By the end of the novel, The Chocolate War, Jerry Renault was broken down mentally and ruined by the Vigils. The Vigils is a club of the school that only certain people can be a part of, they give people assignments that must be completed no matter what they are. The Vigils are very strong and have a lot of power in the school system. Jen Menzel states in her article, Intimidation in Cormier’s Tunes for Bears To Dance To, We All Fall Down, and The Chocolate War that, “The Vigils have the capability of pulling a few strings and making Jerry’s life miserable through ingenious strategies” (Par. 8).
They are capable of a lot more than they let on, therefore the Vigils are the master manipulators in the novel. Archie is one of the men with the most power in the Vigils club. He went against Jerry and had help from other people, according to Sarah L. Thomson in her book Robert Cormier: “With the cooperation of Leon and the rest of the students, Archie tricks Jerry into a fight with the school bully, a fight Jerry cannot possibly win. No one comes to help Jerry as he is beaten to the ground” (9).
Through manipulation and trickery, by many negative influences in the book, Jerry was mentally destroyed and wished he would have never stood up for himself. Brother Leon is also a master manipulator and is a part of the breakdown of Jerry Renault. Hypocrisy and manipulation are two of Brother Leon’s strongest traits. Nancy Veglahn addresses the hypocrisy of Brother Leon in her article, The Bland Face of Evil in the Novels of Robert Cormier: “Like Brother Leon, they may wear symbols of mercy without being merciful; they may hide their real intentions behind a pretence of charity and concern. Brother Leon always said one thought and meant another causing the students to think the opposite way of what he thought, which made him angry. Brother Leon was first portrayed as a hypocrite when he told his class to be themselves and not care what other people do, just be you. Jerry would not sell chocolates for the school fundraiser and Brother Leon told the students they had a choice on if they wanted to sell them or not. Once Jerry actually denied taking chocolates Brother Leon waited to see if he would eventually sell.
When Brother Leon realized Jerry was going to do his own thing and not sell the chocolates he teamed up with the Vigils and got Jerry put into a fight with the school bully. Jerry’s situation just gets worse and worse throughout the novel, that by the end he sees no point in trying to be his own person anymore. In the novel, Jerry had a sign that stated “Do I Dare Disturb the Universe” and he always stuck to it, but once all the adults got into his head, everything changed. “They tell you to do your own thing but they don’t mean it.
They don’t want you to do your own thing 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 187) Jerry knew that you could not be yourself in the horrible school system. He wanted his friend to know that you cannot be yourself without being punished for it. Sarah L. Thomson states in her novel Robert Cormier: “By the end of the book, Jerry has been beaten and brutalized until he believes there’s no point in trying to do the right thing.
Even though he is not literally dead, Jerry has still been murdered, because he has given up on hope” (7). The negative adult influences in the novel manipulated Jerry and treated him with so much disrespect that he found no point in trying to be his own person anymore and was changed mentally from there on out. Barney Snow, a sick teenage boy, is manipulated by a negative adult, the Handyman, in the novel The Bumblebee Flies Anyways. The Handyman is an older man who works at the Complex where Barney lives; the Complex is an experimental hospital for the sick.
Most people in the Complex are experimented on or manipulated in one way or another, but what Barney does not realize is that he happens to be one of the largest experiments there: The Handyman appears and is forced by Barney’s panic to reveal that the nightmare- and the phrase “rhythm, tempo” and his fragmentary memories of his mother- have been experimental screens to shield his knowledge of a terrible truth: he too is dying of a terminal illness. (125) Once Barney came to the realization that he had been lied to ever since he became part of the Complex it hurt him.
He too was dying just like his friends Billy the Kidney, Mazzo, and Allie Roon. Soon after Barney realizes he is sick, he noticed that all the workers have kept it hidden from him too. The Handyman was the harshest of all the workers, he did not show an ounce of emotion toward Barney’s feelings, or any of the other patients for that matter: ‘You see Barney? ‘ he said, indicating the bottle. We are not monsters here. We are human beings. We get headaches – I am subject to migraines – but we always hide these things from our patients.
Sometimes I think that is a mistake. It makes us appear immune. And we are not immune. We are not gods, either, although some pretend they are. ‘ He directed the eyes, brilliant once again, at Barney. ‘Yes, you had earlier tests before you arrived here. Three, in fact. You received your original screen there. ‘ (181) The screens that the Handyman spoke of throughout the novels were small slides of memories that were watched so many times by Barney that they burned into his mind.
The screens were used to block out his memory of him being sick and miscellaneous other memories that the Complex wanted him to forget. They treated the patients as though they meant nothing; no one ever cared what Barney or the other patients felt, and Barney wasn’t even allowed to run his own memories. The Handyman also admitted that the workers at the Complex lie to their dying patients all the time, which stresses the idea that the adults in the novel do not care about their patients and are negative influences on them.
Barney Snow was not only manipulated and fooled by the Handyman but also by Cassie Mazzofono, Mazzo’s twin sister. Once Barney first laid eyes on Cassie he couldn’t help but fall in love with her, thus leading him into falling under her spell. Patty Campbell explains Barney’s feelings and Cassie’s manipulation in her book, Daring to Disturb the Universe: “Barney takes one look at beautiful Cassie and is instantly in love with her. She, seeing adoration, manipulates him into becoming a “tender spy” and giving her daily reports on Mazzo’s condition” (124).
Barney never sees that she is lying to him and he believed she wanted to be around him. He did everything he could to make Cassie talk to him, even if they had to talk about Mazzo. He never thought that a girl like Cassie would fall for a guy like him: “Suddenly, surprisingly, she kissed him. Her lips on his lips for a brief moment, her body pressed against him, immersed in the clean soap smell of her. Him, Barney Snow, big ears, scruffy hair, bowlegged. And dying.
Kissed by this girl, Cassie Mazzofono, whom he loved, who was looking at him now with such tenderness and affection and maybe even a flash of love, gone as quickly as it came but shining out of her for a sweet instant here in this twilight room. ” (Cormier 213) Such a manipulative person like Cassie made Barney believe that maybe someone could love him even though she used him the whole time. Cassie talked to him as if she was interested in him when she wasn’t, and it hurt Barney. At the end of the novel Barney, along with Mazzo, Allie Roon, and Billy the Kidney planned on a fall to their death.
Barney wanted to because he realized he had been manipulated by so many people and that he was actually really sick, all the others already knew they were dying and we’re going to make the process quicker. They never ended up going along with the plan, but because the negative adult influences manipulated the younger characters it affected them in a harsh way and made them consider ending their lives. Since Robert Cormier writes in such a dark un-optimistic way, none of his novels ever have happy endings. His novels are filled with