The Chocolate War

by

Robert Cormier

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The Chocolate War: Chapter 4 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Brother Leon, the Assistant Headmaster of the school, informs Archie that there are twenty thousand boxes of chocolate to sell in the school’s annual fundraiser this year—rather than ten thousand, as usual. Archie observes that Brother Leon, alone in this room rather in front of a class, is full of “cracks and crevices,” vulnerable and uncertain. Brother Leon is “sweating like a madman” as he tries to convince Archie that because the chocolates are “special” Mother’s Day chocolates secured at a bargain and will yield a high profit, Trinity students will have no problem selling all twenty thousand boxes.
This first introduction to Brother Leon—one of the novel’s main antagonists—shows him as a slimy, vulnerable man who is clearly trying to cover something up. He is desperate for the approval and support of a student—a child—even as he seems to know that his own scheme is full of holes and roadblocks, and will not sit well with the student body.
Themes
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Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
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Related Quotes
Archie points out that the Trinity boys will be overwhelmed by the doubling of their quota—usually, each boy is only required to sell twenty-five boxes at a dollar a pop, and now they must all sell fifty boxes at two dollars each. Brother Leon insists that Trinity boys are special, but seeing that Archie is not convinced, Leon confides that the school is struggling—no rich men’s sons attend Trinity, and the school is not a boarding school with wealthy alumni. The chocolate sale, Leon says, is “vital” to the school’s success. Moreover, the Head of the school is ill and scheduled to enter the hospital tomorrow. In the meantime, the school will be in Leon’s hands—and Leon needs the help of the Vigils, a secret society that the administration and faculty ignore “completely,” to ensure that things run smoothly where the sale is concerned.
Leon is trying to control both the narrative surrounding this year’s chocolate sale and the outcome of the sale itself. Leon seems to know he has gotten himself in over his head, and that doubling both the quota and selling price of the chocolates will irk the students, on whom Leon depends to make good on his investment in the chocolates. Leon’s attempt to recruit Archie to his cause highlights for the reader the ways in which the two are similar—both are sneaky, power-hungry, and untrustworthy, and also vulnerable in ways they are both conscious and ignorant of.
Themes
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Control vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Tradition Theme Icon
Leon asks Archie if he can count on his help. Archie insists that he’s “just one guy,” and plays dumb about the existence of the Vigils. Leon tells Archie that Archie knows what he means, and their eyes meet in a tense moment. Both of them know that the Vigils essentially make the school’s rules. Archie has a sudden craving for chocolate as he holds Leon’s gaze. After a moment, he admits that he knows what Leon means, and, on his way out of the classroom, assures Leon that the Vigils will do all they can to help. Archie delights in the surprise on Leon’s face when the organization’s name is said aloud.
Archie enjoys psychologically toying with others—in denying the existence of the Vigils, he is riling Brother Leon up. The Vigils hold a unique place in Trinity society, as they are an open secret whose name is nevertheless never uttered. In saying the name of the group out loud, Archie breaks with tradition and also demonstrates to Brother Leon that he is a rogue who cannot be controlled by the Brother—it is Archie who has the power here, not his teacher.
Themes
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Control vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Tradition Theme Icon