Jerry receives a ransom-note-like summons from the Vigils, ordering him to attend a meeting in half an hour. At the appointed time, he meets with the Vigils in a storage room off the gymnasium. On the lone table in the room, Archie has placed a single box of chocolates. Archie tauntingly asks Jerry if he would like to eat one, or even buy a box—at only two dollars, the chocolates are a “bargain.”
Archie is using a spare box of chocolates—a symbol throughout the novel for the desire for power and control—in order to attempt to physically tempt Jerry into heeding the Vigils’ commands.
Archie asks the other members of the Vigils how many chocolates they’ve sold—they have all unloaded over twenty boxes each. Archie asks Jerry why he hasn’t sold any at all, and Jerry contemplates how he should answer. Knowing he cannot win against the Vigils, he simply replies, “It’s personal.” Jerry wistfully thinks of how well things were going before all the chocolate drama—he’d even gotten a girl at the bus stop, Ellen Barrett (whose name he learned from reading her school notebook over her shoulder) to smile at him two days in a row. Jerry had been planning to look her up in the phone book tonight and give her a call, but now he is overwhelmed with a terrible feeling that he will never experience happiness again.
Though Jerry has been in what is essentially open rebellion against the Vigils for weeks now, when actually confronted with their insidious might, he worries that his life as he knows it is about to come crashing down around his ears. He knows he has no real ammunition against the Vigils. For all his resistance against their reign and the chocolate sale, he is just one boy, and has no claim to power against the Vigils themselves.
Archie tells Jerry that nothing is personal in the Vigils. To demonstrate the Vigils’ sworn allegiance to one another, Archie asks one of the members how many times a day he masturbates, and he quickly answers “twice.” There are no secrets in the Vigils, Archie says, and urges Jerry to tell them all why he won’t sell the chocolates. The President of the Vigils, Carter, lets out an exasperated breath. He is bored with “this chocolate stuff,” not to mention Archie’s campaign of psychological torture—Carter prefers boxing, where “everything [is] visible.”
Jerry says he simply doesn’t want to sell the chocolates. Archie laughs at this, and asks Obie if Obie wants to come to school each day. Obie says he does not. Archie points out to Jerry that even though sometimes people don’t want to do things, they have to. Archie then gives Jerry a new assignment: tomorrow, he tells Jerry to respond to his name during roll call with the statement, “Brother Leon, I accept the chocolates.” Jerry is stunned, but Archie assures Jerry he’s “getting off easy” since all they’re doing is asking him to sell the chocolates—punishment for disobeying the Vigils is usually much worse.
As Archie’s attempt to psychologically manipulate Jerry into selling the chocolates goes on, it seems as if Jerry will at last comply. Jerry is indeed cowed by the might of the Vigils, and the nebulous threat of “punishment” at their hands, but whether he will actually comply when he is so set on his mission of “disturbance” remains to be seen.
At the use of the word “asking,” Obie observes that Archie seems desperate, and even scared. He feels as if he has won a victory over Archie—Jerry has finally gotten to Archie and screwed him up. Obie knows that Jerry is not going to sell the chocolates—he is steadfast, whereas Archie is caving by simply “asking” him to give in. Archie dismisses the meeting, and Carter bangs the gavel, officially adjourning things. He thinks to himself that what Jerry needs is a quick blow to the jaw—he is contemptuous of Archie’s desire to avoid physical violence.
Obie—portrayed as the most observant and emotionally astute member of the Vigils—sees that Archie’s power is waning. Moreso, he understands that Archie’s fall is directly connected to Jerry’s rise. As the Vigils squabble amongst themselves about what the best way to wrest control over the other students is, it becomes clear that they, too, understand that their grip on the school has begun to loosen.