The Chocolate War: Personal Reflection

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Other  |  House: Booksie Classic
I was supposed to read the book The Chocolate War and write an essay about it. This somewhat turned into a personal reflection on human nature.

Submitted: June 18, 2011

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Submitted: June 18, 2011

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Human beings. When they read a book or watch a movie, there is always something that clicks within them that they can either relate to or like a lot. The Chocolate War is no different. Not necessarily considered AP material, it is a revelatory novel. The book had me analyzing my own life as well as the world around me. After finishing, I came to a startling conclusion, one that has changed my outlook “I don’t know everything”, but before the novel I thought I did. I am an adolescent and sure, I believe that I know everything and anything my parents tell me is wrong - I have all the right answers, even if I’m wrong, I’m still right. There were three quotes that spoke to me the most about the nature of humanity and what people do and why.
 
“ ’Simple, Carter, simple.’ Archie reveled in the moment, basking in Carter’s admiration, Carter who had humiliated him at The Vigils meeting. ‘You see, Carter, people are two things: greedy and cruel.’ “ (241). Archie makes this comment right before he starts the boxing match. Despite his cruelty, he is very well educated on the human state and recognizes that if a person has something of worth – in this case, the boys pay a dollar and could possibly win one hundred dollars and fifty boxes of chocolates – people will go to any lengths to acquire the prize. Until I read Archie’s comment, I hadn’t completely thought about human greediness and cruelty. Even when I did, I couldn’t make sense of what he was saying; I didn’t want to think about it, since I didn’t want to think of myself as greedy and cruel. Archie was lecturing Carter about the characteristics of human beings right before Jerry and Janza do their ‘assignment’, even after I read what Archie had said, and re-read I thought “we can’t possibly be greedy”; when upon closer inspection I realized that the author’s statement was completely true. I realized ‘greedy’ doesn’t strictly mean money, everybody wants something different and they can deny it until their death, but the fact remains; humans are greedy. Archie also said that human beings are cruel, that was one of the reasons they had people come watch Janza and Jerry, the boys would smash each other and the other students got to watch. We as humans all have a certain level of cruelty; action movies for example have copious amounts of violence in them. We watch them because they look cool, we like the explosions or our favourite actor is in them – while this is true - beneath all of that there are still parts – even the tiniest parts - of us that are intrigued by the thought of violence. Some people are more up front about it and incorporate it into their daily lives by bullying whereas others are more cryptic. That’s one of the reasons we have sports such as boxing and MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) because the spectators enjoy the thrill of watching two people hit one another, possibly hurting each other while they stand safely away; they might even place wages on one of the fighters, which brings us back to the rapacity of human beings. We’ll watch others be hurt and bet on it, so long as it’s called a ‘sport’.
 
“ ‘An assigner could go off the deep end if there wasn’t some kind of control. The box provided the control’ ” (37). The narrator says this to prove a point that without control you’ll end up with unmanageable authority. This is how ‘The Vigils’ implement some sort of control over Archie – or at least what they think is control – so he can’t run around as a tyrant. Though, the fact still remains that Archie has the luck of one of those Chinese cats that you see in restaurants (you know, the ones that hold one paw up, they’re supposed to be lucky). Though, ‘The Vigils’ still think that the box provides some sort of opposing force to reign in Archie, when in fact – we see this at the end – he thinks that he is practically a superhero and could never be hurt by the box. The narrator has a very good point and it ties in well with the whole theme of the story – which is the destructive possibility of uncontrolled authority – which also ties in with reality. When humans have an unsuppressed high authority figure they can reap the benefits of their power and use it for their own prosperity. This results in tyranny or even worse; suppressed human life. When human life is threatened we take it into our own hands and do our best to fight against the force that is threatening us, but when people have someone of higher authority that has complete control, the repercussions of said person or persons actions are irreversible. Control is key to keeping anyone in line, even books can teach people many things about the nature of humanity. No matter how nice or how genuine someone seems, if they are in a position of authority there will always be something about what they’re doing that either benefits them or hinders another – although, sometimes you have people that like helping others which benefits them, like teachers – it is dangerous and that is why even the person with the most power does not have singular control over everything.
 
“ ‘Those of you who are true sons of Trinity, that is. I pity anyone who is not’ “ (86). Brother Leon says this when Jerry refuses to sell the chocolates thanks to his ‘assignment’ given to him by ‘The Vigils’. He is in fact manipulating his students – a tactic used during wartime – telling them that if they do not sell chocolates they are in fact not sons of Trinity. This seems rather harsh to be saying in front of his students, because it is also embarrassing Jerry, but with what Brother Leon is saying he hopes that he can manipulate Jerry to do as he wishes. Brother Leon is as much a tyrant as Archie, they both have one thing in common: manipulation. This is a very common human trait; bend one person to another’s will. It has been said that words are the most powerful weapon, they can scar, they can maim and more importantly they can influence someone to do whatever another wants. Word everything correctly and they call someone a silver-tongue, this person rarely – if ever – loses an argument or fails at getting what they want. Adolescents towards their parents commonly use manipulation, they will dance around the subject until their parents come out and say what the child wants them to. Though, that isn’t the only case, people use it for practically anything, it’s as simple as making up an excuse or dancing around a subject, making the other person guess. This human characteristic was one of the most important parts of the novel; it was how the people in a position of authority placed control over others. They simply danced around the subject.
 
This novel easily makes my top five books, it has an interesting theme, wonderfully developed characters and gives insight into not only the nature of humans but also the naivety. The most prominent information I learned throughout this novel would be the nature of humans, or more importantly, the cruel, greedy, controlling and manipulative tendencies of human beings.


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