Dead End in Norvelt Summary & Study Guide

Jack Gantos
This Study Guide consists of approximately 41 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Dead End in Norvelt.
This section contains 540 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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Dead End in Norvelt Summary & Study Guide Description

Dead End in Norvelt Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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"Dead End in Norvelt" by Jack Gantos is the story of a twelve-year-old who happens to have the same name as the author - Jack Gantos. The story takes place in the early 1960s and opens with Jack standing on a bench in his backyard trying to see the movie playing at the nearby drive-in. Jack is using Japanese military binoculars that his father brought home from his tour of duty as a Marine in World War II. A war movie is playing, and Jack is so enthralled that he wants to be part of it.

Jack runs and gets a Japanese rifle so he can pretend to shoot the enemies on the drive-in screen. That's where his problems begin. He fires the gun just as a bad guy emerges from the bushes and he fires. Unknown to him, the rifle was loaded. The fire power knocks him off the bench and scares his mother and neighbor, Miss Volker, almost to death. His father had always taught him gun safety and will deal with him when he comes home from his out-of-town job. In the meantime, his mother informs him that he is grounded for the summer which had just begun. He will only be able to do chores around the house and help Miss Volker, who told Mrs. Gantos that she needed his help over the summer.

There goes baseball and and a happy carefree summer! He has to give all that up to hang around with an old lady. Jack learns that Miss Volker - who is the town's medical examiner, historian and official obituary writer - needs him to type obits for her because her fingers are crippled from arthritis. Jack is not thrilled with the prospect but he learns a lot over the summer. Miss Volker doesn't treat Jack like a child. She expects him to drive her car, clean up dead rats in the cellar, break in houses - the sky is the limit with the determined Miss Volker. Miss Volker was one of the original Norvelters and made a promise to the town's founder, Eleanor Roosevelt, that she would care for the original residents and see them to their graves.

With each obit that Jack helps Miss Volker write, he learns more about the power of the written word. Since Miss Volker is the town historian, Jack also learns about the importance of history and learning from it. All the old men are dead because they worked in the mines and died of black lung at relatively young ages. So, that leaves only a handful of old ladies. When they all start to drop off during the summer, finally people begin to suspect that the women might be the victims of homicide. When an autopsy reveals that the latest victim was full of rat poison, the police know they have a mass murderer on their hands.

There are plenty of suspects - even Jack's own parents! Jack fears for a time that he might be a suspected. The most innocent person is arrested but is freed when the murderer finally confesses. Jack is also freed from his summer-long grounding, but has learned from Miss Volker that only fools ignore history.

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This section contains 540 words
(approx. 2 pages at 400 words per page)
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