Jerry that Brother Leon won’t let him get away with abstaining from the sale. As the first bell rings, two more students walk past Jerry and the Goober, and one slaps Jerry on the buttocks, congratulating him on his bravery; the other urges Jerry to keep it up.
Jerry and The Goober have both shown their individualistism throughout the novel thus far. Jerry, however, has taken up his desire to be seen as an individual and run with it; The Goober is trapped within his own fears of being made a pariah, and wants for Jerry to conform to tradition no matter the personal cost. For The Goober, it is easier to blend in and go with the flow, even if it has its own psychological ramifications. Both boys are clearly stressed and struggling—they have taken different paths, but neither path is serving them.
Themes
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Control vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Tradition Theme Icon
As the boys head into school, The Goober begs Jerry to take the chocolates. Jerry says he can’t—he is “committed now.” The Goober heads to class, while Jerry stops off at his locker. He opens it and sees the poster inside—it depicts a man standing on a beach, and features the quotation “Do I dare disturb the universe?” Jerry considers the poster, and the “mysterious” pull it has always had. It is traditional for Trinity boys to decorate their lockers, and Jerry chose this one. The bell rings, and Jerry hurries to class.
Jerry’s poster bears a line from a T.S. Eliot poem, and fittingly asks the question of whether one person can ever “dare” to disturb the universe—interrupting the natural order of things and inserting oneself into the processes of nature. Jerry has kept with the Trinity tradition of hanging a poster, but has chosen for his poster something with an anarchist message, something that inspires him to take on a “dare” of his own alongside the “dare” of the Vigils.
Themes
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Control vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Tradition Theme Icon
Related Quotes
In homeroom, Brother Leon calls roll. When Leon gets to Jerry’s name, Jerry hesitates. It would be so easy, he thinks, to say yes, and to be just like all his other classmates. Instead, Jerry again answers “No,” and feels himself swept by a “deep and penetrating” sadness, which makes him feel completely alone.
Though Jerry has been feeling emboldened by the poster’s message, as he denies the chocolates yet again he feels sad and isolated. The true nature of being a “disturbance” is being an outcast—not a celebrated hero.
Themes
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Control vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Tradition Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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