The Chocolate War

by

Robert Cormier

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The Chocolate War: Chapter 36 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Archie surveys the raffle tickets, which each bear an instruction for one of the fighters: for example, “Janza, right to jaw.” The “unexpected twist” on a traditional raffle came to Archie in what he feels was a stroke of genius—he has placed Renault at the mercy of the school, who will be more united than ever as they control Janza and Renault like automatons. Carter approaches Archie and expresses surprise but excitement at how fast the tickets are selling. Carter tells Archie that he doesn’t know how Archie does it. Archie replies that all people are greedy and cruel: this raffle has been so popular because, as Archie says, everyone present is a “bastard.”
Archie has found a way, at last, to seamlessly blend physical and psychological torture, satisfying all of the Vigils’ desire for blood and chaos. Archie has manipulated both Jerry and Janza into accepting their role in the Vigils’ last grab at power over the student body, and has preyed upon all of the other Trinity students’ basest, most despicable desires in order to create an event that satisfies his own terrible need to torture, humiliate, and denigrate others.
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Carter tries to hide his disgust—he feels that Archie is repellent, and always has an uncanny ability to make Carter feel as if there is no good anywhere in the world. Carter has always thought of himself as a “good guy,” but now realizes that perhaps he isn’t. As Carter drifts away to be alone, Brian Cochran tells Archie that the tickets are entirely sold out.
Carter, who has always seen himself as above Archie, somehow—perhaps due to his more conventional popularity and no-nonsense approach to maintaining the Vigils’ power—now realizes that he is just as complicit in all the suffering within Trinity as the despicable Archie.
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Archie stands on the platform and lifts his head up to the bleachers—the entire student body quiets down. In front of the platform are the last remaining chocolates—fifty boxes—stacked in a pyramid. Carter walks to the center of the platform and gestures for silence. Archie is ready to begin the “raffle,” but is shocked to see Obie walking onto the platform, carrying the black box in his hands.
Archie takes the stage, believing he has secured unfettered power over the student body. However, he has forgotten about the failsafe of the black box—the one thing in the school that threatens his control.
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Obie smiles maliciously, thrilled to have caught Archie off-guard. He feels that in surprising Archie, he has at last triumphed over him. Carter had expressed doubt about using the black box when Obie first broached the idea with him—but, as Obie pointed out, the four hundred students in the stands “yelling for blood” don’t really care whose blood it is at this point.
Obie’s desire to see Archie fall and fail reveals his own hunger for power and control. He knows that there is only one way to get at Archie anymore, and fully intends to milk this last, desperate grab at control over Archie for all it’s worth.
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Obie wanted to try and fix the results, filling the box with black marbles, but Carter had protested. Carter did insist, though, that Archie be made to pull from the box twice—once for Renault, and once for Janza. Now, at the sight of the black box, the bleachers go completely silent—only members of the Vigils have ever seen it before tonight, and yet it is a legend in the school.
Carter apparently did not echo Obie’s fears of Archie’s total control enough to manipulate him into losing—but Carter’s desire for Archie to pull from the box twice shows that he is just as desirous of Archie getting his just desserts as Obie.
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Archie reaches into the box and pulls out a white marble, quickly. He drops it back in, and then selects another. He allows for just a moment of dramatic tension, praying he hasn’t come so far to be “denied at the last moment.” He opens his palm and holds the marble up for the whole school to see—it is white.
Archie no doubt feels another surge of total invincibility and control flood him as he conquers the black box twice more—in front of the entire school, no less, putting his dominance over fate itself on display for all to see.
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