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The Chocolate War (1988) - Plot Summary Poster

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Summaries

  • A surreal portrait of a Catholic Private School and its hierarchy. A new student must submit to the bizarre rituals of his peers and the expectations of the school's administration by selling chocolates.

  • New boy at strict Catholic High School, Jerry Renault, is bullied into selling boxes of chocolates for the school's annual fund-raising event. The sadistic headmaster, Brother Leon, and 'The Vigils', a viscious gang of school thugs, make Jerry's life hell when he decides he won't be pushed around anymore.


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The synopsis below may give away important plot points.

Synopsis

  • At Trinity School, a Catholic boys' preparatory school, the shy, socially inept 15-year-old freshman Jerome E. "Jerry" Renault makes the football team, despite his small stature. He struggles on the field during practice, but cannot keep up with the other teammates, and is often berated by the strict coach.

    Meanwhile, Archie Costello, the charismatic head of "The Vigils" a gang and secret society, compiles a list of socially ostracized students with the aid of Obie, The Vigils' nerd-like treasurer. These outcasts will be assigned to perform prank assignments as part of their Vigils initiations. Jerry Renault is on Archie's list, as is Roland "The Goober" Goubert. The next prank is to be "The Chocolates," and is designed to disrupt the school's annual fund raising chocolate sale. When Archie learns that Jerry Renault's mother recently died from cancer, he declares the young football player requires "therapy," and enlists Jerry in "The Chocolates" prank.

    Meanwhile, taking advantage of the Trinity School headmaster's illness and convalescence, the corrupt Brother Leon hopes to take over the position by gaining attention with a formidable fund raising effort. He purchases outdated Mother's Day candy, and plans to repackage it for the Trinity fundraiser. He hopes to sell 20,000 boxes of candy at a significantly increased profit, and thereby be declared the school's new leader. Unaware of the Vigils' plot against the chocolate sale, Brother Leon enlists Archie's aid in rallying fellow students to sell candy.

    During a secret meeting with the Vigils, Archie inducts "Goober" Goubert into the Vigils by assigning him to loosen the furniture screws in Brother Eugene's classroom. However, in time-honored Vigils tradition headed by Bill Carter, the Vigil's president and Archie's superior, Archie must blindly take one marble from among six - five white and one black - in a box. Should he select the black marble, Goober will be freed from his task and Archie will have to perform it. Archie draws a white marble, and Goober is charged with loosening the screws. Archie then declares that the chocolate sale will give the Vigils an opportunity to defy school authority once and for all. That afternoon, Jerry discovers a note from the Vigils in his locker, and later learns that he must refuse to sell candy for the school. Meanwhile, Archie is blackmailing another student, a local punk named Emile Janza, into keeping Jerry in line by threatening to reveal photographs of Emile masturbating.

    Dismayed at the rebellion against selling candy, Brother Leon threatens student David Caroni with a failing grade if he does not reveal the plot. Caroni explains that The Vigils ordered Jerry to refuse to sell candy for ten days. At the end of the ten days, however, Jerry still refuses to sell the chocolate. As brother Leon beats Jerry in front of the class, the boy fantasizes about his mother's death and about having a love affair with a female recluse named Lisa.

    Following Jerry's lead, other Vigils members and most of the other students join the chocolate boycott. Since Brother Leon used his own money to buy the outdated chocolate, his personal finances are at stake. In an attempt to restore order, he threatens to close the school if the Vigils continue in their refusal to sell chocolates. Archie fears that he is losing control of The Vigils when Obie reports that other students have been made aware of the "ten day plot," and blame the club for the threatened school closure.

    In response, Archie takes charge and orders The Vigils to start selling chocolates, and bullies younger members to steal money from their parents to make up the deficit. Brother Leon celebrates when 15,000 boxes of candy have been sold, but reminds the students they still need to sell 5,000 more to meet their goal.

    Giving in to pressure from Archie's blackmail, Emile Janza threatens to expose Jerry Renault as a homosexual if he continues to refuse selling chocolates. When Emile suggests to other students that Jerry's mother died of shame over her son's deviant sexuality, Jerry is beaten by a gang of pre-teen kids hired by Emile and ostracized by his classmates and the entire school.

    Finally, 19,950 boxes of candy have been sold, and Brother Leon believes the fifty unsold boxes represent Jerry's sales quota. In fact, the fifty boxes have been set aside by Archie and Obie as part of a boxing rally they have planned to take place at the school football field the following night. The contest pits Jerry against Emile, and the $2 tickets permit students to dictate the sorts of brutality they would like to see during the bout, with the fifty boxes of chocolate offered as the prizes for a knockout. As before, since he has made the assignment, Archie draws a marble. To his relief, he draws a white marble, but Carter reminds him there are two assigned to the task-Emile and Jerry - and Archie is forced to draw another marble. This time, however, his luck runs out and he draws the black marble.

    Archie is thrown into the ring, as the students' fight tactics are called out. In a twist of fate, Jerry knocks Archie unconscious to the cheers of the crowd. However Jerry imagines his mother sitting in the crowd crying, and realizes he has become just like his tormentors. Later, Jerry tells Goober, his one remaining friend, that he should have sold chocolates after all.

    After his humiliation, Archie is demoted and Obie becomes the new head of The Vigils. As Archie sulks, Obie concocts new demeaning initiation assignments.

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