|The Chocolate War
Theme: Nonconformity in the Face of Power
Grades: Grades 9-10
Freshman Jerry Renault is trying to make his way at Trinity High, a
boys' prep school run by two despots: Brother Leon, the acting headmaster,
and Archie Costello, the leader of a secret student society called The
Vigils. Jerry finds himself in a struggle between the two leaders on
an unlikely battlefieldthe school's annual chocolate sale. Dare he
disturb the order of things at Trinity? He will suffer the consequences.
Note:The Chocolate War includes language that some readers
may find objectionable. You may want to preview the novel before assigning
it to students.
- Linking to Today: School.
Tell students that The Chocolate War explores the world of
a private high school. Ask them to jot down in their notebooks ideas
about their own school community. Suggest that they include topics
such as the following:
- The nature of the relationships among students, teachers, administrators,
- Friendships and cliques or in-groups
- Violence and drugs
- School spirit
- Peer Pressure
- Brainstorm and Discussion.
Explain to students that the primary theme of this novel springs from
a quotation on a poster in the protagonist's locker. The quotation
reads: "Do I dare disturb the universe?" Ask students to interpret
this question. What do they think it means? Have them reflect on how
they might disturb their own universe, and whether it would be a good
Hang It Up.
Have students review the description of Jerry's poster. Then have
them design a poster for another character in the book. They should
choose a literary quotation or one from the character's own speech.
Students should draw a fitting picture and write the quotation on
the poster. Remind them to attach a label with the character's name
to the poster.
- Standing Alone.
Invite students to create artworka drawing, painting, or sculpturethat
depicts the isolation experienced by Jerry and so many of the other
boys at Trinity. Encourage them to first draw a rough pencil sketch
and to then choose the medium best suited to their idea. Students
may wish to display their work in the classroom.
- Contents Under Pressure.
Have students create a handbook of guidelines for dealing with peer
pressure, including a list of local resources.
Divide students into groups. Have each group discuss what they already
know about peer pressure and then brainstorm about where to find more
information. Then have students do preliminary research using such
- health, psychology, and sociology textbooks
- the school or public library
- the Internet
- the school nurse and guidance counselors
- local telephone directory listings of organizations providing
health or mental health counseling
- the mayor's office, public or mental health department, police
department, and community organizations such as the YMCA
Once students have assessed their resources, they should assign specific
research tasks. After completing their research, have group members
prepare the written guidelines, which they can post or distribute.
- Abuse of Power.
In Chapter 6, Brother Leon compares his classroom to Nazi Germany.
Have students do research about Nazi Germany, particularly about how
Nazi leaders inspired support, fear, and obedience, and why ordinary
citizens supported or remained silent in the face of brutal tyranny.
Have them write a report on their findings.