Chocolate is a metaphor for power in The Chocolate War. Brother Leon’s success as acting headmaster hangs on the chocolate sale, and he uses the sale to exert his authority over students, especially over Archie Costello. Archie Costello craves power, and each time he feels powerful, he craves chocolate. By refusing to sell the chocolates, Jerry Renault is exercising an individual’s power to refuse conformity.
The boxes of chocolates themselves are a metaphor for the student body at Trinity. Each student is an individual within a whole, like a piece of chocolate within a box. While several students resent having to be part of the “box,” no one (except Jerry) actually tries to get out of the box. Cormier’s narrative technique of focusing on individual boys in certain chapters underscores each boy’s individuality while appearing part of the whole.
Distortion is a powerful motif in The Chocolate War. Many images present distorted views of iconic figures and religious beliefs. John the Baptist appears in the form of a hippie preaching truths on the street. Archie Costello is an evil archangel in a schoolboy’s form. Brother Leon’s eyes betray a devil hiding inside his nerdy body. The shadows of goal posts looming over the football field appear as empty crosses. In addition, qualities like courage and honor are distorted. Jerry finds courage in graffiti scrawled on a bus and in a quotation on a poster. Brother Leon tries to make the chocolate sale into a crusade to save the school, when it is really just a fund raiser forced on students. The ultimate distortion appears when Jerry comes to believe that he has not disturbed the universe, but damaged it. The motif of distortion sends a powerful message: truth in not is simply black and white.
The marbles in the black box symbolize an indifferent God—perhaps even the absence of God—in The Chocolate War, and they suggest that luck, rather than hard work or divine intervention, determines power. Trinity may be a religious school, but religious belief is a mere echo—a distortion—at the school. Compared to the images of distortion that appear in the novel, the marbles are hard, solid, and definitive. The marbles, not God, determine Archie’s fate, and he in turn determines the fates of other students. Archie believes that he has draws only white marbles because he is all-powerful. Yet the existence of the marbles suggests that he has merely been lucky; in a world ruled by an indifferent God, he could just as easily draw the black marble.