The Order of Things Disturbing the universe is one of the main themes of Robert Cormier's novel, The Chocolate War. Jerry Renault, the protagonist of the novel, goes against Trinity, the all boys school, and The Vigils, a powerful school gang. He gets admired and then bullied because of his defiance of authority. In the beginning of the story, we are introduced to Jerry Renault.
As he is trying out for the school's football team, Archie and Obie, two members of The Vigils, are writing "assignments" for the chosen boys at school. If the boy fails to complete or do his assignment he gets punished by The Vigils. Archie sees Jerry get slaughtered by the football team and still manage to get up. Archie then decides to give Jerry one of his assignments. "'The assignment must fit the kid. That's the beauty of it, Obie...
Put him down for the chocolates'" (Cormier 15-16). Every year at Jerry's school, Trinity, they have a chocolate sale. And every year, all the students participate. Jerry's assignment was to refuse to sell the chocolates for ten school days. "'Let me get this straight, Renault,' Brother Leon said and his voice brought the room under his command.
'I called your name. Your response could have been either yes or no. Yes means that like every other student in this school you agree to sell the chocolates, in this case fifty boxes. No - and let me point out that the sale is strictly voluntary, Trinity forces no one to participate against his wishes, this is the great glory of Trinity - no means you don't wish to sell the chocolates, that you refuse to participate. Now, what is your answer? Yes or no?' " (Cormier 82). Jerry does not take the chocolates.
The school is outraged, The Vigils are pleased, the students are baffled. The ten days are up for Jerry. He can finally be like everyone else and sell the chocolates. But as Brother Leon asks the boys about their chocolates in homeroom, Jerry still does not take the chocolates. His only friend, The Goober, tries to convince him to take the chocolates. "'I just can't.
I'm committed now... It's not The Vigils, Good. They " re not in it anymore. It's me'" (Cormier 122). This is when Jerry begins to "disturb the universe." A meaningful and symbolic poster in Jerry's locker has a man walking alone and has the inscription "Do I dare disturb the universe?" (Cormier 123).
At first, the students of Trinity admire Jerry for refusing to sell the chocolates. "'Boy, you really let Leon that bastard have it. Beautiful... I never thought of just saying no.
Like you did... Boy, you " re cool you know that?' the kid said admiringly" (Cormier 119-120). The only boys who are now selling the chocolates are "'the eager beavers, the brown no sers... Leon's pets, his special boys. So are the kids who still believe in school spirit'" (Cormier 139). Then, Obie notifies Archie that Renault is not following the assignment and is hurting the chocolate sale.
The Vigils have a meeting with Jerry about the chocolates. They tell Jerry that his new assignment is to take the chocolates. "'You " re getting off easy, Renault. You " ve disobeyed The Vigils.
That calls for punishment. We " re just asking you to take the chocolates tomorrow. And sell them'" (Cormier 164). Jerry still does not take the chocolates after the meeting with The Vigils.
Then, The Vigils make the other students sell all their chocolates. If the boys do not sell their chocolates, The Vigils would sell it for them until there were only fifty boxes left. The boxes that Jerry still refused to sell. The other boys were suddenly overwhelmed with school spirit and despise Jerry for not selling the chocolates. Kids start ignoring him, bullying him, vandalizing his locker, prank calling his house at all hours of the night and day, and stealing his homework. Archie even gets the school bully, Emile Jan za, to beat him up.
Archie sets up a boxing match to punish Jerry, to sell out the rest of the chocolates, and to entertain the boys of Trinity. "'Want to get even, Renault?' Archie goaded. 'Strike back? Get revenge? Show them what you think of their goddam chocolates?' " (Cormier 222). Jerry was to fight Emile. Jerry could not refuse or back down. At the unsupervised boxing match, the boys of the school are acting like animals wanting to see a bloody fight.
Emile brutally beats up Jerry. As Jerry is laying down defeated, Goober tries to comfort him. Jerry realizes that this was not worth disturbing the universe for. "They tell you to do your thing but they don't mean it. They don't want you to do your thing, not unless it happens to be their thing, too. It's a laugh, Goober, a fake.
Don't disturb the universe, Goober, no matter what the posters say" (Cormier 248). The basic message of the story is not to disturb the universe or how things work. People, according to this novel, do not like a extreme changes. Society will attack the individual, or individuals, for not following the status quo.
Even though only one person is doing something out of the ordinary, it has a great effect on the whole community, or in this case, the "universe."Do I dare disturb the universe?" (Cormier 123).