Why is meeting Obie in Chapter two a significant and careful plot construction in "The Chocolate War"?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

By introducing Obie at the same time he introduces Archie Costello, the author provides the reader up front with an understanding of the power Archie holds over the student body at large, a concept that is central to the development of the story.  Obie, who is symbolic of the anonymous, average student and as such has no last name, is disgusted by his own mindless compliance to Archie's caprices and yet cannot help but adhere to his every whim.  Archie's sadistic manipulations appeal to the baser side of Obie's nature, and he "smile(s) in delicious malice" at the evil ingenuities of Archie's pranks even as he condemns himself for his participation, thus perpetuating in himself the cycle of self-loathing and submission that is the basis of Archie's power over those who are not as intelligent as he is.  Obie "alternately hate(s) and admire(s)" Archie, and is in awe at "the way he could dazzle you with his brilliance...and disgust you with his cruelties".  Archie's superior intellect mesmerizes and intimidates Obie and the others around him, and so he strives "to stay on the good side of the bastard", while at the same time he gleefully awaits the day when "Archie would go too far and trip himself up" (Chapter 2).