The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier does not but tells us a story of a teenage boy, who dares to fight and withstand cruelty and humiliation at school, caused by the school gang, The Vigils. Jerry Renault, a freshman at Trinity High School, finds strength to give a dare to the established system at school, stirring up a rebellion against cruelty. Undoubtedly, this very book is always timely, as it proves that each and every person can at least try to break the system, try to break the wall of humiliation and mockery in order not to lose honour and dignity.
The Vigils gang and its leader Archie Costello are giving assignments to other students, which they are to complete – these assignments vary, however, each and every assignment is aimed to cause as much psychological injury as possible. Before the turn goes to the protagonist, Jerry, we see his best friend, the Goober, while carrying out the Vigil’s order, break into the classrooms at night and unscrew desks, chairs and hinges, so that the next morning everything collapses and falls apart. Throughout the book we see that the Goober is being tortured by the deed, and seems not to be the same anymore.
Jerry also gets an assignment from the gang not to sell chocolates at the annual school chocolate sale, even despite the fact that Archie told the teacher in charge of the sale that he and The Vigils would make the sale a success. However, in ten days he was supposed to accept the chocolates and begin selling them. Nonetheless, Jerry refuses – and that is the very moment when the war begins.
Jerry dares to disturb the universe and do everything his way, what makes him a real hero at school. However, this fight finishes very soon, when he is brutally bitten by the thug Emile Janza. We see that at that very moment not only is Jerry bitten outside, he breaks inside as well. The war ends for him, as he seems to have no hope for the future anymore.
The book itself is very impressive, as it sheds light on very serious and timely issues: cruelty and humiliation. This young man shows that we have to try; we have to fight and defend ourselves, as only if we start doing it ourselves, the world can be really changed, as nobody will change it for us.
Cormier, Robert. The Chocolate War. New York: Laurel Leaf Books, 1974.