The Chocolate War
by Robert Cormier
Analysis: Narrator Point of View
Who is the narrator, can she or he read minds, and, more importantly, can we trust her or him?
The Chocolate War is told in the third person from the points of view of over a dozen different boys attending Trinity. Although quite flexible, the narrative is for the most part limited to the teenage mind. So, we never see into the mind of the super-sinister Brother Leon, and are left to guess what's going on in that creepy little mind of his based on the students' observations of him. Similarly, we can't see into the head of Jerry's dad, but Jerry's descriptions suggest that he's walking around in a fog of grief.
The narrator spends the most time in the minds of the main characters –Jerry, Archie, Obie, The Goober, Emile Janza, Brian Cochran, and Carter – giving us insight into some of their motivations. Except in the case of Jerry, none of this goes too deep. We sort of wish we got more background on Emile and Archie – something that could explain why they're such jerks. But, The Chocolate War seems more interested in connecting their devious behavior with their school environment, rather than connecting it with their home lives or their pasts.
With the other boys, we only get a brief glimpse, sometimes only a few paragraphs. Their stories are open-ended vignettes, or slices of life that influence the plot only in the most indirect ways. Still, they are important because they show us how other kids feel about selling chocolates, about Jerry's refusal to participate in the sale, about Trinity, about the Vigils, about life in general, and, quite often, about sex, which is kind of an underground theme in the novel.