The Chocolate War

by

Robert Cormier

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Brother Leon Character Analysis

The assistant headmaster of Trinity High, Brother Leon is a slimy and devious man who may or may not be embezzling money from the school. Brother Leon is a showman who holds his classes in the palm of his hand during his animated, intense lectures; he often singles students out and uses them in demonstrations, blurring the lines of teacherly ethics. Brother Leon heads the chocolate sale each year, and, this year, has secured twenty-thousand boxes—double the normal amount. Leon tells anyone who will listen that the sale is important for school spirit, and designed to boost morale and camaraderie—but as the sale gets off to a rocky start, his intense nervousness at the poor numbers betrays the fact that Leon may have more at stake in the sale than he is letting on. As the days go by and Jerry refuses the chocolates week after week—first as a Vigils assignment and later of his own volition—Leon develops an intense hatred of the boy, seeing Jerry as a symbol of all that is wrong within the school. He calls him out in front of the class each day, though he knows that Jerry is never going to accept the chocolates. In the end, when Jerry is pitted against Janza in a veritable fight to the death, Brother Leon looks on from a distance as Jerry is beaten to a pulp—seemingly approving of the violence. Brother Leon is cruel, self-serving, secretive, and obsessed with tradition. His blatant disregard for the well-being of his students, not to mention his preoccupation with enlisting Archie and the equally shadowy Vigils into his command, reveal Brother Leon’s unsuitability (to say the least) to the role of a teacher and his narcissistic self-interest.

Brother Leon Quotes in The Chocolate War

The The Chocolate War quotes below are all either spoken by Brother Leon or refer to Brother Leon. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Ember edition of The Chocolate War published in 2004.
Chapter 4 Quotes

“How many boxes?"

“Twenty thousand."

Archie whistled in astonishment. He usually didn't blow his cool that easily, particularly with someone like Brother Leon. But the image of twenty thousand boxes of chocolates being delivered here to Trinity was ridiculous. Then he saw the mustache of moistness on Brother Leon's upper lip, the watery eyes and the dampness on his forehead. Something clicked. This wasn't the calm and deadly Leon who could hold a class in the palm of his hand. This was someone riddled with cracks and crevices. Archie became absolutely still, afraid that the rapid beating of his heart might betray his sudden knowledge, the proof of what he'd always suspected, not only of Brother Leon but most grownups, most adults: they were vulnerable, running scared, open to invasion.

Related Characters: Archie Costello (speaker), Brother Leon (speaker)
Related Symbols: Chocolate
Page Number: 22-23
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

Brother Leon regarded them pityingly, shaking his head, a sad and dismal smile on his lips. "You poor fools," he said. "You idiots. Do you know who's the best one here? The bravest of all?" He placed his hand on Bailey's shoulder. "Gregory Bailey, that's who. He denied cheating. He stood up to my accusations. He stood his ground! But you, gentlemen, you sat there and enjoyed yourselves. And those of you who didn't enjoy yourselves allowed it to happen, allowed me to proceed. You turned this classroom into Nazi Germany for a few moments. Yes, yes, someone finally protested. “Aw, let the kid alone." Mimicking the deep voice perfectly. "A feeble protest, too little and too late…”

There was scuffling in the corridors, students waiting to enter. Leon ignored the noise. He turned to Bailey, touched the top of his head with the pointer as if he were bestowing knighthood. "You did well, Bailey. I'm proud of you. You passed the biggest test of all—you were true to yourself."

Related Characters: Brother Leon (speaker), Bailey
Page Number: 44-45
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

“Let me get this straight, Renault,” Brother Leon said and his voice brought the room under his command again. "I called your name. Your response could have been either yes or no. Yes means that like every other student in this school you agree to sell a certain amount of chocolates, in this case fifty boxes. No—and let me point out that the sale is strictly voluntary, Trinity forces no one to participate against his wishes, this is the great glory of Trinity—no means you don't wish to sell the chocolates, that you refuse to participate. Now, what is your answer? Yes or no?"

“No.”

The Goober stared at Jerry in disbelief. Was this Jerry Renault who always looked a little worried, a little unsure of himself even after completing a beautiful pass, who always seemed kind of bewildered—was this him actually defying Brother Leon? Not only Brother Leon but a Trinity tradition?

[…]

"You may pick up your chocolates in the gym, gentlemen,” Brother Leon said, his eyes bright—wet-bright. "Those of you who are true sons of Trinity, that is. I pity anyone who is not." That terrible smile remained on his face. "Class dismissed," Leon called although the bell had not sounded.

Related Characters: Jerry Renault (speaker), Brother Leon (speaker), The Goober
Related Symbols: Chocolate
Page Number: 82-83
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

“Renault."

It would be so easy, really, to yell “Yes." To say, “Give me the chocolates to sell, Brother Leon." So easy to be like the others, not to have to confront those terrible eyes every morning. Brother Leon finally looked up. The tempo of the roll call had broken.

“No," Jerry said.

He was swept with sadness, a sadness deep and penetrating, leaving him desolate like someone washed up on a beach, a lone survivor in a world full of strangers.

Related Characters: Jerry Renault (speaker), Brother Leon (speaker)
Related Symbols: Chocolate, Jerry’s Poster
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 22 Quotes

“Renault… zero," Brother Leon said, his voice a sibilant whisper. "Can you imagine that, Cochran? A Trinity boy who has refused to sell the chocolates? Do you know what's happened, Cochran? Do you know why the sales have fallen off?"

“I don't know, Brother Leon," Brian said lamely.

“The boys have become infected, Cochran. Infected by a disease we could call apathy. A terrible disease. Difficult to cure."

What was he talking about?

“Before a cure can be found, the cause must be discovered. But in this case, Cochran, the cause is known. The carrier of the disease is known."

Brian knew what he was getting at now. Leon figured that Renault was the cause, the carrier of the disease. As if reading Brian's mind, Leon whispered “Renault . . . Renault. . ."

Like a mad scientist plotting revenge in an underground laboratory, for crying out loud.

Related Characters: Brother Leon (speaker), Brian Cochran (speaker), Jerry Renault
Related Symbols: Chocolate
Page Number: 146-147
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 24 Quotes

"Listen, I think Leon's in deep trouble. There's more than chocolates involved here, Archie."

Archie resented Cochran's familiarity, the use of his name. But he didn't say anything, curious about what the kid had to say.

"I overheard Leon talking with Brother Jacques. Jacques was trying to back him into a corner. He kept mentioning something about Leon abusing his power of attorney. That he’d over-extended the school’s finances. That was his exact word, ‘overextended.’ The chocolates came into it. Something about twenty thousand boxes and Leon paying cash in advance. I didn't hear all of it . . . I got out of there before they could find out I was around . . ."

“So what do you think, Cochran?" Archie asked, although he knew. Leon needed at least twenty thousand dollars to draw even with the school.

"I think Leon bought the chocolates with money that he wasn't supposed to use. Now the sale's going lousy and he's caught in the middle. And Brother Jacques smells a rat…"

Related Characters: Brian Cochran (speaker), Archie Costello, Brother Leon, Brother Jacques
Related Symbols: Chocolate
Page Number: 154-155
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 25 Quotes

Carter blew air out of his mouth in exasperation. He was losing patience with Archie's cat and mouse crap. He had sat here for two years watching Archie play his silly games with kids, having Archie act the big shot as if he ran the show. Carter carried the responsibility for the assignments on his shoulders. As president, he also had to keep the other guys in line, keep them psyched up, ready to help make Archie's assignments work. And Carter wasn't crazy about this chocolate stuff. It was something beyond the control of The Vigils. It involved Brother Leon and he didn't trust Leon as far as he could throw him. Now, he watched the kid Renault, looking as if he was ready to faint with fright, his face pale and eyes wide with dread, and Archie having fun with him. Jesus, Carter hated this psychological crap. He loved boxing where everything was visible—the jabs, the hooks, the roundhouse swings, the glove in the stomach.

Related Characters: Carter (speaker), Jerry Renault, Archie Costello, Brother Leon
Related Symbols: Chocolate
Page Number: 162-163
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Chocolate War LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Chocolate War PDF

Brother Leon Character Timeline in The Chocolate War

The timeline below shows where the character Brother Leon appears in The Chocolate War. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 4
Control vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Tradition Theme Icon
Brother Leon, the Assistant Headmaster of the school, informs Archie that there are twenty thousand boxes of... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Control vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Tradition Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
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... (full context)
Chapter 6
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
In Brother Leon’s class, Jerry can tell that Leon is about to “put on [a] show.” Leon is... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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As Jerry watches Brother Leon torment Bailey, he begins feeling tense and ill. He longs to be out on the... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
The bell rings, signaling the end of class. The boys begin gathering their things, but Leon instructs everyone to stay put. He calls the class “idiots” and “fools,” and says that... (full context)
Chapter 10
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Brother Leon calls a special assembly at chapel. After prayers and a dramatic speech about school spirit,... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
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Brother Leon tells his students that he knows each of them will easily be able to sell... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Tradition Theme Icon
Brother Leon appears behind Archie, seizes him by the shoulders, and accuses him angrily of being behind... (full context)
Chapter 13
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
The next day, in Brother Leon’s class, Leon calls roll and each student accepts his quota of chocolates. Leon is in... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Control vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Tradition Theme Icon
When Brother Leon calls The Goober’s name, he accepts his chocolate. Brother Leon observes, though, that The Goober... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
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Brother Leon is astounded to hear a “No” from Jerry when he reaches his name on the... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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Brother Leon makes his way down the rest of the roll, and, after calling everyone’s name, reminds... (full context)
Chapter 14
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Control vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Tradition Theme Icon
Brother Leon calls roll again, asking each student to answer to his name with how many boxes... (full context)
Control vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Tradition Theme Icon
Brian Cochran has been chosen by Brother Leon for the position of Treasurer of the Chocolate Sale. Brian hates the job, as he... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Control vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Tradition Theme Icon
Brother Leon treats Brian’s daily tallies and reports as major events; Brian has never seen Leon so... (full context)
Chapter 16
Control vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
David Caroni is meeting privately with Brother Leon after having received a failing mark on a test. Caroni, normally a straight-A student, is... (full context)
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Brother Leon then begins talking about how teachers are humans, too—they have good days and bad days,... (full context)
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Suddenly, Caroni realizes that Brother Leon is attempting to blackmail him. Caroni feels sick to his stomach, devastated to realize that... (full context)
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Treading carefully, Caroni tells Brother Leon that Jerry Renault’s refusal to participate in the sale is widely known to be a... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Brother Leon suggests that at the end of the term, before marks close, he will review Caroni’s... (full context)
Chapter 17
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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On the morning of the sale’s tenth day, Brother Leon calls roll gleefully. The Goober has learned that Jerry’s refusal was part of a Vigils... (full context)
Chapter 18
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Control vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Tradition Theme Icon
...to end and for life to go back to normal. He has dreaded facing Brother Leon each morning, and was looking forward to being able to see his teacher, who has... (full context)
Chapter 19
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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...slips into the seat next to Jerry and tells him he has guts—he really let “Leon that bastard” have it. Jerry realizes, for the first time, that the struggle he’d seen... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Control vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
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...The Goober tells Jerry that he is asking for trouble, and warns Jerry that Brother Leon won’t let him get away with abstaining from the sale. As the first bell rings,... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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In homeroom, Brother Leon calls roll. When Leon gets to Jerry’s name, Jerry hesitates. It would be so easy,... (full context)
Chapter 21
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...to see the big deal in Jerry’s refusal, and even calls his resistance to Brother Leon and the whole chocolate scheme “beautiful.” (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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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... (full context)
Chapter 22
Control vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
...alarming rate.” Yesterday saw the sharpest drop of all, and Brian nervously worries what Brother Leon will say when he sees the dismal figures. Leon gives Brian the creeps, and Brian... (full context)
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Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
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When Leon enters the room, Brian warns him right away that the figures are bad. Leon asks... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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When Brian at last reaches the bottom of the list and reads off “Renault…zero,” Brother Leon becomes incensed. He tells Brian that the other boys have become “infected” by Jerry’s apathy—at... (full context)
Chapter 24
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Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Brother Leon calls Archie on the telephone to tell the boy that he is in trouble—the chocolates... (full context)
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Leon ignores Archie’s question about finance and asks why Archie and his “friends” aren’t able to... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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Archie asks Leon how he suggests Archie breathe new life into the sale, and Leon suggests Archie “begin... (full context)
Chapter 25
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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...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”... (full context)
Chapter 27
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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...to sell chocolates, and bring school spirit back en vogue. Archie predicts that the school—Brother Leon, especially—will be grateful to the Vigils for turning the sale around, and the Vigils will... (full context)
Chapter 29
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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...the totals from the chocolate sale, excited to report the “staggeringly” inflated sales to Brother Leon and give him good news at last. Brian is uncertain as to how the numbers... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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Brother Leon arrives in the classroom, and together the two double-check the figures. Fifteen thousand and ten... (full context)
Chapter 30
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Control vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
...directly to Brian Cochran, there is no need for the chocolate roll each day—but Brother Leon continues calling it. The Goober notices how Leon takes an odd delight in the process,... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Control vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Tradition Theme Icon
...afternoon, after Jerry replies to the roll, a student raises his hand and asks Brother Leon to ask Jerry why he isn’t selling chocolates like everybody else. Brother Leon asks why... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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Jerry points out that Brother Leon did, at the start, say the sale was voluntary, and thus Jerry doesn’t feel he... (full context)
Chapter 34
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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Brother Leon enters the office just as Brian Cochran finishes his final tabulation. Brian excitedly announces that... (full context)
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
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Leon announces to Brian that the chocolate sale has “disproven a law of nature”—one rotten apple... (full context)
Chapter 37
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 38
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Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
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Leon approaches and puts an arm around Jacques’s shoulder. He asks if Jacques has everything under... (full context)
Chapter 39
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...to reprimand Archie, but Archie insists that Jacques already lectured him—luckily, he was rescued by Leon. Obie calls Leon a “bastard,” and tells Archie that Leon was watching the whole fight... (full context)