When Jerry Renault refuses to sell chocolate for the school’s annual chocolate fundraising drive, the rest of the student body turns against him.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
In “Rebel with a Cause,” Dr. Carl Pickhardt uses a psychologist’s perspective to examine rebellion during adolescence.
Have students read this text before they begin reading The Chocolate War, in order to generate a discussion on what rebellion means to teenagers. As students read the book, have them consider the different acts of rebellion present in the text. How do the characters’ rebellious actions affect those around them, as well as themselves?
This research article explores the roles that peers play in promoting bullying in adolescence, beyond the role of “bully” and “victim.”
Have students read this text after they finish Chapter 6, when Brother Leon singles out Bailey, to explore the nature of bullying. Ask students to use Espelage’s text to help them decide whether they would consider Brother Leon a bully or not. How do they think Brother Leon’s actions could encourage students to bully one another? Ask students to discuss the reasons why they believe adult bullies are more or less harmful to young people than student bullies.
In John Updike’s short story “A&P,” a cashier describes three teenage girls who come into a grocery store in only their bathing suits during the more conservative 1960s.
Introduce this text after Chapter 19, when Jerry discovers the poster in his locker, to explore how characters challenge expectations. How do both the narrator of “A&P” and Jerry “disturb the universe” in some way? How do those around them react to them breaking from convention? What does the narrator of “A&P” hope will result because of his actions? How does this compare to why Jerry continues to refuse to sell chocolates?
“The New Colossus” is a poem by Emma Lazarus that was published in 1883. It describes the millions of immigrants who came to America through the port of New York City at Ellis Island.
Have students read this text after Chapter 27, when Archie devises a plan on how to get students to sell more chocolates, in order to explore the power of social influence. How is Archie’s plan to convince the students of Trinity to sell chocolates an example of invisible social influence? According to “The Invisible Influence: How Our Decisions Are Rarely Ever Our Own,” why are the students of Trinity likely more susceptible to influence?
The informational text “The Science of Solitary Confinement” explores the various ways in which inmates are impacted by solitary confinement.
Introduce this text after Chapter 34, when Jerry’s classmates ignore him, to explore the effects of isolation. How do Jerry’s classmates isolate him as a form of punishment? How does this compare to the decision to put certain inmates in solitary confinement? How does isolation negatively impact Jerry and the inmates discussed in the text?
In Shirley Jackson’s short story “The Lottery,” an entire town participates in a ritual that turns surprisingly sinister.
Have students read this short story after Chapter 36, when the raffle is explained, and ask students to compare the raffle to the lottery in Jackson’s text. How do both events get people to take part in violent acts? Why do the townspeople take part in the lottery? How does this compare to how Archie convinces students to buy raffle tickets for the fight? Ask students to discuss the reasons why they would or wouldn’t consider the townspeople and students of Trinity as inherently bad people for taking part in the lottery and raffle.
In “The Madness of Humanity Part 3: Tribalism,” Marcelo Gleiser discusses what role tribalism plays in our society today, and the different social interactions it promotes.
Have students read this text after Chapter 37, when the fight takes place, to explore how members of a group can be compelled to act in extreme ways. Ask students to discuss how the boys watching the fight are acting. In what ways is Jerry an outsider and threat to the other boys at Trinity? How is the fight he is engaging in with Janza a means to eliminate Jerry and the threat he poses? Do students think that the boys of Trinity would be acting this way if they weren’t united by the raffle and its common goal? Why or why not?
In this article from the Monitor on Psychology, researcher Melissa Dittmann explores the circumstances that drive people to commit immoral acts.
Introduce this theoretical text to students after they have finished the book, in order to generate a discussion on good and evil. Archie shows little remorse for his actions and Jerry’s injuries. Ask students to use Zimbardo’s views on good and evil to help them consider whether they would define Archie as an evil character. How might the environment at Trinity have contributed to Archie’s character and immoral actions?