The Chocolate War
One of the most controversial YA novels of all time, The Chocolate War is a modern masterpiece that speaks to fans of S. E. Hinton’s The Outsiders and John Knowles’s A Separate Peace. After suffering rejection from seven major publishers, The Chocolate War made its debut in 1974, and quickly became a bestselling—and provocative—classic for young adults. This chilling portrait of an all-boys prep school casts an unflinching eye on the pitfalls of conformity and corruption in our most elite cultural institutions. “Masterfully structured and rich in theme; the action is well crafted, well timed, suspenseful.”—The New York Times Book Review “The characterizations of all the boys are superb.”—School Library Journal, starred review “Compellingly immediate. . . . Readers will respect the uncompromising ending.”—Kirkus Reviews, starred review An ALA Best Book for Young Adults A School Library Journal Best Book of the Year A Kirkus Reviews Editor’s Choice A New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year From the Trade Paperback edition.
The curriculet is being added to your library
What a surprising opening to a book! By giving us such a shocking piece of information on the first page, the author builds suspense!
Notice the imagery in this scene. Football is very directly being compared to trauma and war. On the previous page, the author uses the metaphor of calling the football a grenade. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following words would best describe Jerry's attitude right now?
This is a great example of a simile. You can tell it is a simile because it compares something using "like" or "as." This figurative language helps us visualize how angry Obie was, and what his reaction was like. (This annotation contains an image)
Is Archie somebody you would like or dislike? Why?
Though you don't know yet what Archie's "assignments" are, we can start to infer that they aren't good things. It is interesting how there is a distinction between physical and psychological violence here. Archie is able to get away with many things at this school because he only bullies, and doesn't hit.
Based on Obie's reaction, what can we infer Archie actually means by saying Jerry Renault needs "therapy"?
In literature, Christ imagery or symbolism often suggests that someone is going to be sacrificed for the community. It is an ominous bit of foreshadowing, as it suggests that bad things are going to happen later. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Jerry feel jealous of the hippies?
You are probably starting to notice a major internal conflict that Jerry has: his desire to be "good" versus his desire to be "free." An internal conflict is when a character fights against two different wants within themselves. Watch this explanation of internal conflict. (This annotation contains a video)
What is the problem that Archie identifies on this page?
Notice Archie's behavior in this scene. Even while Brother Leon pleads for his help, even as he tells him the Headmaster of their school might be seriously ill, he seems distracted and wants Brother Leon to "get to the point." This piece of characterization shows us that Archie is an uncaring person. Characterization is the use of actions or description to develop a character's traits. See the video below about characterization. (This annotation contains a video)
In this context, what does the narrator mean when he says Archie decided to "plunge"?
Archie sees his role as making predictions about what the Vigils will need, before they ever need it. He feels very proud of his role of giving assignments to boys at the school on behalf of the Vigils.
Why do you think Archie draws out his questioning of Goober? What does this dialogue do for the story?
This scene reveals the incredible power the Vigils have at Trinity. None of the students feel like they can say no to them.
What adjectives would you use to describe the character of Brother Leon? What is he like?
This is a powerful piece of figurative language. By comparing the boy to a "specimen under a microscope... the germ of some deadly disease," the narrator shows us the disgust and disrespect Brother Leon has for the boys at the school. (This annotation contains an image)
Why do you infer that Jerry has been holding his breath?
"Sacrilegious" means going against religion or God. Brother Leon is calling Bailey sacrilegious because, according to him, Bailey claiming to get all "A"s means he is claiming to be perfect. According to the Catholic faith, only God is perfect.
According to this passage, why did Brother Leon do what he did to Bailey?
"Siphoning gas" is a way of pulling gas from a gas tank. It is a way that people steal gasoline from others. This tells us that Emile is breaking the rules. Notice that Archie is amused by this. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on the context of the sentence, the word revelation likely means which of the following?
Don't worry if you don't know what picture they are talking about! The narrator hasn't told us what this is yet. The narrator is letting us know that there is interesting, secret information we don't know yet. This is a common technique to build suspense. It also shows tension between these two characters. (This annotation contains a video)
What is the problem Goober is having right now?
Zorro is a masked hero character. He has been featured in books, TV shows, and movies. He is kind of like a superhero, similar to Batman or Spiderman. This is a powerful comparison that the author has chosen, not only because the boys were wearing black masks, but also because Zorro is a hero figure. This may show that Goober feels like the masked boys are heroes. (This annotation contains an image)
Why do you think Jerry and his father have started to work so hard at school and jobs? Can you connect this to any experience you or other people you know have had?
Notice the theme developing here: a fear of being boring and ordinary. Jerry is taking a lot of meaning from his father's repeated phrase of "fine." "Fine" here is being used as a symbol for "not good, not great, not lousy, not exciting, not anything." Keep an eye out for this fear of a boring life as you read this book.
Why doesn't Jerry want to be like his father?
The official chocolate sales begin! We can infer from the title of this book, The Chocolate Wars, that this will be the source of great conflict for the boys. Selling chocolate, gifts, wrapping paper, or other items is a way that some schools still make money today. Has your school ever had a fundraiser like that? (This annotation contains an image)
How does destroying Room Nineteen make Archie feel?
There is some serious conflict brewing between Brother Leon and Archie. They seem to be battling for control and power at Trinity. Watch this video on conflict, and keep an eye on Archie and Brother Leon as the power struggle continues. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following phrases shows how much Jerry dreads Carter?
Woah! This is Jerry's big moment. Remember, the last assignment was really scary, and involved sneaking into the school at night. Any predictions on what Jerry's assignment might be? (This annotation contains an image)
In at least three sentences, summarize how the Room Nineteen event has changed Goober's life.
Wow! Note the conflict and tension here between Brother Leon and Jerry. You can probably infer that it is extremely rare for someone to say no to the chocolate sale.
What a powerful scene. Watch this clip from the movie version of The Chocolate War and consider the following: How is Jerry feeling right now? How is Brother Leon feeling? (This annotation contains a video)
Why is the chocolate sale so important to John Sulkey?
Note the tension in this scene. Everyone in the room can feel the powerful conflict between Jerry and Brother Leon. Notice how the dialogue contributes to the tension. We are waiting for Brother Leon to get to the "R"s on his list so that the big moment can happen... when Renault (Jerry) says no.
What do you think is a potential conflict that could come from this situation that Tubs is in? Make a prediction about what might happen next.
This is an interesting character detail about Brother Leon. It seems like he likes to keep the boys on their toes by being unpredictable and hard to read.
Why does Goober think it will not be possible to have peace?
Whatever this photo is, it is clear that Emile does not want other people to see it. It looks like Archie is using this to maintain power over Emile, and maybe even ask him to do something for him in the future.
In the last scene, we see how Emile has been bullied and controlled by Archie, who is always holding the threat of an embarrassing picture over him (even though we now know there is no embarrassing picture at all). Notice how Emile is now being groomed to be a bully. It is interesting to see how people who are bullied go on to become bullies in this book. (This annotation contains an image)
Quiz #1: Ch 1-15
Make a prediction. What do you think Brother Leon is trying to say here to Caroni?
Ugh. Caroni is having a difficult realization. Brother Leon can be just as bullying and controlling as the "bad" boys at his school. Here, he's trying to bribe Caroni into getting Renault to participate. This really helps develop Brother Leon's corrupt character traits further. Watch this video on character development, and think about how Brother Leon's character develops in the text. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following themes do you think is being developed in this chapter?
What a surprise! Jerry still says "no." Looks like he is taking a stand for reasons other than the Vigils telling him to.
A shroud is a piece of cloth used to wrap a dead body. This simile highlights how scary and sad Jerry's dream was.
How does Jerry say he felt while the assignment was going on?
Notice how Jerry is getting power in a somewhat positive way. Usually, people in this school get power by putting down other boys. Though he is resisting a teacher, this is still one of the few moments where someone is cool at Trinity for reasons other than being mean to another boy.
Why do you think Goober wants Jerry to take the chocolates?
Pay attention to this phrase! It comes from this poem, and becomes a recurring phrase in the book. (This annotation contains a video)
Why do you think Jerry is sad that he said "no" again?
Note that the boys seem to be tiring of the Vigils' assignments. This suggests that the Vigils may be losing some power, and conflict might be coming...
What have you learned about Archie's character in this chapter?
The story keeps mentioning how many boys are tired of selling chocolates. This seems like it might be foreshadowing that other boys are considering joining Jerry in refusing to sell. Watch this video for an explanation of foreshadowing. (This annotation contains a video)
What effect does Jerry's refusal have on Howie?
The Sahara is a desert in Africa. This is a way of saying that Archie's voice was very flat, as if he is not upset or interested at all. (This annotation contains an image)
From the context of this sentence, what do you think the word "farce" means?
Notice more character development of Brother Leon. He is described as unpredictable and moody, with specific examples to back these up.
How do you think Brian feels right now?
Looks like Jerry will be blamed for the bad chocolate sales. What do you think will happen next?
What problem does Goober have with the Vigils?
Notice how good Brother Leon is at manipulating Archie. He knows that saying he is not an effective leader will bother him. However, Archie knows most of his tricks.
Based on the context of the sentence, what do you think the word "precarious" means?
There is so much ritual surrounding the Vigils. Even small things like a scarf on a card table add to their power.
This chorus of Vigils responding to Archie shows again how there is so much ritual involved in the Vigils. Archie easily has the power to make the other boys lie.
It is clear that Obie does not like the way he has to act for Archie's approval.
What do you predict will happen next? Cite evidence from the text to support your response.
It is interesting to see how Jerry looks at himself here. He sees him as someone who has gone crazy, and defied society. This is further developing the theme of rebellion that runs throughout this novel.
The word "unintimidated" means not _______.
This is some of the first physical violence we've seen in awhile. A fight! As much mental and emotional abuse as these boys inflict on one another, physical violence is rare at Trinity. (This annotation contains an image)
Why do you think it is important to Archie to seem so calm?
Use the define feature to define this word. What are "patsies?" Explain in your own words using complete sentences.
Note how tense the conflict is at this point. It seems like Archie's career with the Vigils now depends on how successful he is at getting the other boys to sell chocolates.
The collision of Jerry and Carter is being compared to __________.
Notice how there is a lot of tension in this scene. This person bothering Jerry over the phone makes us nervous about the bigger problems to come. (This annotation contains a video)
The poster in Jerry's locker is a symbol of Jerry's wish to rebel against the bad things at Trinity. As you read, consider what it might mean that Jerry's poster was destroyed by the people who are bullying him. (This annotation contains an image)
Quiz #2: Ch 16-28
We learn here that Carter is being dishonest, making it seem like many boys had participated in the chocolate sale when they had not. This means that we know something that other characters, such as Jerry and Brother Leon, may not. When the audience knows something that characters in the book do not, this is called dramatic irony. (This annotation contains a video)
Notice how Brian chooses to play along. This shows how much power and influence the Vigils have over all the students at Trinity.
How does the class feel towards Jerry?
It is interesting to see that the Vigils are disempowering other boys besides Jerry, and making them feel like they can't express their views. As you read, think about how the other boys might start to respond to having lies told about them.
How is the conflict around chocolate affecting Jerry's life?
Here, we see Jerry getting hurt by the community of boys for defying their norms. This is another rare moment where we see physical violence in this book.
This is a literary technique called stream of consciousness. Here's a video of a writer explaining how and when a writer can use stream of consciousness. (This annotation contains a video)
Make an inference about why Jerry has not told his father what is going on at school.
Note how the other Vigils are pointing out Archie's particular style of violence- the psychological is much more hurtful than the physical.
Why are the boys at school avoiding Jerry?
This scene feels so heartbreaking. It shows how all the people- teachers included- are complicit (working together) with the Vigils in their violence and bullying.
What is Brother Leon pretending not to see?
A raffle in a boxing ring... those two things don't go together, which tells us that what is about to happen is probably something worse than a raffle. (This annotation contains an image)
Based on the highlighted passage, how does Archie see himself?
Notice how the author builds suspense here. We don't know what the rules are, but we sense they are horrifying because of Jerry's resistance. Read on to find out the rules of the fight!
This is a line from Merchant of Venice, in which Shylock, the main character, is talking about how people treat him like he is less than human because he is Jewish. Shylock is speaking out against prejudice and mistreatment, and apparently Emile feels he is being mistreated and judged here too. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following characteristics does Archie think all people have?
The black box has been a powerful symbol in this book. It symbolizes loss of power, which is Archie's greatest fear. With just a stroke of chance, Archie could easily find himself in the position of the boys he has so cruelly bullied. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Obie want to draw this moment out?
Notice Jerry's resistance to take part in this. He makes a connection to how he was bullied, and realizes he's bullying Janza.
Notice how Jerry is getting sucked into their world of violence here. He is being tempted to participate in the violent world the Vigils have created, not only to survive, but also because he enjoys it.
What does Jerry realize about himself?
Brother Leon watched what happened the whole time. Again, we see how the adults are complicit in the violent world of this book. (This annotation contains an image)
Here is another example of "stream of consciousness" in this scene. The author is trying to show how disjointed Jerry's thoughts are after being brutally beaten.
This paragraph gives an important summary of the theme of this book. In your own words, explain what this paragraph says.
In this scene, it seems very likely that nothing will change at Trinity. The horrible thing that happened today did not serve as a lesson for the people in power.
Quiz #3: Ch 29-39