The Price of Nonconformity
Defiance is a daring and bold resistance to authority or society. In any group, whether a neighborhood, team, or school, there is a certain ethical and moral code that people are expected to abide by, and therefore defiance is not welcome. However, every group has its individuals, people who break the mold and go against the grain. Actions made by individuals that shake the foundations of a society’s beliefs are seen in negative light, and as a result, the individual faces animosity. Nonconformity and defiance to a society’s customs lead to great implications for the individual. In the novel The Chocolate War, Jerry’s friendship with Roland Goubert deteriorates in correlation with Jerry’s nonconformity. Popularly referred to as “The Goober,” Roland is Jerry’s only real ally in the novel. The Goober is a peaceful figure who hates strain and contention and gets along with Jerry who shares Goober’s mild behavior (Cormier 100). The chocolate sale, however, drives a wedge between the two’s easy friendship. Goober responds with fear and apprehension when Jerry relates his plan to refuse the chocolates. He entreats Jerry to appease the school and sell the chocolates, and Jerry’s empty response to Goober’s plea starts the division in their friendship. “Jerry's lone protest is partly inspired by a poster displayed in the back of his Buda 2
locker. It shows a man walking alone on the beach, with a captioned quote from poet T. S. Eliot: ‘Do I dare disturb the universe?’ Beyond answering this challenge Jerry has no satisfactory explanation for his friend The Goober, or for himself, as to why he is still refusing to sell the chocolates” (Telgen). As a result, Goober refuses to participate on the football team, which greatly upsets Jerry and widens the fissure between them. After sharing their conflicting positions on the way to the bus stop one morning, the two feel separated. “They sat in sadness. Finally, they gathered their books, got up, and walked in silence to the bus stop” (Cormier 160). One’s nonconformity can also cause him to be subjected to psychological warfare. Archie Costello has a keen and disturbing talent for inflicting psychological damage on his subjects. Because Jerry defies the Vigils, Archie focuses his “talent” on Jerry. Jerry receives frequent, anonymous phones calls at all hours of the night. When Jerry answers, there is only silence; and then the people on the other line chuckle, privately, at some intimate joke (Cormier 191). This scheme proves very effective in penetrating into Jerry’s mind. “In bed once more, small in the dark, Jerry willed his body to loosen, to relax. After a while, sleep plucked at him with soft fingers, soothing away the ache. But the phone rang in his dreams all night long” (Cormier 220). The morning after his first night phone call, Jerry goes to his locker and finds that someone vandalized his poster and slashed his shoes. His poster that inspired his nonconformity had been smeared with something that appeared to be blue paint, and the message had been virtually obliterated into a grotesque jumble of unconnected letters (Cormier 192). After this event, Jerry feels as if someone is trying to send him a deliberate message. Archie further psychologically attacks Jerry by secretly taking Jerry’s homework assignment after he turns it in. Jerry claims he left his watercolor project on the teacher’s desk the day before, but Buda 3
the substitute, Brother Andrew, doubts him. “Jerry sighed quietly, in resignation. He knew that brother Andrew wouldn’t find the drawing there. He wanted to turn, to scan the faces of the kids in the class, to find that one kid who’d be gloating in satisfaction. Hey, you’re getting paranoid, he told himself” (Cormier 195). Despite all the plots against him, Jerry decides to keep disturbing the universe. Unfortunately, more problems inevitably follow as Jerry becomes firm in his conviction. Jerry...
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