The Chocolate War

by

Robert Cormier

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The Chocolate War: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Kevin Chartier has been struggling to sell his chocolates for days, refused by neighbors and chased down the street by stray dogs. He complains over the phone to his best friend, Danny Arcangelo, who isn’t faring much better. Danny has only sold one box—to a diabetic aunt who’ll never eat them. Kevin wonders aloud to Danny if the “Renault kid” has the right idea in refusing to sell the chocolates. Danny asks if Jerry is still carrying out a Vigils assignment, but Kevin tells him that Jerry has gone rogue—he’s doing “something else” now.
Jerry’s influence is clearly beginning to spread throughout the school. Other Trinity boys, indignant about the small humiliations and frustrations they have to suffer on behalf of the chocolate sale, see Jerry and his refusal to participate as a beacon of hope—and an exciting break with the traditions that control their lives at school.
Themes
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Tradition Theme Icon
Elsewhere, two more Trinity boys—Howie Anderson and Richy Rondell—discuss how they, too, are fed up with the chocolate sale. Howie dramatically states that he is not going to sell any more chocolates. He is sick of paying to go to a school that just wants to turn its students into salesmen. Richy, seeing Howie’s point of view, vows that he won’t sell any more chocolates either.
Throughout Trinity, the arguments against the chocolate sale are becoming more nuanced; students are beginning to see how the chocolate sale undermines them and distracts them from their studies, piling on coercion and guilt to get them to participate in something that does not directly serve their own educations at all.
Themes
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Tradition Theme Icon
Back at school, Archie waits in the stinking gymnasium for a meeting with Obie. Obie knows that Archie hates the gym and always finds ways to get out of physical education class, and Archie realizes that Obie really must hate him. Obie walks in, and Archie asks him what he wants—Archie says he’s short on time, and has other places to be. Obie tells Archie that what they have to discuss, though, is very important. Obie tells Archie that Jerry Renault is still not selling chocolates, even after the end of his assignment. Archie doesn’t seem to see the big deal in Jerry’s refusal, and even calls his resistance to Brother Leon and the whole chocolate scheme “beautiful.”
Obie, resentful of Archie’s power over him, seeks to get back at the boy in small ways—like getting him to attend a meeting in the stinky gym. Though Obie wants to go against Archie at every turn, even Obie must admit that Jerry’s refusal to sell chocolates is threatening the Vigils’ stronghold over the school. Archie, however, admiring as he is of any psychological manipulation, is enjoying seeing Brother Leon squirm—even though he himself has pledged the Vigils to Brother Leon.
Themes
Control vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Tradition Theme Icon
Obie points out that the student body, seeing clearly the clash between Jerry and Brother Leon, has begun taking sides in the issue. Something bigger is brewing, and the Vigils are involved whether they want to be or not, since they started the entire war. Archie, realizing the gravity of the situation, reassures Obie that “nobody defies The Vigils […] and gets away with it.” Archie tells Obie to arrange to have Jerry appear before the Vigils, and asks Obie to be prepared with all of the sale’s facts and figures.
Obie wants Archie to see how unamusing Jerry’s rebellion actually is. Archie, a connoisseur of psychological games, has been seeing Jerry’s refusal to sell chocolates as “beautiful,” but has seemingly forgotten that Jerry’s rebellion threatens the Vigils directly. Once he realizes the deeper potential of Jerry’s insurrection to create chaos within the school, though, he is ready to fight back.
Themes
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Control vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Tradition Theme Icon
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