The Chocolate War

by

Robert Cormier

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The Chocolate War: Chapter 37 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The Goober arrives at the last minute and makes his way up the bleachers. He had been reluctant to come, having spent the last three days sick in bed, not wanting either to witness Jerry’s humiliation or be reminded of his own betrayals. Now, huddled in his seat, The Goober listens as Carter explains the rules of the “crazy” fight to the gathered crowd: the kid whose blow ends the fight will receive the prize. The crowd is impatient, and some are even chanting “Kill ‘em, kill ‘em.” The Goober is unsettled and worried.
The Goober did not want to bear witness to his friend’s pain and humiliation any longer, so he skipped school several days in a row. Now, though, at the moment of truth, The Goober cannot hide any longer—he needs to face the evil he senses within Trinity head-on.
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Carter reaches into a cardboard box held by Obie and pulls out the first slip of paper. It instructs Renault to hit Janza with a right to the jaw. Jerry and Janza face each other; in compliance with the rules, Janza lowers his gloves. Jerry hesitates, but the crowd calls out for action. Janza himself begins taunting Jerry, asking if the “fairy” is afraid. Jerry reels back and then strikes at Janza, but barely grazes him.
As in his earlier fight with Janza, Jerry is riled to anger by the accusation of being gay. It is unclear, though, whether it is the specific insult itself or simply, as Archie said earlier, the insistence that Jerry is something he isn’t that incites Jerry to violence yet again. Jerry’s blow is so charged with anger that he loses control and misses, surrendering to the chaos within.
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Carter pulls out another slip; this one instructs Janza to hit Jerry with a right uppercut to the jaw. Jerry plants himself, and Janza strikes him hard. Jerry is in intense pain, and staggers back, tasting blood. Carter calls out another command, instructing Janza to hit Jerry in the stomach. Janza strikes Jerry, knocking the wind out of him. The next slip orders Jerry to strike back at Janza, and it is a palpable hit Jerry makes—he is surprised by his own strength.
As the fight goes on, it appears that Janza and Jerry are more or less evenly matched, despite the chaotic, random nature of the fight they have agreed to partake of.
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The next slip is Janza’s, as is the one after that—the second slip, however, instructs Janza to deliver a “low blow to the groin.” Carter realizes that he has just delivered a command for an illegal punch, but Janza, all worked up, is already rearing back. Jerry instinctively deflects the blow, and the crowd goes insane. “Kill ‘im, Janza,” someone screams, and then Janza begins whaling on Jerry in earnest, totally ignoring of the rules.
Jerry’s desire to defend himself is, as in his earlier fight against Janza, so instinctual that he cannot sublimate it. The chaos and confusion of the moment in which Janza attempts the illegal hit excites and riles the students in the stand—who, as per the Vigils’ prediction—are desperate for blood no matter whose it is.
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Carter realizes things are out of control, and looks around for help. Obie is nowhere to be seen; neither is Archie. Jerry is having trouble defending himself, and wishes he could just get one more hit on Janza in. When the tired Janza lags for a moment, Jerry takes his opening and swings. Janza stumbles backwards, but the crowd begins booing Jerry. Jerry looks out to the crowd and sees Archie in the stands, grinning. Jerry realizes he has become a violent animal in allowing Archie to do this to him.
Jerry is in deep trouble—danger, even—and is desperate for the chance to reclaim power in the fight with Janza. In the moment he finally does, however, he realizes that his idea of “control” is an illusion. He is completely at the mercy of Archie’s control over him, and, by proxy, the Vigils’ traditions of violence and manipulation.
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Related Quotes
Janza begins beating Jerry again. From up in the stands, The Goober counts the blows—fifteen, sixteen, and counting. He leaps to his feet and cries for the match to stop, but the crowd’s cheers drown him out: “Kill him, kill him” they are chanting. The Goober watches as Jerry sinks to the ground “like a hunk of meat cut loose from a butcher’s hook”—and then, abruptly, the lights go out.
As the students cheer for Janza to “kill” Jerry, it seems for a few terrible moments like he actually might be able to. Jerry is no match for Janza after all, and his physical defeat is symbolic of the emotional and psychological defeat in his realization that he too is now contributing to the “evil” traditions upholding Trinity.
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Just before the lights went out, Obie had turned away from the platform, unable to bear the sight of blood. Looking away from the bleachers, his eyes fell upon a small hill; on the hill was Brother Leon, wrapped in a black coat, watching the whole thing unfold. As darkness fell, Obie lost sight of Leon.
Brother Leon has been longing for Jerry’s defeat for months now, and the chance to witness his fall is his reward for all his strife over the sale. Leon is so malicious and unstable that he has forgotten that his students are children—he sees them only as threats to his power, and inappropriately longs for their suffering in retaliation for his own discomfort.
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Archie stumbles away from the bleachers toward the utility building, but there is a veritable stampede already as students pour from the bleachers, lighting matches and cigarette lighters. Archie falls and gets back on his feet; as he reaches the door of the utility building, the lights go back on. Archie opens the door, and inside Brother Jacques is waiting for him, his hand on the switch. Brother Jacques greets Archie coolly, calling him the “villain” of the entire operation.
It seems, in this moment, as if Archie has lost control not just over his meticulously-planned rally, but perhaps stands to lose his power within the Vigils and over the school more broadly, as well.
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