The Chocolate War

by

Robert Cormier

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Chocolate Symbol Icon

Throughout the novel, chocolate is a shifting but ever-present symbol—the book’s whole plot is structured around a schoolwide chocolate sale, in which the all-male student body of Trinity high is yearly made to sell chocolate to raise funds for the institution. At the start of the novel, the untrustworthy Brother Leon announces that this year, the stakes for the sale are higher than ever; the school is in financial jeopardy, its Head is ill, and to compensate Brother Leon has secured—possibly through shady channels—a massive amount of Mother’s Day chocolate, the ribbon-adorned boxes of which will be sold at double the price of previous years’ sales. Moreover, each boy will be responsible for selling double his quota from previous years—each boy must sell fifty boxes rather than twenty-five. Leon’s belief that his “special” students will be able to carry out the increased demands of the sale with no problem demonstrates his voracious desire for control over the student body and the fate of the school alike. In this way, chocolate represents of the desire for control many of the characters within the book wrestle with. Chocolate is filling, rich, and has little nutritional value—it is a luxury and even a decadence whose overindulgence can result in illness, weight gain, and problems with one’s teeth. The fact that the boys are made to peddle chocolate to their families, friends, and neighbors is symbolic of the wildfire-like spread of desire for control experienced both by Brother Leon at the outset of the novel and by the Vigils as they attempt to enforce Leon’s new policies and ensure that all of the chocolates are sold. As the boys disseminate the chocolate throughout their community, so too do Leon and the Vigils disseminate their own dark, unsustainable desire for power and control by any means. As the chocolate sales—and the chocolate “war” inspired by Jerry Renault’s refusal to take part in the sale—spread throughout Trinity and the community beyond it, every character, even the minor ones, is forced to reckon with the ways desire takes up space in their lives—and, on a much more practical level, how in the world they are going to unload so many chocolates on such a small community.

Chocolate Quotes in The Chocolate War

The The Chocolate War quotes below all refer to the symbol of Chocolate. 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 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:
Chapter 30 Quotes

“Goober sold his fifty boxes," someone called. Cheers, applause and ear-splitting whistles. The Goober started to step forward in protest.

He had only sold twenty-seven boxes, damn it. He had stopped at twenty-seven to show that he was supporting Jerry, even though nobody knew, not even Jerry. And now the whole thing evaporated and he found himself sinking back in the shadows, as if he could shrivel into invisibility. He didn't want trouble. He'd had enough trouble, and he had held on. But he knew his days at Trinity would be numbered if he walked into that group of jubilant guys and told them to erase the fifty beside his name.

Out in the corridor, The Goober's breath came fast. But otherwise he felt nothing. He willed himself to feel nothing. He didn't feel rotten. He didn't feel like a traitor. He didn't feel small and cowardly. And if he didn't feel all these things, then why was he crying all the way to his locker?

Related Characters: The Goober (speaker), Jerry Renault
Related Symbols: Chocolate
Page Number: 197
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 31 Quotes

"You listen,” Janza said, cool now, knowing he had struck a vulnerable spot. “You're polluting Trinity. You won't sell the chocolates like everybody else and now we find out you're a fairy." He shook his head in mock, exaggerated admiration. "You're really something, know that? Trinity has tests and ways of weeding the homos out but you were smart enough to get by, weren't you? You must be creaming all over—wow, four hundred ripe young bodies to rub against . . ."

"I'm not a fairy," Jerry cried.

“Kiss me," Janza said, puckering his lips grotesquely.

"You son of a bitch," Jerry said.

The words hung on the air, verbal flags of battle. And Janza smiled, a radiant smile of triumph. This is what he'd wanted all along, of course. This had been the reason for the encounter, the insults.

"What did you call me?" Janza asked.

“A son of a bitch," Jerry said, measuring out the words, saying them deliberately, eager now for the fight.

Related Characters: Jerry Renault (speaker), Emile Janza (speaker)
Related Symbols: Chocolate
Page Number: 202
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 36 Quotes

“I don't know how you do it, Archie," Carter was forced to admit.

"Simple, Carter, simple." Archie reveled in the moment, basking in Carter's admiration, Carter who had humiliated him at The Vigils meeting. Someday he'd get even with Carter but at the moment it was satisfying enough to have Carter regarding him with awe and envy. "You see, Carter, people are two things: greedy and cruel. So we have a perfect set-up here. The greed part—a kid pays a buck for a chance to win a hundred. Plus fifty boxes of chocolates. The cruel part—watching two guys hitting each other, maybe hurting each other, while they're safe in the bleachers. That's why it works, Carter, because we're all bastards.”

Carter disguised his disgust. Archie repelled him in many ways but most of all by the way he made everybody feel dirty, contaminated, polluted. As if there was no goodness at all in the world. And yet Carter had to admit that he was looking forward to the fight, that he himself had bought not one but two tickets. Did that make him like everybody else—greedy and cruel, as Archie said?

Related Characters: Archie Costello (speaker), Carter (speaker), Jerry Renault, Emile Janza
Related Symbols: Chocolate
Page Number: 231
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 38 Quotes

"It'll be all right, Jerry."

No it won't. He recognized Goober's voice and it was important to share the discovery with Goober. He had to tell Goober to play ball, to play football, to run, to make the team, to sell the chocolates, to sell whatever they wanted you to sell, to do whatever they wanted you to do. He tried to voice the words but there was something wrong with his mouth, his teeth, his face. But he went ahead anyway, telling Goober what he needed to know. They tell you to do your thing but they don't mean it. They don't want you to do your thing, not unless it happens to be their thing, too. It’s a laugh, Goober, a fake. Don't disturb the universe, Goober, no matter what the posters say.

Related Characters: Jerry Renault (speaker), The Goober (speaker)
Related Symbols: Chocolate, Jerry’s Poster
Page Number: 248
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 39 Quotes

“Maybe the black box will work the next time, Archie," Obie said. “Or maybe another kid like Renault will come along."

Archie didn't bother to answer. Wishful thinking wasn't worth answering. He sniffed the air and yawned. “Hey, Obie, what happened to the chocolates?"

"The guys raided the chocolates in the confusion. As far as the money’s concerned, Brian Cochran has it. We'll have some kind of drawing next week at assembly."

Archie barely listened. He wasn't interested. He was hungry. “You sure all the chocolates are gone, Obie?"

“I'm sure, Archie.”

"You got a Hershey or anything?"

“No.”

The lights went off again. Archie and Obie sat there awhile not saying anything and then made their way out of the place in the darkness.

Related Characters: Archie Costello (speaker), Obie (speaker), Jerry Renault
Related Symbols: Chocolate
Page Number: 252-253
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Chocolate War LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Chocolate War PDF

Chocolate Symbol Timeline in The Chocolate War

The timeline below shows where the symbol Chocolate appears in The Chocolate War. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2 
Control vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
...lengths he and the other students go to stay on Archie’s good side, buying him Hershey’s to satisfy his chocolate craving and accomplishing other tasks on Archie’s behalf. Obie is the... (full context)
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...about running out of ideas, and Archie quickly orders Obie to put Jerry down for “chocolates.” With that, Obie collects his things, ready to hurry for the bus so that he... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 10
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...of every student in school. Leon explains that as each student sells his quota of chocolates, the boxes next to each name will be filled. Archie thinks that the assembly has... (full context)
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...vexed to hear that Archie had pledged their support to Brother Leon and his insane chocolate sale. As Archie looks toward the front of the chapel and the posters, he thinks... (full context)
Chapter 13
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...day, in Brother Leon’s class, Leon calls roll and each student accepts his quota of chocolates. Leon is in rare form, delighted that everyone is showing off their school spirit; The... (full context)
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When Brother Leon calls The Goober’s name, he accepts his chocolate. Brother Leon observes, though, that The Goober seems in low spirits, and asks if The... (full context)
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...roll, and, after calling everyone’s name, reminds the boys that they can pick up their chocolates in the gym—those of them who are “true sons of Trinity,” that is. (full context)
Chapter 14
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...a list of everyone in his family and neighborhood he can count on to buy chocolates. Last year, Sulkey won the prize for selling the most tickets in a school raffle,... (full context)
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...roll again, asking each student to answer to his name with how many boxes of chocolate he has sold so far. Some have only sold one or two, but some have... (full context)
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A student named Tubs Casper scurries through his neighborhood, lugging his chocolates door to door. He has only sold three boxes, and is worried about not being... (full context)
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Paul Consalvo is not having much luck with the chocolate sale either, and has not sold a single box all afternoon. He has been focusing... (full context)
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Brian Cochran has been chosen by Brother Leon for the position of Treasurer of the Chocolate Sale. Brian hates the job, as he “lives in fear of Brother Leon.” Leon makes... (full context)
Chapter 16
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...with his other duties he has taken on in the Head of School’s absence—namely, the chocolate sale. Brother Leon congratulates Caroni on doing so well in the sale, but laments that... (full context)
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...assignment, and that after ten days, Jerry is due to give in and accept the chocolates. Brother Leon smiles as he realizes out loud that tomorrow marks ten days since the... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...name once more, and, once again, Jerry answers no; “I’m not going to sell the chocolates,” he says, and an “awful silence” falls over the room. (full context)
Chapter 18
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...unable to find the answer within his own mind as to why he refused the chocolates. He had been planning to accept them, ready for the embarrassing assignment to end and... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...a farther reach. The boy, a transfer student, admits that he is sick of selling chocolates, too, and admires Jerry’s ability to just say no. He tells Jerry that he is... (full context)
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...boy he was when school started up. The Goober asks Jerry why he refused the chocolates even after the assignment, and Jerry admits that he isn’t sure. The Goober tells Jerry... (full context)
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As the boys head into school, The Goober begs Jerry to take the chocolates. Jerry says he can’t—he is “committed now.” The Goober heads to class, while Jerry stops... (full context)
Chapter 21
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Kevin Chartier has been struggling to sell his chocolates for days, refused by neighbors and chased down the street by stray dogs. He complains... (full context)
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...more Trinity boys—Howie Anderson and Richy Rondell—discuss how they, too, are fed up with the chocolate sale. Howie dramatically states that he is not going to sell any more chocolates. He... (full context)
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...discuss, though, is very important. Obie tells Archie that Jerry Renault is still not selling chocolates, even after the end of his assignment. Archie doesn’t seem to see the big deal... (full context)
Chapter 22
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Brian Cochran cannot believe his eyes—chocolate sales are dropping “at an alarming rate.” Yesterday saw the sharpest drop of all, and... (full context)
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...asks Brian to continue reading down the list in descending order of the number of chocolate boxes sold, and Leon listens intently as Brian does so. (full context)
Chapter 23
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...points out that Jerry, too, is suffering due to his refusal to participate in the chocolate sale. Jerry insists that “it’s all a game,” but The Goober believes that there is... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...Leon calls Archie on the telephone to tell the boy that he is in trouble—the chocolates are not selling, the sale is in jeopardy, and it is all Archie’s fault. Archie... (full context)
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...(and the sale) have backfired. Archie insists that Trinity boys are simply sick of selling chocolates every year. Leon menacingly warns Archie that the chocolates must be sold. (full context)
Chapter 25
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
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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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 26
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...wildly, and he wonders if he actually is some kind of pervert—refusing to sell the chocolates for so long, he thinks, must be some kind of perversion. Even after the Vigils’... (full context)
Chapter 27
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...of the Vigils. The group, he says, can’t even scare a “punk freshman” into selling chocolates. Carter strikes Rollo in the jaw, and Rollo recoils in pain. Carter punches Rollo once... (full context)
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...Carter says—and it’s the Vigils themselves, for letting their name get swept up in the chocolate sale, and for letting Jerry Renault get away with defying them. Carter asks Obie to... (full context)
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...Carter—and the rest of the group—that he alone can take care of Renault and the chocolates. Archie suggests the Vigils work double-time to ensure that the sale is over as quickly... (full context)
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...or Archie is out of the Vigils. Carter places Archie on probation until the last chocolate is sold. Archie is humiliated, but smiles at Carter anyway. (full context)
Chapter 29
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Brian Cochran gleefully adds up the totals from the chocolate sale, excited to report the “staggeringly” inflated sales to Brother Leon and give him good... (full context)
Chapter 30
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...students are bringing their returns 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... (full context)
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...student raises his hand and asks Brother Leon to ask Jerry why he isn’t selling chocolates like everybody else. Brother Leon asks why the student wants to know. The student says... (full context)
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...say the sale was voluntary, and thus Jerry doesn’t feel he has to sell the chocolates. Someone asks Jerry if he thinks he’s better than everyone else, and Jerry replies that... (full context)
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...afternoon, The Goober heads to the assembly hall to watch Brian Cochran post the latest chocolate returns. He is surprised to see the number fifty pop up next to his own... (full context)
Chapter 31
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...teases him for blushing. Janza accuses Jerry of polluting Trinity—not just by refusing to sell chocolates, but by spreading deviant homosexuality throughout the school. Jerry at last speaks up, shouting that... (full context)
Chapter 34
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...the office just as Brian Cochran finishes his final tabulation. Brian excitedly announces that the chocolate sale is over—all of the chocolates have been sold, and ninety-eight percent of the money... (full context)
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Leon announces to Brian that the chocolate sale has “disproven a law of nature”—one rotten apple does not spoil the bunch. School... (full context)
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...says that he will—they are giving Jerry one last chance to get rid of his chocolates by raffling them off. (full context)
Chapter 35
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...Janza, and on the entire school. Archie framed the event as an endcap to the chocolate sale—a way for Renault to finally move forward. Archie “guarantee[d]” Jerry that after the match,... (full context)
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...are selling “like dirty pictures.” Wooed by Archie’s compliments on how well Brian handled the chocolate sale, he allowed himself to be talked into doing the raffle. He knew the premise... (full context)
Chapter 36
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 38
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...inside his own pain, he wishes he could warn the Goober to play football, sell chocolates, and do “whatever they want [him] to do.” He wants to warn Goober not to... (full context)
Chapter 39
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...the two of them first saw Jerry Renault, the day they selected him for the chocolate assignment. Obie attempts to reprimand Archie, but Archie insists that Jacques already lectured him—luckily, he... (full context)
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...like Renault will come along. Archie doesn’t answer, and instead asks what happened to the chocolates. Obie replies that the students raided them in the confusion. Archie is hungry, and asks... (full context)