February 10, 2014
A Darkly Tragic Novel: The Chocolate War
Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War gives readers a dark tale that leaves them on the edge of their seats. Ever since its debut in 1974, it has angered and shocked parents, transfixed students, and has been banned in many schools throughout the nation.
Robert Cormier was born on January 17, 1925 in Leominster, Maryland and died on November 2, 2000 due to complications from a blood clot in Boston, Maryland. Cormier was the son of Lucien Joseph, a factory worker, and Irma Margaret Cormier; and attended Fitchburg State College, he graduated in 1944. He married Constance B. Senay on November 6, 1948 and had 4 ...view middle of the document...
He insists on the voluntary nature of the project and tries to gain control over his life by bucking the system, but his refusal influences other students to make little effort in the project” (The Chocolate, 15). This defiance “quickly turns into a war between the entire school and one teenager who isn’t even sure why he’s refusing to go along with the crowd” (Robinson, 19). To create the novel, Cormier drew upon his own experiences in high-school, and based the plot upon a true-life experience that happened to his son, “leading Cormier to ponder issues such as peer and faculty pressure and explore themes such as manipulation and what happens when an individual balks societal norms” (Young, 9). These ideas of themes were relatively new during this time period, and thus, The Chocolate War won numerous awards: The Outstanding Book of the Year Award (NY Times), 1974; “Best Book for Young Adults” (American Library Association), 1974; Lewis Carroll Shelf Award, 1979; “Best of the Best Books, 1970-1983” (American Library Association); Margaret A. Edwards Award (American Library Association), 1991. The Chocolate War was released as a movie by Management Company Entertainment Group in 1989 and was adopted as an audio book in 1993. The Chocolate War, by Robert Cormier, is a significant member of the literary canon because of its elements of style; its themes; and because of what it has contributed to the talk on book censorship.
Cormier’s style of writing is important to the Chocolate War’s contribution to the literary cannon because of how unique it is. He uses a multitude of literary devices to capture the attention of readers.
“The shifting narrative point of view is one of the most distinctive features of The Chocolate War” (Telgen, 12). The novel has short chapters, yet the reader can easily identify the hero. The opening scene with Jerry “encourages the reader to identify with Jerry Renault, the young quarterback who bravely gets to his feet after a number of heavy tackles and who dreams of making the football team” (Telgen, 12). The Chocolate War has many different characters, in fact most of Jerry’s classmates are names, and we have different points of view from them and other characters. However Cormier’s “use of this [shifting viewpoints] technique is so skillful and finely judged that the reader never becomes confused and, more importantly, never loses the underlying identification with Jerry” (Telgen, 12).
In the novel, there are many points of view that show Jerry’s classmates solely focused on the chocolate sale. Jerry is seen to actually have a life out of school and is the one character to have “conventionally noble aspirations” (Telgen, 11). “The structure of the novel is such that we increasingly see the story as a battle between the individual versus authority” (Telgen, 12).
The climax of the novel is the ending fight between Emile Janza and Jerry. However the ending is unconventional, as the reader’s...