The Chocolate War
When Brian Cochran adds up the totals, he is astounded and cannot wait to tell Brother Leon. For the past few days the chocolates have been selling like hot cakes, and although he does not understand why, he is relieved that he has good news to report. He has heard rumors that The Vigils were behind the sale, and he has noticed The Vigils whispering to people in the hallways, making threats, and taking off after school with boxes of chocolates in their cars. He thinks it eerie that everyone is being credited with the sales, and that the numbers for each person's individual sale tally is climbing whether that person has sold any chocolates or not. Carter approaches Brian with money from the sale. He tells Brian whom to attribute the boxes—he looks at the roster and attributes some of the sales to boys who have not sold many boxes. When Brian posts the tally at the assembly meeting, he receives a round of cheers from his fellow students.
Brother Leon insists on conducting the chocolate roll call, even though most people bring their money and report directly to Brian. Leon congratulates boys for selling their chocolates even though everyone knows they were not responsible for the sales at all. Leon calls on Jerry, and as always, Jerry says no. Then, a student named Harold Darcy raises his hand and asks Brother Leon why it is that Jerry is not selling the chocolates. Harold says that he and everyone else have the right to know, since they have all been selling chocolates since day one. Brother Leon asks Jerry to answer the question. Jerry replies: "It's a free country," but Brother Leon says that answer is not good enough. Jerry then confirms that the sale is indeed voluntary, and that he does not have to sell the chocolates. Harold asks Jerry if he thinks he is better than everyone else, and Jerry says no, but that he still refuses to sell the chocolates. The tension in the room mounts and is finally broken by the bell. When The Goober goes into the assembly hall that afternoon, he is met with applause. Someone announces that he has sold his fifty boxes, and Goober is shocked since really he has sold only twenty-seven boxes. His feeling that something is rotten at the school is confirmed, and he tries not to think about what it means.
As Jerry leaves school, someone stops him, asking in a menacing voice: "What's your hurry, kid?" It is Emile Janza, who banters with Jerry for a few minutes, trying to intimidate him. Jerry looks around, hoping that someone is in view, but no one is. He was dismissed early from football practice because he had not completed a single pass. As he left the field, he noticed the other players looking at each other, laughing and smirking, and he realized that they had purposely missed his passes. Instead of practicing, Janza had been waiting for Jerry.
Eventually, Janza says that Jerry "lives in the closet." When Jerry asks what Janza means, Janza says that Jerry "is a fairy. A queer. Living in the closet, hiding away." Jerry gets extremely upset, and Janza goes on a rant about how Jerry is poisoning the school. While they argue, Jerry notices a group of boys coming out from behind bushes and corners, and they descend on him simultaneously. Jerry curls in a ball and takes the beating, eventually throwing up and driving the boys away.
Jerry makes it home, painfully and quietly, not wanting anyone to see him. He washes himself, and lays in the dark, wishing his mother were there. His father is at work on the night shift. As Jerry lies in bed, the phone rings. He answers, but again, hears only cackling. Soon, the phone calls change and instead of laughing, the voice on the other end says things like "come out and play, Jerry." Jerry looks out the window and sees figures in the darkness and threatens to call the police. The phone rings through the night, and eventually Jerry's dad takes it off the hook. Jerry decides not to tell his father what is going on as he does not want his dad involved at all.
Brian is slow to realize that the rejuvenation of the sale in Chapter 29 is due to The Vigils. Perhaps he does not want to believe it, and would rather believe that everyone suddenly is more invested in the sale. He finally acknowledges it, however, but is strangely unconcerned. Brian concentrates on the bottom line, perhaps a quality he picked up from Brother Leon. So long as he can report good news, and so long as Brother Leon is happy with the totals, Brian is happy. He plays dumb when Carter approaches him, and attributes boxes of chocolates to boys he knows did not sell them. In a way, Brian is an accomplice in the rottenness of the sale, silently acquiescing to both The Vigils and Brother Leon. He demonstrates the ways in which the path of least resistance is the easiest and safest route, and despite having some moral objection to both Brother Leon and The Vigils' manipulation of the sale, he goes along with it because in so doing, he eliminates any personal risk. Brian is a foil for Jerry, who constantly fights the path of least resistance, and does that which causes serious risk to himself both emotionally and physically.
Once again, The Vigils' plan is working perfectly. The general student support for Jerry had been picking up and some kids also considered refusing to sell the chocolates. In spite of The Vigils, for a few days, Jerry had become a kind of revolutionary hero. The Vigils had to do something not only to sell the chocolates, but also to turn the popular sentiment against Jerry. Cormier does not describe exactly how The Vigils enacted their plan, and how they sold all the chocolates and made the sale popular, but by this chapter it is clear that whatever they have done is working. Perhaps Cormier is vague about the details because, like the mafia, The Vigils work quietly and do not give away their secrets.
Harold Darcy, an average, fairly anonymous student at the school publicly questions Jerry, demonstrating that popular feeling has swung from support to resentment of Jerry. Jerry's response in class is inadequate, as Brother Leon explicitly tells him, and the dissatisfaction of the other students implicitly tells him. Jerry is even more on his own now, as the other students feel that Jerry's refusal to sell the chocolates is indicative of his belief that he is better than the rest of them.
The Vigils attack on a physical level as well in Chapter 31. Emile Janza is their front man in the assault against Jerry, probably because Archie has used the picture to make sure Janza is involved. Janza first makes Jerry vulnerable emotionally by calling him a queer. Cormier clues into the fact that as a high school boy, being called a queer can be worse than being called anything else, and that it can strip a boy's confidence. Janza taunts Jerry with this idea, and Jerry responds exactly how Janza wants. Then, when Jerry is emotionally vulnerable a group of boys descend on him, making him physically vulnerable as well. The Vigils attack from all sides and angles, making nearly every aspect of Jerry's life hellish. Physically, Jerry cannot fight back. Despite having been attacked on multiple fronts, Jerry does not appear to be weakening. He also makes the conscious decision to fight alone, and does not tell his father what is going on.