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Goubert, otherwise known as The Goober, receives an order to attend a Vigils meeting to receive his assignment. They are in a room behind the gym, with only one door and no windows. Carter, president of The Vigils and a gang thug, maintains order at the meetings. Obie, on the other hand, is only a lackey, a messenger. Archie gives Goober his assignment: Goober is to sneak into Brother Eugene's room after school and unscrew everything such as desks, handles, chairs, and doors. He must loosen all the screws until they are barely in the hole, so that when the students come in and sit down, everything will fall apart.
After the assignment, Archie has to face the black box. The black box is a mechanism to keep the leader of The Vigils in check. Inside the black box there are six marbles—five white and one black. If Archie draws the black marble, he must do the assignment himself. In three years, Archie has never drawn the black marble, and this time is no different. Archie draws the white marble and Goober has his assignment.
This chapter takes place in Brother Leon's classroom. Jerry watches Leon pace around with his pointer in his hand. Typically, Leon uses the pointer to push, flick, tap or jab students. Ten minutes before the end of class, Leon calls on Bailey, the smartest kid in class. He makes Bailey go to the front of the classroom, and in front of everyone, Leon accuses Bailey of cheating. Leon wonders how else Bailey could always get such great grades. Bailey protests, saying that he does not cheat and never has, but Leon is relentless, accusing him then of lying as well as cheating. Leon gets Bailey to admit that he is not perfect, and twists his words to make it seem as if Bailey is then admitting to cheating. Jerry watches this exchange in horror and finally someone says to leave him alone. The bell rings, and Brother Leon asks them all to wait a minute. He then compliments Bailey on his bravery, and berates the students for watching the exchange and for enjoying it. Leon turns the tables, saying that the others were really the cheaters because they doubted Bailey.
Emile Janza is the school thug, and despite he and Archie's mutual hatred for one another, they work together. Archie sees Janza siphoning gas out of someone's car. Janza, a proud troublemaker, sits in the front of classrooms instead of the back, openly provokes people and asks for trouble, largely because he knows most people attempt to avoid it. One of the only people Emile respects is Archie, and at the end of their conversation Emile asks Archie about the picture. Archie ignores him and walks away.
The Goober is known for his running and this is one of the reasons he plays football. He loves to run, and runs all the time, anywhere and everywhere he can. He thinks about running as he works with his screwdriver in Brother Eugene's room. He has been unscrewing for six hours and is still not even close to done. Finally, two people in masks come to help Goober finish the job. All told, it takes nine hours.
Chapter 5 gives the reader the first glimpse into how The Vigils actually work. The entire progression of their meeting rests on intimidation. Goober answers the invitation and shows up at the appointed time and place because he feels he must. He fears that otherwise, he would be injured, embarrassed or worse. Goober calls Archie "sir" because of the respect Archie commands through intimidation. The rest of the members of The Vigils fulfill their obligations at each and every meeting because they feel they must. The Goober will carry out his assignment because he is scared. The nature of the assignment itself is symbolic, since the goal of the assignment is to make everything fall apart. The objective of The Vigils is to create their own order by making everything and everyone else collapse. The irony and cruelty of the assignment rests in the fact that Goober is the one who has to cause this collapse.
As if the evil nature of The Vigils is not enough, in Chapter 6 a new source of evil is revealed: Brother Leon, a teacher, a supposed role model. Brother Leon's likeness to Archie is startling, as he engages in the same kind of psychological warfare Archie displays. In a sense, Brother Leon and Archie are competitors who each attempt to gain power over others, and remain largely unchecked. They each have the potential to affect each other, however, so their interplay is cautious and calculated.
Leon delights in humiliating his students. Leon first humiliates Bailey, then the rest of the class. He uses the same method as Archie: intimidation. In a sense, he completes his own assignment by both thinking of and delivering the punishment. Also like Archie, Brother Leon chooses a completely innocent victim. Bailey is the subject of this particular encounter not because he's done something wrong, but because he never does anything wrong at all. Perhaps he does too many things right. Goober, too, has not done anything wrong, has not done anything to deserve punishment.
Emile Janza is a somewhat mysterious addition to the plot. He and Archie are not exactly friends, but share a mutual respect for each other's power. Janza asks about a picture that Archie has, leaving the reader wondering exactly how the picture affects the balance of power between them. Janza does not have the brainpower Archie has, but he has brute strength. His idea of power and cruelty differ from Archie's, but each of their ways is effective. Chapter 7 sets up a dynamic between Archie and Janza that will be significant later, and we wonder whether Archie and Janza work together, or against one another.
The completion of Goober's assignment is as bad as its eventual success. Nine hours of punishment, nine hours of having to follow orders intended to humiliate and injure. Goober tries to think about running, his favorite thing in the world, but it does not help. The two helpers who join the Goober are interesting: in a sense, it is a helpful gesture that makes the job quicker and easier. On the other hand, it is a gesture reflecting a lack of confidence in Goober and his ability to actually finish the job. Sending help in there is purely for insurance reasons, so that the assignment does not fail. A failed assignment would reflect not only on Goober, but on The Vigils as well.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Chocolate War!