The Chocolate War: Characters
Jerry is the protagonist of the novel. He is a fourteen year old boy who does not understand who he is in the world, or even at his school. Jerry worries that his life will turn out like his father’s, which seems to be extremely boring and routine. Jerry’s desire to break out of the mold and step away from the routine causes chaos at Trinity. Jerry’s silent protest against selling chocolates challenges the authority of both Brother Leon and the Vigils, especially Archie. Jerry is very strong and philosophical for his age and is also quite independent; these seemingly admirable qualities do not help Jerry in the end, however, when the ruling party of Trinity wins.
Archie is the leader of the Vigils, the group that rules Trinity school. Archie enjoys psychological and physical warfare and embraces the power he achieves by putting fear in the hearts of students and teachers alike. Archie cares for no one other than himself, and he does not discriminate when it comes to handing out assignments or punishment; he sees everyone as equal, though not equal to him. Archie loves the power that he has at Trinity; even teachers bow to him or ask him for help because they know that he holds the school in the palm of his hand. He causes mayhem and damage that seems to have no effect on him other than satisfaction and pride.
Brother Leon becomes interim headmaster of Trinity while the usual headmaster is hospitalized. Brother Leon is manipulative, evil, and corrupt and finds joy in humiliating students in his classroom. Brother Leon uses $20,000 in non-approved school funds to buy 20,000 boxes of chocolates for the students to sell for $2 per box, so he can make a profit, but the plan begins to fall through and Leon gets desperate. Leon enlists Archie’s help in getting the chocolates sold which means that he must allow Archie to do whatever is necessary to achieve the goal, no matter how heinous. Brother Leon and Archie turn out to be very similar and both have an appreciation for causing psychological damage.
The Goober, real name Roland Goubert, is Jerry’s only friend and a fellow football player. The Goober is given an assignment to unscrew all of the furniture in classroom nineteen so that when people sit on it the next day it will all come crashing to the ground. The Goober does the assignment because he is terrified, but it causes him to have psychological damage. The Goober does not understand Jerry’s refusal to sell the chocolates after his assignment is up, though eventually he goes along with it too. The Goober is Jerry’s only means of emotional support and stands by Jerry’s side throughout the whole ordeal, even as he is being brought to the hospital after the fight.
Emile Janza is a massive boy and is feared by most students as Trinity, despite the fact that he is not a Vigil. Emile is willing to help Archie in whatever he needs because he believes that Archie has a picture of him masturbating in the bathroom at school; even when Archie admits that there is no picture Emile continues helping him because he is not sure whether to believe him or not.Emile Janza likes to handle things with physical violence, as is shown when he and a group of guys jump Jerry after football practice and also when he forgoes the rules of the boxing match and beats Jerry to a pulp without waiting for the raffle-ticket-instructions.
Obie is the secretary of the Vigils, and he hates Archie with a passion. Though Obie does not come right out, and say it he wishes that Archie would get what is coming to him for being so evil. Obie is the one who helps Archie think of assignments and summons the students to a meeting where they will be given their assignments. At the meeting, Archie must draw a marble from a black box, and if he draws the one black marble he must do the assignment instead of the student, though Archie has never drawn a marble that was not white. The day of the boxing match Obie and Carter decide that Archie must draw two marbles, one for each Jerry and Emile, a form of rebellion, which takes Archie by surprise. To Obie’s dismay Archie draws two white marbles.
Carter is the president of the Vigils though he allows Archie to run things and to be the manipulator of the group. While Archie is more psychological, Carter is a football player thus stronger and more physical. Carter does not like to get violent for no reason but does feel as though violence is a valid way of getting one’s point across. When Frankie Rollo talks back to Archie Carter gets frustrated and punches him, despite Archie’s obvious aversion to physical violence. Carter challenges Archie’s power by putting him on probation until he gets every last box of chocolate sold because he does not want to be in debt to Brother Leon.
Brian is the treasurer at Trinity and is put in charge of collecting money and keeping track of how many boxes of chocolates each boy has sold. Brian does not particularly like his job and does not like working so closely with Brother Leon, whom he finds to be creepy. When Brian realizes that the Vigils are selling chocolates and giving credit to every boy in the school except Jerry he knows that something is up. Brian decides that he wants nothing to do with the Vigils or with Jerry, though he ends up helping the Vigils sell raffle tickets for the boxing match and begins to enjoy himself.
Brother Andrew is the victim of one of the assignments from the Vigils though he does not realize what is going on at first. Every time Andrew says “environment” in class everyone stands up and jumps around for a minute before sitting down and pretending nothing happened. Obie hates this assignment, but it is his job to ensure that Andrew says “environment” enough times in class to keep it interesting. Andrew receives an anonymous phone call that tips him off to what is going on and begins to go along with the prank. Obie realizes that Archie has filled Andrew in on the plan and is infuriated at Archie’s arrogance.
Brother Eugene is a nice guy and a new teacher at Trinity, he is also the proprietor of classroom nineteen. When The Goober got his assignment to sabotage the furniture in the classroom, it made him nervous and even more so when the chaos actually happened and Brother Eugene looked horrified. After the incident, Brother Eugene did not return to the school and there were rumors floating around that he had a nervous breakdown. The Goober felt responsible for Eugene’s breakdown and sank into a downward spiral of his own.
Brother Jacques nearly takes down the powerful duo of Brother Leon and Archie, but he caves at the last moment. Just when the boxing match is getting particularly violent Jacques turns off the lights in the auditorium. He knows that Archie’s hand is mostly to blame for the mayhem and has the opportunity to take him down, but at the last minute, he backs down. Jacques fears the wrath of Archie and Leon, and what they could do to his career by making up a simple rumor about him so he lets them go, despite his knowledge of the manipulation that has been going on.
James is the father of Jerry. He is a pharmacist and ever since the death of his wife he seems to be in a constant state of grief. Jerry once looked at his dad as a doctor of sorts because he was always giving medical advice to people but ever since the death of Jerry’s mother James has become very boring and routine. James obviously cares about Jerry, and worries about the phone calls in the middle of the night, but Jerry does not want to burden his father with the details of what is going on at school. James is content in his little world of believing his son will be a football star and is one of the popular kids.
Bailey serves as an example of the manipulative ways of Brother Leon. Bailey is very intelligent and gets all A’s so one day Brother Leon brings him to the front of the classroom and accuses him of being a cheat, as that is the only way he could possibly achieve such high marks. Despite the humiliation, Bailey stands his ground and maintains his innocence. It is not until the end of class that someone finally speaks up in Bailey’s favor, but it is too late, Brother Leon has already made a point.He tells Bailey that he knows he did not cheat, but he did make a point of how spineless the other classmates are. According to Leon, Bailey turned the classroom into “Nazi Germany”.
Frankie is one of the few people who stands up to the Vigils and is not scared of them.When he is called to a meeting with them, he tells Archie that he is not some punk kid who pees himself at the thought of the Vigils and they cannot manipulate him. He tells them that they are not so powerful if a freshman refusing to sell chocolates can challenge their authority. Archie realizes from his talk with Frankie that if they do not do something about Jerry then no one will respect their power and authority any longer. Carter gets impatient with Frankie’s smart mouth and punches him.
The Vigils are the ruling party of the school. The president of the Vigils is John Carter and Archie Costello acts as their leader and the brains of the operation. The Vigils are supposed to be a secret but everyone knows about them, including the teachers who pretend that they do not. They assign certain tasks to other students to complete as a way of asserting their dominance and playing psychological games. They work with the teachers by keeping the other students submissive and fearful, but at the same time many of the assignments are designed as pranks against the teachers.