The Chocolate War: Novel Summary: Chapter 11 - 15
Summary, Chapter Eleven, pages 70-74
In Room Nineteen, desks and chairs are collapsing, and the students, once they have caught on, are purposely destroying the room. Every student knows that The Vigils are behind this surprise, which takes all of “thirty-seven seconds” to complete. Archie times it as it occurs. The sight fills him with “sweetness” and he considers this assignment to be one of his most beautiful “triumphs.”
But standing behind Archie in the doorway is Brother Leon, who knows Archie is behind this mess. Archie defends himself by saying that he had only promised to support the chocolate sale—not anything else. “‘I’m in charge, don’t you see?’” Brother Leon hisses. Then he releases Archie and walks away as Archie, humiliated in front of others, curses Brother Leon, who has just become his enemy.
Seeing his power at work is, for Archie, like an addict getting a fix. He feels “sweetness” flow through his body as he watches Room Nineteen fall apart. Power, like the chocolate he often craves, gives him a sense of immense satisfaction. He will not let Brother Leon deny him this power. But Brother Leon has declared war. From this point on, there will be war between Archie and Brother Leon, between students and teachers.
Summary, Chapter Twelve, pages 75-78
Jerry and the other freshmen football players are playing a special match against the varsity players. Jerry hurts all over from being repeatedly tackled by Carter, who plays as a defensive guard on varsity. Jerry refuses to give up as he calls the play signals. He sees Carter coming after him again, but suddenly Carter is stopped and Jerry has enough time to get off a pass to The Goober downfield. Jerry knows that the “pass was beautiful. He could tell it was beautiful, straight on target” as Carter recovers and tackles him. Jerry hears cheering and knows Goober has scored.
Carter slaps Jerry on the butt in approval. The coach calls Jerry a “son of a bitch,” which means that he has at last accepted him. Jerry is euphoric.
When he returns to his school locker after practice, however, he finds a note. He is to appear before The Vigils for an assignment.
Chapter Twelve carefully sets up Jerry’s hard-earned triumph, only to have it ruined by The Vigils summons. The message looms over Jerry’s triumph like the shadows of the goalposts in Chapter Two loomed over the football field like empty crosses. Jerry has made sacrifices to gain his triumph, and he has remained true to himself as he has done so. What kind of sacrifice will The Vigils require of him?
Summary, Chapter Thirteen, pages 79-86
The Goober sits in Brother Leon’s class and listens absentmindedly as Brother Leon calls each student’s name. As each student answers, he is to say “yes” and claim his fifty boxes of chocolates to sell.
Goober is thinking, instead, that he has been depressed since the Room Nineteen incident. Although he has been deemed a hero by other students, he feels guilty for causing Brother Eugene’s rumored nervous breakdown. Since the Room Nineteen incident, teachers in that room have seemed uneasy; this upset in the balance of power at Trinity seems wrong to Goober. Goober just wants “to be The Goober, to play football and to run in the morning.”
When Brother Leon calls his name for the third time, Goober snaps out of his reverie and answers that yes, he will accept his fifty boxes to sell. Brother Leon tells Goober that “‘the most beautiful part of the sale . . . is that it’s a project completely by students.’” He emphasizes that the sale is voluntary.
When Brother Leon calls Jerry Renault’s name, however, Jerry answers that no, he will not sell the chocolates. Goober can tell that Brother Leon is controlling great anger as he tells Jerry that selling chocolates is for the “‘great glory of Trinity,’” even though the sale is voluntary.
Cormier’s intent in having each chapter focus on a different student’s point of view becomes clear in this chapter. Brother Leon may bill Trinity as a great brotherhood, but as the chapters have shown, it is made up of individuals who each have a different perspective on that brotherhood. Archie manipulates it for personal gain. Emile Janza wishes to belong to it. Obie endures it. The Goober hates the Trinity brotherhood and The Vigils that rule it, but he cannot see a way out of that terrible fraternity.
Goober wonders what on earth has possessed Jerry Renault to take on Brother Leon and the system at Trinity. Is Jerry actually being true to himself? Or is something else compelling him to refuse the chocolates?
Summary, Chapter Fourteen, pages 87-101
It is the fourth day of the sale, and Brother Leon is again calling roll, expecting each boy to tell how many boxes of chocolates he has sold so far. As the roll is called, John Sulkey strategizes how he will sell his chocolates and get his name on the special honor roll. Other boys sing out their tallies, some of them jokingly, some with gusto.
Goober notices that Jerry is sitting stiff and silent as he clearly tells Brother Leon “no” for the fourth day in a row. Goober has “a terrible feeling of doom about to descend on all of them.”
Tubs Caper is going door to door selling chocolates after school. He is not selling them for Trinity, however. He is pocketing the money in order to buy his girlfriend, Rita, a birthday present. He plans, of course, to pay back the money. Paul Consalvo is trying to sell chocolates to a harassed-looking mother. She makes him think of the other adults in his life, of his father who falls asleep after supper every night, of his mother who is “tired and dragged-out all the time.” He would rather be out selling chocolates than be at home.
Brian Cochran has been chosen by Brother Leon to be the treasurer for the chocolate sale. Brian is worried because Brother Leon acts like the chocolate sale is a “matter of life and death.” Yet when Brian shows him that the money turned in so far is less than the number of chocolates sold, Brother Leon does not report this discrepancy to the student body.
The roll call continues each day in Brother Leon’s class. Right before Jerry’s name is called, the class holds its breath collectively. Jerry answers “no” each time, and Brother Leon suppresses his anger. Goober hates the way this routine disrupts the peace in Brother Leon’s room, in the whole school, in his own life.
Chapter Fourteen shifts focus to present several different students’ points of view, but each point of view makes clear that students do not honor any great brotherhood, and they do not sell for the glory of Trinity. Each sells for his own self: for recognition, to make money, or simply to escape from home life. Goober sells not because he feels it is the right thing to do, but because he hates discord. Clearly, Brother Leon’s concept of the unity of Trinity students is a false concept. And his concept of his power within Trinity is also distorted.
Something is rotten within Trinity’s walls. Goober senses that this rotten element is shortly going to bring the whole place down. But is that rotten element simply Jerry Renault’s rebellion? Or does Jerry’s rebellion expose the weaknesses beneath Trinity’s great façade?
Summary, Chapter Fifteen, pages 102-106
Emile Janza stops Archie outside the school and asks if he can buy “the picture.” Archie tells Janza that he can earn it by doing something for Archie “‘when the time comes.’”
Archie enjoys watching Janza squirm with discomfort, especially because there actually is no picture. He pretended to take a picture when he surprised Janza in a bathroom stall with “one hand furiously working between his legs.”
Archie risks being late to class just to watch in fascination as Janza bullies a freshman. “‘I’ll bet you also kick old ladies down the stairs and trip cripples on the street,’” he tells Janza. Then Archie thinks how he, too, is “considered capable of hurting little old ladies and tripping cripples.”
In Emile Janza, Archie perceives a more brutish image of himself, someone capable of great cruelty for cruelty’s sake, not merely for personal power. There is a part of Archie that could lose, and this knowledge unsettles Archie.
Archie is obviously planning something—perhaps an assignment—that will involve more than intimidation. If he plans to use someone like Janza, he is planning something extra “special” for his potential victim.