Chocolate Essay War
ONLINE STUDY GUIDE - THE CHOCOLATE WAR BY ROBERT CORMIER
ESSAY TOPICS / BOOK REPORT IDEAS
1. Explain the meaning of the title The Chocolate War.
2. Compare John Carter, Emile Janza, Archie Costello and Brother Leon. What is the difference between a plotting villain and an animalistic villain?
3. What is the symbolic value of the black box?
4. What is the symbolic value of the chocolates?
5. Rewrite the boxing scene from the perspective of Brother Jacques. What does he think about Archie? About Brother Leon?
6. What do you think Brother Leon used the money for? Do you think the Head Master is really sick, or is that part of Leons plan as well?
7. Do you see a similarity between Leons association of the chocolate sale with school spirit and the association of war with patriotism?
8. How are the attitudes of 1970s Americans reflected in this novel?
9. Compare the narrator in T.S. Eliots The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock with Jerry and The Goober. How are they the same? What are their differences?
10. Analyze the character of Archie Costello. Is he all bad? Does he have any redeeming qualities?
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The Chocolate War by Robert Cormier-Free BookNotes Summary
What is the overriding feeling in Trinity school? What is the "rottenness" that some characters detect?
Possible Answer: There is a vein of evil running through the school that stems both from The Vigils and from the administration - namely Brother Leon. Most teachers and students seem to have abandoned hope, perhaps because they feel that they have no choice other than to obey the dogmatic authority structure that is currently in place.
There are no female characters in this novel. What do girls and women mean to the boys at Trinity?
Possible Answer: Girls and women are largely unknown to the boys of Trinity School. Those whom the boys do encounter are often misunderstood or disappointing. The scarcity of female characters is indicative of the boys' confusion and ignorance about the female sex, and is also a symptom of the fact that they have been taught only by celibate Brothers.
Is the chocolate sale significant? What is represented by the huge number of boxes of candy that the boys at Trinity must sell?
Possible Answer: The chocolate being sold was originally packaged for a different purpose - Mother's Day - but since the holiday has passed, Brother Leon has been able to secure a good deal. From the beginning, the chocolate sale is thus fraudulent. The boys are forced to sell a huge number of useless products for the sole purpose of inflating the ego of a power-hungry dictator.
How does Jerry's relationship with his father facilitate the crisis in this novel? Would a different relationship, or a different father, have changed Jerry's experience?
Possible Answer: Jerry's father is both physically and emotionally remote: he keeps strange hours, and has never recovered from the death of his wife. The fact that Mr. Renault sees himself as a failed man - a pharmacist who never became a doctor - gives Jerry a distorted, hopeless view of adult life which may influence his decision to not seek out help from adults.
Emile Janza is represented as an "animal." Do you detect any recognizable psychological problems that might explain Emile's cruelty?
Possible Answer: It may be Emile Janza's inability to understand himself that inspires such cruelty towards others. He appears to be a truly disturbed individual - a sadist, in fact - who derives sexual pleasure from hurting other people. He is the most physically cruel person in the novel, but he is not as deliberately calculating or evil as Archie.
Describe Archie's odd motivations. He has been compared to Shakespeare's Iago, in that he seems to have no reason for his actions. Why is he so cruel to other students?
Possible Answer: Early in the novel, Archie reveals a great deal about his motivations when he says, "Life is shit." Archie is an example of a character who, at a young age, is already disillusioned by life. He has been failed by his parents and teachers, and has no enduring hope or faith in the goodness of humanity.
What is the function of the Goober in this novel? Does he disappoint his friend when he quits football? Is Goober a good friend, or is he just as weak as the others?
Possible Answer: Goober is a good friend for most of the novel, but in the end he too is defeated by the evil running through Trinity. When pushed to his limit, he - like most of the boys - gives up. Jerry is atypical, in that he feels that he must fight the cruel oppression found at Trinity.
Where are the parents in this novel? Is the lack of parental involvement at least partly to blame for what happens to Jerry?
Possible Answer: Parents, when they are mentioned in this novel, are invariably caught up in their own affairs or are oblivious to what is happening to their sons. This is partially because the boys hide everything from their parents, but also because the parents seem to assume that their boys attend an excellent school and place their faith in the Brothers.
Do you feel that Jerry could have averted the catastrophe at the end of the novel? Would he have kept his personal integrity had he done so?
Possible Answer: From an adult perspective, Jerry's actions seem odd. He could have easily informed his father or another Brother at Trinity about the harassment, or asked to be transferred. Jerry, however, sees his troubles at Trinity as his own affair: it is up to him - and no one else - to resolve it.
What does the character of Carter represent?
Possible Answer: Carter, who represents the pinnacle of achievement in both the athletic sphere and The Vigils, perfectly exemplifies just what, exactly, is wrong at Trinity. At any other school, Carter would have been content with the power accorded to him as Captain of the football team, but at Trinity the power structure is such that he feels the need to dominate The Vigils, as well.