The Chocolate War
The Goober arrives at the stadium just in time to hear the rules: "...the kid whose written blow is the one that ends the fight, either by knockout or surrender, receives the prize..." He had been out of school sick for a few days—sick either physically or emotionally, he was not sure. He had heard about the fight between Jerry and Janza and had forced himself from his bed to see it.
The fight begins. Carter draws a slip of paper from a cardboard box, and it directs Jerry to hit Janza in the jaw. Jerry pauses, the crowd gets impatient and Janza taunts him. Jerry swings, but the blow only glances off Janza's jaw. Janza smiles. Carter grabs the next slip of paper, which directs Janza to hit Jerry on the jaw. Jerry readies himself for the hit, and Janza hits him as hard as possible. Jerry feels pain throughout the length of his body, and although he knows Janza is strong, Jerry is surprised at the intensity of the blow. Before Jerry can recover, Carter picks another slip that directs Janza to hit Jerry in the stomach. The next ticket directs Jerry to hit Janza, and Jerry hits him in the face harder than either of them thought he could. Taking out his frustrations against Janza, Archie, the chocolate sale and the entire school, Jerry throws himself into the punch like he never has before. Then, Janza is directed to give Jerry an uppercut.
Students are calling for more action, getting into the fight. Carter draws a card that commands Janza to hit Jerry in the groin. Carter and Archie realize that they made a mistake, since they never said that the groin was off limits. Janza moves to strike Jerry and Jerry blocks the punch. The crowd gets angry, as it happened too quickly for most of them to realize, and they just saw Jerry block a punch. Janza, also angry, decides that all bets are off and begins wailing on Jerry. The students urge Janza on as he pours blow after blow upon Jerry, who is curled up trying to defend himself. Janza gets tired, and while he pauses to catch his breath Jerry strikes at him, knocking Janza off his feet. Janza, really angry now, smashes Jerry in the temple. The Goober counts the punches—sixteen in the row. The crowd chants for Janza to kill Jerry. Just as Jerry passes out, Obie sees Brother Leon in the stands and realizes he was there the whole time. Suddenly the lights go out. As Archie goes looking for the electric cable, Brother Jacques stops him.
The Goober goes to Jerry and tries to wake him up. Goober calls out to him, scared, and finally Jerry comes to. Jerry is in bad shape, and Goober asks Obie to call for a doctor. Jerry tells the Goober what he has realized—that it is best to just do what they ask and not to disturb the universe. Brother Jacques asks Archie why he did it. The ambulance is just leaving the field and Jerry has a broken jaw and possibly internal injuries. Jacques tells Archie that the situation could have gotten even more out of hand. Archie tells him that the chocolates all got sold, and that this was his payoff. Brother Leon joins them, and tells Jacques that "boys will be boys" and tells Archie that he knows Archie did it for the school. Archie realizes that he is in the clear, forever—he, Brother Leon and The Vigils.
Obie tells Archie that someday, he will get his. Archie reveals that he tipped off Brother Leon, calling him before the assembly because he figured "he would enjoy himself. And I also figured that if he was here and part of the proceedings, he'd also be protection for us if anything went wrong." Archie also tells Obie never to pull anything like what he did with the black box ever again.
The fight is gruesome and it is ever bit as bad as the reader could imagine. Janza has no mercy, nor do the students who at once point even urge Janza to kill Jerry. Jerry is alone out there, at the mercy of the students who recently decided that he was not a revolutionary at all, but rather someone who considered himself better than them. Jerry gets in a couple of good punches, but he simply cannot hold his own against Janza. Brother Leon watches the whole thing—once again, Archie is right in guessing that Leon would have enjoyed himself. The fight now silently sanctioned by Leon, Archie knows he cannot get in trouble.
The Goober is there for Jerry after it is all over, but this single gesture of friendship is too little and too late. The Goober shows up to the fight because he cannot stay away. He knows what is going to happen, he knows the rules, and he knows Jerry is going to be punished. Why The Goober does not blow the whistle on the fight is unclear—one call to Brother Jacques revealing the true nature of the assembly and Jerry would never have been so brutally beaten. The Goober goes to Jerry's aid at the end, so at least Jerry does not have to lay there bloody, beaten and alone. Jerry believes he has figured out the secret and wants Goober to know: "They tell you to do your thing but they don't mean it. They don't want you to do your thing, not unless it happens to be their thing, too. It's a laugh, Goober, a fake. Don't disturb the universe, Goober, no matter what the posters say." These statements are admissions of a final and deep defeat. Before, even when Jerry had been picked on and beaten up he could say that he was still strong enough to disturb the universe and do his own thing. In Chapter 38 he realizes that it simply is not worth it to oppose people like Archie and Brother Leon. He learned the hard way, and does not want The Goober to have to learn the same lesson.
Even after Jerry's beating, Archie feels no remorse at all. He does not apologize, not even to Brother Jacques. Strangely, Brother Jacques does not require an apology or issue any kind of punishment at all. This is where Brother Leon comes in, shortcutting the conversation and in essence preventing Brother Jacques from coming down on Archie. The union of power between Leon and Archie is sealed.
Archie warns Obie never to pull a stunt like he did with the black box, but he also enjoys the moment for its dramatic effect. Archie prides himself on the psychological punishment and in understanding people well enough to tailor the perfect assignment. Once again, he reveals that he actually does possess an understanding of people, but uses it for a cruel purpose. Cormier does not revisit Jerry in the last chapter, leaving the reading with a dismal feeling about Jerry's future. We do not know the final prognosis of Jerry's injuries, nor do we know how this traumatic series of events will shape Jerry's future. The reader can hope that Jerry will prevail, but the tone at the end is bleak, suggesting that Jerry's recovery will be long coming, if ever.