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The Chocolate War

The Chocolate War

by Robert Cormier

Roll Call

Symbolism, Imagery, Allegory

"Mallan," Leon was calling out.

"Seven"

"Let me see now Mallan. Why, that brings your total to forty-seven. […]"

Goober shriveled in his seat. Next would be Permentier. And then Jerry. (30.4-7)

Cormier recreates the actual language and process of the roll call, a common school practice, and combines this with The Goober's inner thoughts. Like Goober, we are creeped out and uncomfortable. It almost feels like we're stuck in Brother Leon's class too, with no escape. Many, many chapters are framed by the roll call, or other similar activities.

Notice also that The Vigils' meetings go down in kind of the same way. Here's an example (which we've condensed):

"Your name?" Archie asked.

"Come on, Archie," Rollo replied, smiling at all this foolishness. "You know my name."

[…]

"Let's not have any crap, Rollo," growled Carter. "Let's hear your name."

[…]

Rollo shrugged, "Frankie Rollo." (27.2-7)

It's pretty clear, from this and other conversations, that Archie and Carter have learned all they know about intimidation in school, from guys like the coach and Brother Leon. Going before the Vigils is like going to the principal's office! Frankie is trying to show that he's independent by challenging The Vigils' authority. Like Leon with his pointer, Carter reasserts authority with his fists. It looks like Roll Call is an excellent way to showcase the twisted physical-psychological violence combo that The Chocolate War is so concerned with.

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