the chocolate war

Cormier, Robert. The Chocolate War. (NY: Laurel-Leaf/Random, 1974).

narrator: third-person omniscient

I kept seeing this title on the Banned Books list and wondered about it. I like this book because of its powerful presentation of scapegoating and abuse of power. Abuse of power plays out with the boys through The Vigils group and Archie Costello. But that adolescent abuse of power can only work through adult support, and that comes in the form of Brother Leon. The first scene, with Jerry Renault’s pummeling in football, gives us powerful narrative action, and Cormier ties the physical and the psychological together nicely throughout. That first sentence, “They murdered him,” works on several levels.

In their chapter on “Taking Note of Strong Verbs” in Mini-lessons for Literature Circles, Harvey Daniels and Nancy Steineke use a passage from Cormier’s novel (paragraphs 5-7) to demonstrate this answer from authors about how to improve writing: “the foundation of good writing is vivid verbs” (193).


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