The Chocolate War

Themes and Colors
The Individual vs. Society Theme Icon
Control vs. Chaos Theme Icon
Masculinity, Violence, and Power Theme Icon
Tradition Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Chocolate War, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.

At the heart of Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War is the struggle between Trinity freshman Jerry Renault and the rest of the student body of his elite boys’ school. When Jerry controversially declines to participate in the school’s annual fundraiser—a chocolate sale—he is, at first, a participant in a dare from the school’s secret society, the Vigils. After the ten-day dare is up, however, Jerry, perturbed and intrigued by the question of what it means…

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Jerry’s refusal to sell chocolates at school is initially part of a controlled, structured dare his peers have pressured him into undertaking and support him in carrying out. When he goes rogue and persists with his individualistic, seemingly aimless protest, however, the givers of his “assignment”—Archie Costello and the secretive, powerful group of Trinity boys known as the Vigils—begin to realize that perhaps their powers of coercion are less effective than they’d presumed…

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The insecurity, uncertainty, and volatility of late boyhood—even more concentrated within the setting of an all-boys’ high school—is fertile ground for Robert Cormier’s tale of coercion, tradition, and the dangers of individualism. As the boys of Trinity haltingly and shakily approach manhood, their everyday interactions with one another become tinged with violence. Once Jerry rattles the foundations of their school, the student body’s collective desire “for [one another’s] blood” comes to a head. Cormier ultimately…

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Trinity High School is steeped in tradition. There is a hierarchy within the student body in which seniors are at the top of the food chain; every year, each student must sell twenty-five boxes of chocolate in a schoolwide fundraiser; a powerful group of students called the Vigils, which has operated behind the scenes for years despite repeated conflicts with faculty and administration, effectively rules the school. All of these traditions go unquestioned—until Jerry Renault

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