Friday, February 11, 2011

The Chocolate War

"Do I dare disturb the universe?" T.S. Eliot's quote resonated in Robert Cormier's 1974 classic and it continues to be relevant to young adults today.

I've been avoiding The Chocolate War my whole life because the cover is so unappealing. I'm actually glad that I waited so long because I don't think I would have appreciated how dark this novel is. The evil Brother Leon's chocolate sale is really just another excuse for Archie Costello and his gang, The Vigils, to exert their power over the other students at Trinity High School. When Jerry Renault decides not to see the required 50 boxes of chocolate (with inflation, they cost a whopping $8 each today), the heat of the student body is impossible to bear.

The tension in The Chocolate War never lets up. Like the Trinity students, the reader is eager for a respite from the bullying. Cormier is unrelenting to the final pages, with a gloomy ending that disturbs, rather than satisfies. Adolescent me would have hated this novel, but teacher me takes it as a reminder of how brutal bullying feels.

1 comment:

  1. I remember reading this as a sophomore in high school, and I definitely remember the concept of the quote that you mentioned being a focus of our class discussions. I also remember reading one of the test questions at the end about the symbolism of the goal posts (maybe the shadows) and panicking. In general, I remember realizing that there was a lot more to the book than I had realized. It would be interesting to read it again since I would "get" so much more as an adult!

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