The Chocolate War Questions and Answers
by Robert Cormier

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Jerry places a poster in his locker that says,"Do I dare disturb the universe?" What does it mean?

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The poster is, indeed, a neat bit of foreshadowing, and could be seen as a commentary on Jerry Renault's subconscious character.  It was an interesting choice of poster for a boy whose mother has recently died, and speaks to his willingness to question things around him, after the death of the central female influence on his life.

It is true that at first Jerry only chooses the poster because he thinks it looks cool.  But as he continues on with his resistance to the Vigils' persecution of him, he seems to take inspiration from the poster to "disturb (his) universe".  It is unclear if, during his persecution, Jerry takes the message to heart and it gives him strength to resist, or if Jerry had this non-conformist spirit all along, and merely expressed it in the choice of poster for his locker.  Even though Goober, for example, tries to stand with Jerry for a while, he does not have the same independent spirit as Jerry.  So, the question remains -- did Jerry develop this spirit because of the persecution of the Vigils, or was this part of his character all along?

It doesn't really matter, as questions of this type are psychological, and probably unknowable even to the people involved; and as Jerry is a fictional character, his actions can probably be viewed effectively either way.  Whether it was nurture or nature or a combination of both, Jerry does disturb his universe in a profound way.  Even if he was mostly unsuccessful, and his actions failed to change anything, the moral imperative for Jerry was fulfilled, and at least he provided an example of what resistance and integrity would look like.  In this Jerry is particularly Christ-like, especially during his beating at the end of the book.

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