The Chocolate War
The chocolate sale has begun, and Brother Leon calls roll, asking the kids whether they are willing to participate in the sale, and everyone says yes. He gets to Jerry, and Jerry pauses, and finally says no. Leon is upset, and angrily tries to convince him to agree to participate in the sale. Jerry still refuses. Goober is shocked—he, like everyone else, agreed to sell the chocolates. Cormier describes Goober as depressed after the collapse of Room Nineteen, even though he had become a kind of underground hero in school.
John Sulkey, master of sales chocolate and otherwise, thinks about his selling strategy. He sold the most raffle tickets at school last year, and won a prize. He wants to sell more chocolates than anyone else. He decided to make a list of all the people he would ask to buy the chocolates. Sulkey is pleased about the fifty box quota because it means most of the other boys would have a hard time making that quota. There is a jump forward in time, to a role call a few days later. As the names get closer to "R" the class gets tense. Leon, as he does every day, calls for Renault, and Renault says no. Goober sees Brother Leon's hand trembling as he marks in his book, and "he had a terrible feeling of doom about to descend on all of them."
The second section of the chapter introduces Tubs Casper, who is desperately trying to sell his chocolates so he can buy his girlfriend a bracelet for her birthday. The bracelet is $19.52 including tax, and as he meditates about wonderful she is, he plans on how he can sell enough to buy the bracelet.
The third section of the chapter focuses on Paul Consalvo's unsuccessful attempts at selling the chocolates. He cannot find anyone willing to buy them, and he pities the people he sees as he goes door to door, especially the people who are "stuck in their houses and tenements with kids to take care of and housework to do." Paul pities his own parents, believing that they do not have much to live for.
In a conversation between Emile Janza and Archie, Cormier finally reveals the nature of the mysterious photograph. Janza asks Archie how he can get that photograph, and Archie says that although it is not for sale, when the time comes he will give it to Janza. One day Archie went into the boys' bathroom, opened the door to a stall and found Janza inside, masturbating. Archie pretended to take a picture, and ever since has blackmailed Janza, not letting on that the picture does not actually exist. On the way to class, Janza stops a freshman and orders him to buy Janza a pack of cigarettes. There is something about Janza that chills even Archie, despite having the picture as a trump card.
This chapter shows Brother Leon at his worst. He is talking with one of the best, straight-A students at the school, Caroni. Caroni, for the first time ever, has received an "F" on a test, and wants to know exactly what he did wrong. Brother Leon leads him in circles for a while, telling him that teachers sometimes make mistakes, but sometimes on pass/fail tests if a student is not exactly right, he may fail. Caroni struggles to make sense of the conversation until Brother Leon brings up Jerry, and mentions what a troubled kid Jerry must be to refuse selling the chocolates. Caroni tells Brother Leon that Jerry's refusal is because of The Vigils—he is to refuse the chocolates for ten days, and then accept them. Brother Leon checks his calendar and realizes that the ten days are up tomorrow. He tells Caroni that he will review the "F" at the end of the semester, and depending on what happens, might or might not change it.
The Vigil's assignment is especially effective, as it punishes both Jerry and Brother Leon, whom they are supposed to be helping. The class is shocked when Jerry does not take the chocolates, and Brother Leon is irate. The situation sets up a confrontation between The Vigils and Brother Leon, except Brother Leon does not know it and he perceives Jerry as the enemy. Cormier describes Goober's reaction because, since having just carried out a Vigil's assignment himself, he is particularly empathetic. Like everyone else, Goober is perhaps even more shocked than the rest of the students. He has not yet recovered from the trauma he withstood by carrying out his own assignment.
Chapter 14 is primarily a montage, showing how various students are handling the chocolate sale. Cormier does not bring up Tubs Casper or Paul Consalvo again, but they provide insight into the sale and how and why boys are selling the chocolates. Cormier reminds the reader that these are still boys—one of them takes selling seriously, another wants to sell to use the money for his girlfriend's present. Compared to Archie and The Vigils, these students seem quite innocent. They carry on with the sale in their own way, for their own purposes, oblivious of what is happening with The Vigils, Jerry, and Brother Leon.
Meanwhile, the roll call has become somewhat of a game. Brother Leon refuses to skip Jerry's name, and Jerry still refuses the chocolates. This makes everyone uncomfortable, and during the roll call there is a palpable tension as Leon gets near the "R"s. This puts Jerry in an even worse spot, as he could alleviate that tension simply by taking the chocolate, but he cannot because of his assignment. The Vigils have put him in a no-win situation.
Archie's relationship with Janza is a perfect example of someone keeping his friends close, but his enemies closer. Archie realizes that Janza could be a threat to him. In order to keep Janza at bay, he decides he needs something to hold over him, like a picture. Archie does not even really need the picture, he just needs Janza to think he has it. When Archie tells Janza that he can have the picture for free, both Janza and the reader know there is a catch. Cormier subtly prepares us for an event in which Archie and Janza team up.
In Chapter 16, Brother Leon's character seems even more similar to Archie's. Brother Leon in effect also blackmails someone for assistance. In this case, instead of a photograph, he uses a grade. He arbitrarily gives a student an F because he knows the student would do almost anything to get rid of that F. Eventually, Leon gets what he wanted, which is information about why Jerry refuses the chocolates. The school and the students are akin to Archie's gang. They all do what Brother Leon says, even when he is cruel, wrong, or engages in activities such as blackmail. This chapter sets up a future confrontation between Brother Leon and Archie, as Leon learns that Archie is sabotaging at least one boy's role in the sale.