Charlie and The Chocolate Factory

Wilcox, Waiting for an Army to Die; and Michael Uhl and Tod Ensign, GI Guinea Pigs: How the Pentagon Exposed Our Troops to Dangers More Deadly Than War – Agent Orange and Atomic Radiation (Playboy Press, 1980).

Here’s a timeline of from the origin of chocolate as we can track it, until today, as we know it.

The administration’s other invisible hand used the FBI to conduct surveillance and sabotage of antiwar groups, including SDS, SANE, WRL, WSP, CORE, and various mobilization committees. FBI headquarters ordered its agents to expose, disrupt, and neutralize selected targets: “Show them as scurrilous and depraved…. Send articles to newspapers showing their depravity…. Use narcotics and free sex for entrapment. Have members arrested on marijuana charges. Exploit hostilities between various persons…. Use misinformation to confuse and disrupt. Get records of their bank accounts.” In mid-1967, FCNL warned that government infiltration posed a “serious threat” to the antiwar movement as well as to American civil liberties in general.

Every year the school sells chocolates to raise money.

There is more of a power struggle among the  for them to want to work together.

This theme must be seen in light of the political events of the era. During the Vietnam War and the Watergate scandal many Americans were questioning the actions of those in power. This theme would register with many Americans during its time of publication. The power of this theme is its universal nature. The current war in Iraq has caused many people throughout the world to consider the authority of the United States. Furthermore, much like The Vigils campaign to popularize the sale and Brother Leon’s association of the sale with school spirit is similar to how many nations deal with war. In times of doubt, war is associated with patriotism; he who opposes the war opposes his nation.

Gibbons, The U.S. Government and the Vietnam War, Vol. 2, p. 293.

Oh! Hey there. We were just listening to Pink Floyd's "," album The Wall. Too bad it didn't come out a few years earlier, like, say, 1974 when The Chocolate War was published. We think Jerry (our hero) and the guys at Trinity high school might have liked it. The song totally makes us think of the novel's villainous Brother Leon, who tortures kids with his sarcasm, manipulation, and his teacher's pointer at every turn.

Young, The Vietnam Wars, 1945-1990, pp. 143-44.

Which brings us to why you might care about The Chocolate War. Maybe you've had some teachers like the kind Pink Floyd sings about in this and other songs. The Chocolate War shows how hard this is on students (as if you didn't already know), but also what this type of school situation teaches the students experiencing it. According to this novel, it teaches things like how to use violence, intimidation, and manipulation. It turns kids against each other and creates a really sick overall environment.

Young, The Vietnam Wars, p. 182.

The Maya migrate into northern regions of South America and Mesoamerica, establishing the earliest known cocoa plantations in the Yucatan. Nobles drink frothy “cacau” from tall pottery beakers. Beans are a valuable commodity, used both as a means of payment and as units of calculation.

Young, The Vietnam Wars, pp. 289, 286.

Cormier creates a metaphor for a government in this novel. Trinity is a microcosm of a nation. Leon, the leader, is completely corrupt. The students are the nation’s citizens who are coming of age and realizing that authority does not have all the answers and is often corrupt. Much like the American citizens during the 1970s, the boys are leaving their blissful childhoods during which they believed in heroes. For many Americans the 1970s was the first time that they truly questioned the authority of government. They once believed that their leaders had America’s best interests at heart. However, after Vietnam and the Watergate scandal, it was apparent that those in positions of power did not have all the answers and were often looking out for only themselves.