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Power plays a highly significant thematic role in The Chocolate War. At one point Archie pithily articulates the broad categories which the characters of the novel fall into:
"The world was made up of two kinds of people—those who were victims and those who victimized."
The tension of the novel comes from one person attempting to shirk the power structures of Trinity, the private school that is the book's setting. Not only does Jerry resist bowing to the power of school authority, but he also resists acknowledging the power of the Vigils and Emile Janza, the bully.
In these ways, Jerry drives the tension of the book, creating numerous situations of conflict, and his character also provides the novel's final comment as Jerry finally succumbs to the pressures that have defeated him.
Archie, Carter, Brother Leon and Emile Janza are each defined according to the power that they hold over others. Intellectual power, social power, and physical power are each modes of persuasion and intimidation used by these characters.
Jerry's relationship to each of these modes of power and each of these characters constitutes the majority of the storyline in The Chocolate War.
However, Jerry is not the only character who is clearly impacted by the power dynamics that define the school setting. Peer pressure affects Goober and many others during the chocolate sale and in regards to the Vigils.
Peer pressure is an important theme in the novel, particularly the pressure to remain silent and toe the line.
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