The Chocolate War
Jerry gets a summons from The Vigils. Archie, sitting at a table in the gym, offers him a chocolate. Jerry refuses, and Archie asks him how many boxes of chocolates he has sold. Jerry says zero, and then Archie begins asking everyone else in the gym how many boxes they have sold. Archie begins delivering a speech about how as a freshman, Jerry should possess enough school spirit to sell chocolates. Archie asks why Jerry is refusing, and Jerry tells him that it is personal. Archie tells him that with The Vigils, nothing is personal. Finally, Jerry says he does not want to sell the chocolates. Archie points out that everyone must do things he does not want to do. Archie tells Jerry that his new assignment is to say yes during tomorrow's roll call, and to accept the chocolates. Archie tells him that instead of punishing him, they are giving him a chance to make amends. Obie notices Archie's exact words: "We're just asking you to take the chocolates tomorrow," and realizes that Archie must be frightened if he used the word "asking."
Jerry calls a girl he has seen at the bus stop. She has smiled at him, and he decides that now is the time to call her. The phone call does not go well. First she mistakes him for someone named Danny, and then she thinks that the caller is a pervert. Jerry meditates on this for a while. He knows he is not a sexual pervert, but acknowledges that in other ways he is a pervert. He thinks that not selling the chocolates indicates perversion, as well as his defiance of The Vigils. For the first time, saying no actually felt good.
The Vigils have picked a junior, Frankie Rollo for their next assignment. Unlike most of the others, he is not afraid of The Vigils, and rags on Archie throughout the meeting. Carter, president of The Vigils, reacts in a way he previously has not before and he begins to beat Frankie up. Carter says that when someone like Frankie challenges The Vigils, they know something is wrong. Carter suggests that they are the ones who are wrong, because they got involved with the chocolate sale and because they let Jerry defy their assignment.
Obie shows them a poster he pulled down from the wall earlier that says: "Screw the chocolates and screw The Vigils." Carter says this is evidence that Jerry's defiance has spread. Archie says that they cannot just beat everyone up. Archie says they must make selling chocolates a popular thing to do, and make Jerry look bad for not being involved. Archie says that the situation with Jerry will resolve itself. Carter says that it better, and that Archie is on probation until the sale is finished.
This chapter begins again at football practice. This time, Jerry's role in the drill is to try and tackle Carter, who is much bigger and stronger than he is. After a few tries, Jerry lands an impressive tackle on Carter. After the play is over, Jerry gets viciously tackled from behind. He wonders who attacked him like that. At home, Jerry begins receiving prank phone calls. He answers, but there is silence on the other end, followed by laughing. It happens repeatedly, even in the middle of the night, waking Jerry's father.
The next day when Jerry opens his locker, he sees that his poster has been ruined and that his new gym shoes are slashed up. He knows that the vandalism, phone calls, and the attack at football are a message. In art class, Jerry has to turn in a landscape. The day before he left it on the teacher's desk, but now the teacher cannot find it. The teacher threatens to fail Jerry if it is not turned in by tomorrow. Upon leaving for the day, Jerry opens his locker again and looks at the ruined poster. He then grasps the meaning of it.
The Vigil's meeting with Jerry in Chapter 25 is strangely ineffective. This is the first time The Vigils have not made their point or have come off as desperate rather than threatening. They do not do anything to Jerry physically, and they do not even threaten him. As Obie notices, they "ask" him to follow their directions. This is a tip off that Archie is in a tight spot, and the easiest resolution for him is to get Jerry to behave, quickly and quietly. Archie does not want anyone realizing that he used the word "asking." It is unclear if Jerry notices, but Obie does notice. This momentary weakness foreshadows a conflict between Obie and Archie at the end of the book.
In Chapter 26, Jerry wonders if he is a pervert. Cormier uses the word interestingly, first in regard to a phone call and the possibility of a sexual pervert, but then as someone who diverges from the norm. In that sense yes, Jerry is a pervert, both in regard to The Vigils and to the sale. The question is whether in this instance being a pervert is good or bad. Also, there is a possibility that Jerry can, at least in his situation, redefine what it means to be a pervert. Perhaps defying The Vigils and fighting the "evil" of the school will soon not be a perversion, but the common way. Now is the time for Jerry, the school, his schoolmates and The Vigils to decide what is abhorrent, what is a perversion and what is natural and right.
The Vigils seem vulnerable in Chapter 27. First, the student they pick for their next assignment is not scared of them, and is not willing to blindly and fearfully obey them. Jerry's refusal to comply with his assignment has given other students strength to stand up to The Vigils. The purpose of The Vigils is undermined if students do not fear them; The Vigils rely on being feared to function. Carter, knowing that this is a turning point for them, decides that the best remedy is to invoke good, old-fashioned fear. The meeting is indicative of their declining power, and they all know they must regain control immediately. Archie suggests that beating people up is not prudent and again he chooses psychological warfare. Carter challenges Archie, saying that the decision to become involved with the sale was a mistake—that decision was unilaterally Archie's. Not only is the future of The Vigils as a gang on the line, but the future of Archie as its leader is as well.
The way The Vigils infiltrate Jerry's life is reminiscent of the way the mafia might get revenge on an enemy. They are there are football practice, waiting to hit him with excruciating tackles, they call him at all hours of day and night, they break into his locker and trash it, they snatch his homework assignments and dispose of them. There is no refuge and no asylum. They are an invisible enemy, and even though Jerry knows who they are he cannot do anything to prevent them from trying to scare him. The Vigils elevate their offensive to an intangible level, giving them a distinct advantage because Jerry cannot see or hear them, and does not know when or where to expect them. The Vigils attempt to instill a pervasive fear in Jerry's life, making it simply not worth it for him to continue refusing to sell the chocolates. Jerry's resolve is tested more than ever, and the question for the remainder of the book is whether he will stand up to the abuse from The Vigils and if not, how he can fight it.