Set at a prestigious Catholic high school in New England, The Chocolate War takes place in the late 1960s or early 1970s. Beyond its broad philosophical and political concerns, the novel is most decidedly a product of its times. At the time of the novel’s creation, American society had just begun to leave behind the 1960s, a period of great social turmoil during which government policy in the Vietnam conflict, civil rights reform, and other emotionally charged issues came under public scrutiny. Opposition to institutional decisions ran high; individual acts of conscience and open defiance divided the country; and government, college administrations, and churches were frequently challenged. Cormier’s observation that his novel illustrates the adage “to not resist is to assist” clearly echoes the often repeated 1960s slogan, “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.”
Even more appropriate to the Themes of The Chocolate War is the notorious Watergate affair that shook society and toppled President Richard Nixon shortly before the novel’s publication. Watergate quickly became a symbol of the abuse of power, the ability of small groups to influence policy, and the use of “dirty tricks” to silence opposition, an environment much like the Trinity School in The Chocolate War.