The Chocolate War, written by Robert Cormier in 1974, is set at Trinity, a Catholic high school for boys. However, this is no ordinary school, it is a twisted place controlled by the tyrannical Vigils, a school gang that doles out ‘assignments’, such as the destruction of Room Nineteen, for students to carry out. Brother Leon, a teacher and the assistant headmaster at Trinity, also has power over the students. He psychologically terrorizes them and is the main reason why The Vigils become so bent on destroying Jerry, the protagonist. It is Brother Leon’s chocolate sale that eventually brings about the downfall of idealistic young Jerry, who tries to resist the brother and The Vigils, partly because of a poster in his locker, by not selling the former Mother’s Day chocolates. Cormier uses the three aforementioned things: the chocolates, Room Nineteen, and the poster, to symbolize Jerry’s loss of motherly protection, Trinity's twisted atmosphere, and the theme of the book. ‘The Chocolate War’ is an aptly chosen title for this novel because these seemingly innocent sweets truly do cause a riveting psychological battle within the school.
The chocolates in The Chocolate War symbolize many different things in the story. One of their representations is the loss of motherly protection the protagonist experiences when his mom dies. They are symbolic in this way because, just like Jerry the protagonist, the chocolates have had ‘mother’ removed from them. Brother Leon says in a private conversation, “… these [were] Mother’s Day chocolates. … All we have to do is remove the purple ribbon that says Mother and we're in business" (Cormier 23). Jerry no longer has a mother to protect him from Trinity or to be there for him, which is why the removal of the word ‘mother’ from the chocolates symbolizes his loss. They are also an example of dramatic irony because only the reader knows that they were former Mother’s Day