Archie Costello holds the coveted position of “assigner” within the Vigils—the esoteric but powerful secret society that effectively runs Trinity High from behind the scenes. As such, Archie is in charge of devising “assignments”—projects and tasks ranging from benign pranks to seriously risky mischief, which are doled out to underclassmen seemingly at random. With every assignment Archie gives out, however, he must subject himself to the will of the black box—a sort of failsafe instituted long ago as a method of controlling, to some degree, whoever is in charge of making up the Vigils’ assignments. In the black box there are six marbles—five white and one black. If the assigner draws a white marble, the assignment goes to its original assignee as intended; if he draws the black marble, however, he must take the task on himself. This prevents the assigner from going “off the deep end” with the intensity of the tasks he devises, as there is always the chance he will have to carry them out himself. Archie Costello has beaten the black box every time he’s reached into it for three years—and yet each time he does, he feels a moment of panic and terror as the control and power he enjoys on a daily basis due to his coveted role within the Vigils slips away for just a moment, and he surrenders to fate and chance. The black box, then, is a symbol of chaos; in a novel preoccupied with the intersection of chaos and control, and the ways the two competing states interact and overlap, the black box represents a controlled method of chaos. The black box has a strict set of rules that govern it, and much thought and effort has gone into making it, but to those control-hungry characters like Archie Costello, the box is chaos distilled: a rare moment when control is out of the question.
The Black Box Quotes in The Chocolate War
He had beaten the black box for three years—could he do it again? Or was his luck running out? Would the law of averages catch up to him? A tremor ran along his arm as he extended his hand toward the box. He hoped no one had noticed. Reaching inside, he grabbed a marble, concealed it in the palm of his hand. He withdrew his hand, held the arm straight out, calmly now, without shiver or tremor. He opened his hand. The marble was white.
The corner of Archie's mouth twitched as the tension of his body relaxed. He had beaten them again. He had won again. I am Archie. I cannot lose.