The Chocolate War

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The Chocolate Waste Land
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Reader reviewed by Sarah

In the title of my post, I alluded to T.S. Eliot's poem, "The Waste
Land," because the hopeless emptiness of irrational war in Eliot's poem
and Robert Cormier's book "The Chocolate War" were comparable to me. Of
course, I don't think that Jerry's study in school of "The Waste Land"
got him to ask "Do I Dare Disturb the Universe?" That line featured on
a poster came from another of Eliot's poems, "The Love Song of Alfred
J. Prufrock". Does Prufrock, someone who seems insecure and uncool,
dare to disturb the universe by asking a girl out? Jerry disturbs the
universe when he refuses to obey the requirements of The Vigils.
Prufrock's universal disturbance could potentially bring him into
social activity, while Jerry's disturbance ostracizes him from his
schoolmates. I find the idea of disturbing the universe to be an
interesting one, and how this novel portrays it as dangerous and brave.
Jerry disturbs and is hurt. Most teens want to change the world, which
is seen as a positive thing. I don't think that Cormier is telling his
readers that being a non-conformist is a bad thing, perhaps he is
warning potential non-conformists of the dangers of doing so because of
those who think everyone should conform. Jerry's encounter with the
hippie becomes foreshadowing - Jerry is the non-disturber to the
hippie, but Jerry is the disturber to The Vigils and Trinity.

As a
reader, I felt that the novel ended abruptly, but it couldn't have had
resolution like other books, which would make it cheesy and
predictable. Like it seems to be in real life, the villains didn't die,
didn't receive punishment adequate for the crimes they had done, and
got away with more than they should have. I thought and still am
thinking about the book. What is just? Why didn't someone stand up for
Jerry? Why is Archie so determined to have power over other people?
Deeper questions are also asked: what can I do to prevent this from
happening ever again? Have I been a participant or bystander in a
similar event? I am still thinking.

I loved and hated "The
Chocolate War". I loved how I was drawn in and couldn't put it down (I
wished that the Social Security Office had been busier so I could have
read longer!), and I loved the way that it made me think. I hated that
Cormier felt the need to write this book, because I believe that moving
books are written because the author wants to give a message that will
inspire other people to change. I hate that people hate and can become
mob-like in their abusive actions. I suppose that the question I should
ask myself and others is this: "Am I brave enough to conform to the
non-conformists in order to show my non-support of hatred? What sort of
courage is it to disturb the universe?"

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