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Dead End in Norvelt

Dead End in Norvelt

by Jack Gantos

Community Theme

Since we find out early on in Dead End in Norvelt that Norvelt was founded as part of the New Deal to give poor people opportunities to help themselves and each other, it's clear that community is one of Gantos's Big Ideas. Tensions abound between characters who buy into the principles of Norvelt, and those who instead consider it a moldy old relic from the past. The main question the book asks us is: what responsibility do we bear toward members of our community—especially those who are less fortunate or less capable than ourselves?

Questions About Community

  1. How are the community values of Norvelt's founding out of place in a more modern world? How are they not?
  2. How does the book describe outsiders? How have they been spurned by the community? Which of them deserve their reputations and which do not?
  3. How do Jack's dad and Mr. Huffer represent a more individualistic spirit? Is this portrayal attractive? Which characters in the book are admirable? 
  4. How might a barter system work today? Have you ever bartered goods or services?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

For the most part, outsiders are seen as a destructive force that Norvelters should fear.

Society has a clear responsibility to help those who are less fortunate or less capable.

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