Robert Cormier

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Robert Edmund Cormier (January 17, 1925 – November 2, 2000) was an American author, columnist and reporter, known for his deeply pessimistic, downbeat literature. His most popular works include I Am the Cheese, After the First Death, We All Fall Down and The Chocolate War, all of which have won awards. The Chocolate War was challenged in multiple libraries. His books often are concerned with themes such as abuse, mental illness, violence, revenge, betrayal and conspiracy. In most of his novels, the protagonists do not win.

The Vigils kept things under control. Without The Vigils, Trinity might have been torn apart like other schools had been, by demonstrations, protests, all that crap.
Archie held his back stiff. The marble had to be white. He hadn't come this far to be denied at the last moment. He let a smile play over his lips as he faced the audience, gambling everything in his show of confidence. He opened his palm and held up the marble for all to see. White.


  • They murdered him.
    • p. 1
  • Obie was bored. Worse than bored. He was also tired. He went to bed tired and woke up tired. He found himself yawning constantly. Most of all, he was tired of Archie. Archie the bastard. The bastard that Obie alternately hated and admired.
    • p. 7
  • "You're a real bastard," Obie said finally, his frustration erupting, like a Coke exploding from a bottle after you shake it. "You know that?" Archie turned and smiled at him benevolently, like a goddamn king passing out favors. "Jesus," Obie said, exasperated. "Don't swear, Obie," Archie chided him. "You'll have to tell it in confession." "Look who's talking. I don't know how you had the nerve to receive communion in the chapel this morning." "It doesn't take nerve, Obie. When you march down the rail, you're receiving The Body, man. Me, I'm just chewing a wafer they buy by the pound in Worcester." Obie looked away in disgust. "And when you say 'Jesus', you're talking about your leader. But when I say 'Jesus,' I'm talking about a guy who walked the earth for thirty-three years like any other guy but caught the imagination of some PR cats. PR for Public Relations, in case you don't know, Obie." Obie didn't bother to answer. You couldn't ever win an argument with Archie.
    • p. 8
  • "The assignment must fit the kid. That's the beauty of it, Obie." Obie waited a minute or two and couldn't resist asking, "You running out of ideas, Archie?" The great Archie Costello running dry? The possibility was staggering to contemplate. "Just being artistic, Obie. It's an art, you know. Take a kid like this Renault. Special circumstances." He fell silent. "Put him down for the chocolates."
    • p. 15
  • "Know what, Archie" "What?" "Life is sad, sometimes." That was one of the great things about Arcie, you could say things like that. "Life is shit," Archie said. The shadows of he goal posts definitely resembled a network of crosses, empty crucifixes. That's enough symbolism for one day, Obie told himself. If he hurried he could make the four o'clock bus to work.
    • p. 16
  • The Vigils kept things under control. Without The Vigils, Trinity might have been torn apart like other schools had been, by demonstrations, protests, all that crap.
    • p. 27
  • The Goober looked frightened. He was one of those kids who always wanted to please everybody. The guy who never got the girl but worshipped her in secret while the big shot hero rode off in the sunset with her in the end.
    • p. 32
  • Silence. Archie let it gather. He could always feel a heightening of interest in the room. It always happened this way when an assignment was about to be given. He knew what they were thinking- what's Archie come up with this time? Sometimes Archie resented them. The members of The Vigils did nothing but enforce the rules. Carter was muscle and Obie an errand boy. Archie alone was always under pressure, devising the assignments, working them out. As if he was some kind of machine. Press a button: out comes an assignment. What did they know about the agonies of it all? The nights he tossed and turned? The times he felt used up, empty? And yet he couldn't deny he exulted in moments like this, the guys leaning forward in anticipation, the mystery that surrounded them all, the kid Goober white-faced and frightened, the place so quiet you could almost hear your own heartbeat. And all eyes on him: Archie.
    • p. 33
  • Archie waited a beat- in strict command of the room, the silence almost unbearable- and said, "Everything in Brother Eugene's room is held together by screws. The chairs, the desks, the blackboards. Now, with your little screwdriver- maybe you'd better bring along various and assorted sizes, just in case- you start to loosen. Don't take out the screws. Just loosen them until they reach the point where they're almost ready to fall out, everything hanging by a thread..." A howl of delight came from the guys- probably Obie, who had gotten the picture, who could see the house that Archie was building, the house that didn't exist until he built it in their minds.
    • p. 35
  • "So?" "So- remember? His orders were not to sell them for ten school days. Okay. So the ten days came and went and he's still saying no." "So what?" This is what infuriated Obie- the way Archie tried so hard not to be impressed, to always play it cool. You could tell him that The Bomb was going to be dropped and he'd probably say "So what?" It got under Obie's skin, mostly because he suspected that it was an act, that Archie wasn't as cool as he pretended to be. And Obie was awaiting his chance to find out.
    • p. 146
  • Jerry had been about to protest when Janza opened his mouth. "It's okay with me. I can beat this kid any way you want." And Jerry saw, to his dismay, that Archie had counted on Janza's reaction. He had known that Jerry couldn't back away now- he had come too far. Archie had bestowed one of his sickly sweet smiles on Jerry. "What do you say, Renault? Do you accept the rules?" What could he say? After the phone calls and the beating. After the desecration of his locker. The silent treatment. Pushed downstairs. What they did to Goober, to Brother Eugene. What guys like Archie and Janza did to the school. What they did to the world when they left Trinity.
    • p. 235-236
  • "Okay," Jerry had said. Now, standing here, one leg half asleep, nausea threatening his stomach, the night chilling his flesh, Jerry wondered if he hadn't lost the moment he said okay.
    • p. 236
  • Emile Janza was tired of being treated like one of the bad guys. That's the way Archie made him feel. "Hey, animal," Archie would say. Emile wasn't an animal. He had feelings like everybody else. Like the guy in the Shakespeare thing in English I, "Cut me, do I not bleed?" All right, so he liked to screw around a little, get under people's skin. That was human nature, wasn't it? A guy had to protect himself at all times. Get them before they get you. Keep people guessing- and afraid.
    • p. 237
  • "I don't know how you do it, Archie," Carter was forced to admit. "Simple, Carter, simple." Archie reveled in the moment, basking in Carter's admiration, Carter who had humiliated him at The Vigils meeting. Someday he'd get even with Carter but at the moment it was satisfying enough to have Carter regarding him with awe and envy. "You see, Carter, people are two things: greedy and cruel. So we have a perfect setup here. The greed part- a kid pays a buck for a chance to win a hundred. Plus fifty bucks of chocolates. The cruel part- watching two guys hitting each other, while they're safe in the bleachers. That's why it works, Carter, because we're all bastards."
    • p. 241
  • Carter gestured for silence. But the silence had already fallen. Archie, walking toward the platform for a close view of the proceedings, sucked in his breath, as if he were sipping this sweetest of all events. But he exhaled in surprise and stopped in his tracks as he saw Obie walk on the platform carrying the black box in his hands. Obie smiled maliciously when he caught Archie standing there in surprise, his mouth wide open in astonishment. No one had ever surprised the great Archie that way, and Obie's moment of triumph was a thing of beauty.
    • p. 243
  • Carter had been doubtful about using the black box, pointing out that this was not a Vigils meeting. How can we make Archie try for the marbles? Obie had the answer, the kind of answer Archie himself would have given. "Because there are four hundred kids out there yelling for blood. And they don't care whose blood it is anymore. Everybody in the school knows about the black box- how can Archie back down?"
    • p. 243
  • "You guys are really something else, aren't you?" Archie said, pulling away from Carter's grip. "I can walk up there alone, Carter. And I'll walk back again, too." Archie's fury was a cold hard ball in his chest but he played it cool. As usual. He had a feeling nothing could go wrong. I am Archie.
    • p. 244
  • The sight of the black box stunned the gathering into a silence more deep than before. Only members of The Vigils and their victims had seen it. In the garish stadium light, the box was revealed as worn and threadbare, a small wooden container that might have been a discarded jewelry box. And yet it was a legend in the school.
    • p. 245
  • The ceremony took only a minute or so because Archie insisted on getting it over with quickly before anyone knew what was going on. The less drama, the better. Don't let Obie and Carter build it up. Thus, before any protest could be made, Archie had shot out his hand and pulled a marble from the box. White. Obie's jaw dropped in surprise. Things were moving too fast. He'd wanted Archie to squirm; he'd wanted the audience to realize what was going on here. He'd wanted to prolong the ceremony, to get as much of the drama and suspense out of the situation as possible. Archie's hand shot out again and it was too late for Obie to prevent the action. He drew in his breath. The marble was hidden in Archie's closed fist. He held the fist out, toward the audience. Archie held his back stiff. The marble had to be white. He hadn't come this far to be denied at the last moment. He let a smile play over his lips as he faced the audience, gambling everything in his show of confidence. He opened his palm and held up the marble for all to see. White.
    • p. 245-246
  • Horrified, The Goober counted the punches Janza was throwing at his helpless opponent. Fifteen, sixteen. He leaped to his feet. Stop it, stop it. But nobody heard. His voice was lost in he thunder or screaming voices, voices calling for the kill... kill him, kill him.
    • p. 254
  • "It'll be all right, Jerry." No it won't. He recognized Goober's voice and it was important to share the discovery with Goober. He had to tell Goober to play ball, to play football, to run, to make the team, to sell the chocolates, to do whatever they wanted you to do. He tried to voice the words but there was something wrong with his mouth, his teeth, his face. But he went ahead anyway, telling Goober what he needed to know. 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. His eyes fluttered open and he saw Goober's face all askew, like a broken movie film. But he was able to see the concern the worry on his face. Take it easy, Goober, it doesn't even hurt anymore. See? I'm floating, floating above the pain. Just remember what I told you. It's important. Otherwise, they murder you.
    • p. 258-259
  • Ray Bannister started to build the guillotine the day Jerry Renault returned to Monument.
    • p. 3
  • It was a rotten world, full of treachery and evil, and you had to be on your toes at all times, ready to combat, outfox, outwit, outdeal everybody else. Archie endorsed the graffiti he had once seen scrawled on a downtown brick wall: Do Unto Others, Then Split.
    • p. 40
  • Leon regarded Archie with triumph, smiling almost grotesquely, a caricature of a smile really. Leon was not accustomed to smiling. But something else was behind the smile, behind those icy cold eyes, a smile that said he had not believed a word of what Archie had said. Which did not bother Archie in the least. The important thing was that Leon had chosen to pretend he had believed.
    • p. 81
  • It hadn't been much of a rape, really.
    • p. 89
  • The Obie-Bunting showdown was only a screen for Archie's real purpose- searching for the traitor. He suspected that the traitor was a member of The Vigils. More than suspected. Few kids outside The Vigils knew that the day off from school was to have coincided with the Bishop's visit. And the letter to Leon had focused on the visit. Thus, the meeting was a place to begin his pursuit of the traitor, and instinct- instinct that had never failed him- dictated that he would find his betrayer there.
    • p. 95
  • He turned again to Bunting, saw his troubled countenance, the beads of sweat dancing on his upper lip. "And Bunting..." "Yes?" "Forget the alibi. The Vigils don't provide alibis," Archie said. The words final, like a trapdoor slamming shut.
    • p. 95
  • Notices for Vigil meetings were always posted on the main bulletin board in the first-floor corridor, directly across from the Headmaster's office. Archie was entertained by the location of the notice right under Leon's nose. The notice was simple, involving the words TRINTY HIGH SCHOOL at the top of the board. On the day of the meeting, the Y of Trinity was inverted. Which made it look, as Archie said, like an upright finger. Thus, the Vigils giving the finger to the world while calling a meeting. That's what the upside-down Y was called: the Finger.
    • p. 96
  • "Don't blame me," he said, surprised at her reaction. "Blame human nature. I didn't make the world."
    • p. 145
  • "Emile will serve you well. He's an animal, but animals come in handy if they're trained right." "Right," Bunting said, but thinking, When you're gone, Archie, I'll be boss and I'll chose my own right arms. "Bunting," Archie said, looking up again, "I'll be telling Emile about it. Emile Janza will be looking forward to his job as your assistant. And Emile doesn't like to be disappointed. He's very unpredictable and gets very physical when he's disappointed. Never disappoint Emile Janza, Bunting."
    • p. 203
  • "The Vigils are more important than the school," Archie snapped. "You should have come to me, Carter. Told me your doubts. I'm not the enemy. Instead, you went to the enemy-" "I thought it was the right thing to do." "The right thing to do," Archie mocked. "You guys make me want to vomit. With your precious honor and pride. Football hero. Boxing champ. Strutting the campus with your chest out and your head high. Carter, the ace of aces..." Carter had never heard such rancor, such venom in Archie's voice, Archie, who was always so cool, so detached, like he had been a moment before.
    • p. 207
  • "I guess I want things to be like they were before. Hell, we're almost ready to graduate." "Tell you what, Carter," Archie said. "Let things stay the same as before, like you just said. Let the last days come and go. Graduation. But that's not the end of it, Carter. You were a traitor and you're going to pay for that. Some way, someday. Not tomorrow, not next month. Or even next year, maybe. But someday. And who knows? Maybe next month, after all. That's a promise, Carter. When you least expect it. When everything is rosy and beautiful. Then comes the payoff. Because you can't be allowed to get away clean, without paying for it, Carter."
    • p. 208
  • "Remember that, Carter. Nobody double-crosses Archie Costello and gets away with it. When you least expect it, revenge will come." Without a further word, Archie stepped across the driveway, in front of the car, under the spotlight, and up to his front door. Then he was gone into the house. He left Carter there, shaken, not only by the prospect of Archie's revenge sometime in the future but what he had almost done. He'd almost turned traitor against Obie. Which meant being a traitor a second time. Not once but twice. Christ, he thought, what have I become?
    • p. 209
  • "What are you doing here, Caroni?" Brother Leon asked, looking up from his desk. He squinted toward the doorway. "It is Caroni, isn't it?" "Yes, it is," David answered, closing the door soundlessly, hiding the object in his hand behind his back.
    • p. 232
  • Brother Leon arrived late for the performance. His late entrance was not a surprise. Everybody knew that Leon hated the student skits and sketches. Too often there had been hilarious takeoffs on the faculty and, a few years ago, a devastating burlesque of Brother Leon by a student named Henry Boudreau. Boudreau had minced across the stage, speaking in a prissy voice, wielding an oversized baseball bat the way Leon used his teacher's pointer, as a weapon. The performance had become a legend at Trinity. But funny thing about Boudreau: He had flunked out at the end of the year.
    • p. 246-247
  • "I am Archie Costello," he said. "And I'll always be there, Obie. You'll always have me wherever you go and whatever you do. Tomorrow, ten years from now. Know why, Obie? Because I'm you. I'm all the things you hide inside you. That's me-" "Cut it out," Obie said. He hated it when Archie began to get fancy, spinning his wheels. "What you're saying is a lot of crap. I know who you are. And I know who I am." But do I, he wondered, do I?
    • p. 264
  • Obie could feel Archie's eyes on him as he walked away, those cold intelligent eyes. "Good-bye, Obie," he called. He had never said good-bye before.
    • p. 265
  • The tomato hit Brother Leon on his left cheek, a ripe tomato that exploded in juicy fury, splattering his shirt and his hair and smearing his face with what looked like blood. Nobody said anything. Nobody moved. Nobody cheered or booed. Everybody sat there in a profound silence as Brother Leon, mouth agape, wiped the tomato from his face, still silent as he stalked from the stage, leaving an assembly hall full of students who sat stunned, silent for a few minutes, then quietly filed out of the hall. Broher Leon never learned the culprit's name. He, in fact, never made an effort to do so. Nobody else ever mentioned the incident. But Henry Malloran was elected president of the senior class at the next day's election and nobody ran against him.
    • p. 273
  • Janza grinned, amazed at the accuracy of Archie's predictions. You'll have a great year, Achie had said. Which Janza echoed now: "We're going to have a great year, Bunting." Bunting nodded. Continued to stare into space. Not wanting to look at Janza nor or anybody or anything. Staring into the future, next year, beyond. Him, Bunting, in command of the entire school. Stooges at his beck and call. An army at his disposal. No rules except those he made up. The boss. More than that. Like a dictator, for crissake. Beautiful.
    • p. 278
  • Jason Dorrant found it hard to believe that Alicia Bartlett was dead. Not only dead but murdered. Attacked and hit hard enough to kill her. He could not imagine anyone bad enough, evil enough, to do something like that. Especially to a nice little kid like Alicia.
    • p. 22
  • Let's get this straight: he didn't really cry but his chin would begin to wobble all over the place and tears would fill his eyes and he'd have to hold himself rigid to make it all stop. But he couldn't always make it stop. Then the fight with Bobo Kelton happened and changed everything. That was when he vowed not to cry anymore. Not during the fight but afterward. And it wasn't even a fight but one sweet and beautiful blow that sent Bobo to the floor. The surprise and shock on Bobo's fight had been terrific to see.
    • p. 23
  • The real reason was all the things Jason had seen Bobo do over the course of the year. Sly stuff. Tripping someone, pulling a guy's shirt out of his pants, slamming a locker door so that Johnny Moran's fingers got caught and jammed. Nobody did anything about Bobo. Merely accepted his actions. Or maybe didn't see his mean little tricks. But Jason prided himself on his powers of observation. When you're an outsider, and not part of the bunch, you're in a position to see what others don't see.
    • p. 23-24
  • Jason listened to Mr. Hobart going on about violence and the uselessness of revenge and he nodded, but all the time, he was happy. He had done something. He had taken action. He had socked Bobo Kelton. Given him a bloody nose. He didn't think he'd ever hit anybody again but he had proved himself capable of doing it. And at the same moment, in Mr. Hobart's office, letting the principal's words fil the air but not his ears, he had vowed never to cry again.
    • p. 26
  • Mr. Trent puzzled him. He seemed friendly, like he really wanted to help find out who had murdered Alicia, wanted to help Jason remember what had really happened that day, but at the same time there was something strange about his questions. Jason used the word strange for want of a better word. He couldn't figure Trent out or what he wanted Jason to say. Sometimes he seemed unfriendly, like Jason had done something wrong, had broken a rule,a rule Jason didn't even know about. And those eyes of his. Like black marbles but alive, that didn't blink very much, that seemed to look right into your brain.
    • p. 98
  • Better be careful, Jason warned himself. Why should I be careful? A nagging thought just below the surface of his mind gave him an uneasy feeling again, the feeling that something was wrong, that things were not what they seemed. Was that his imagination or just being in this small office, no air-conditioning, not even an electric fan? For some reason, the blank walls bothered him. No pictures. And no windows. I want to get out of here. He realized that he could get out of there. He could simply get up and leave. He didn't have to even speak to anybody. Hadn't they said this was voluntary? He was a volunteer. Well, he didn't feel like being a volunteer anymore. He wanted to go home.
    • p. 99-100
  • "So you know how it all works. How first you confess and then are given absolution. You have to admit your sins before you can be forgiven." Jason nodded, wondering what being a Catholic and going to confession had to do with his situation here, his sudden predicament. "Well, there is something you have to do before we can take steps to protect you." A dim warning sounded somewhere in Jason's mind, his body, his spirit- he wasn't sure which or where but he was suddenly jolted thoroughly. Confession. A different word from confess. He suddenly saw where this man was going. He wanted Jason to confess. To confess to killing Alicia Bartlett. Jason almost giggled his disbelief, a reaction that was as unpremeditated and unexpected as a belch. "You want me to say I killed Alicia Bartlett?" Horror, disbelief in his voice.
    • p. 137-138
  • Trent could see the despair in the boy's eyes, his body drooping with weariness, the trembling of his chin, the tears staining his cheeks. He sensed the imminent moment of success, felt the sweet thrill of triumph, everything else cast aside for the moment, all doubts gone. This was what he was hired to do, what he was born to do. You are what you do. Ah, Lottie. Ah, Sarah. Five minutes later, the boy uttered the words Trent needed to hear. As the machine whirred, recording the bruised and broken voice.
    • p. 142
  • Three days of thirty, Trent knew there would be no response. Sarah Downes would not be calling back. Neither would the senator. His jaw began to ache, like an old enemy asserting its presence. "Don't forget your appointment with the chief," Effie said, sudden sympathy in her voice. She knew what awaited him at the meeting: a demotion not in rank but in everything else. Maybe the graveyard shift,midnight to eight. No more special privileges, no more interrogations. There probably wouldn't be any more calls for interrogations, anyway.
    • p. 148-149
  • The transcript lay there, waiting for him as he hung up the telephone. Waiting for him to open it again. Trent Interview. Subject: Dorrant. Jason Dorrant. Poor kid, but at least he was young, free, not caught and fixed in time, as if frozen in ambers. Like so many others. Like me. You are what you do, Lottie had said. But now I don't do anything.
    • p. 149
  • So he ignored the heat now and wondered about what he should do next. If he was going to show what he could do and really did it this time instead of saying he did when he didn't, he remembered that Bobo Kelton hung around the Rec Center a lot, every day, showing off as usual, laughing and sly, as usual. Jason looked at the clock. Ten minutes before three. Hot afternoon. He knew that Bobo would be at the Center. All he had to do was go there and wait. Across the street. A beautiful feeling of sweetness came over him. He lifted his head, let the feeling carry him for a while, like a fresh breeze in his heart. Then he went into the kitchen and took the butcher knife out of the drawer.
    • p. 154
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