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Themes

If you haven't noticed, there are a lot of lying liars who tell lies in Norvelt. So, in a lot of ways, the conflict between characters in the novel stems from—wait for it!—people lying. While most of this dishonesty has the potential to be harmful (if not deadly), honesty isn't always the best policy. Norvelt is a really small town. If all the skeletons came tumbling out of all the closets, they'd have a major problem. For one thing, it would make walking around town a real pain, what with all those bones to step over. Seriously, though, in some cases, keeping secrets and telling little white diplomatic lies can help to maintain peace in the community and keep neighbors from each other's throats.

Questions About Lies and Deceit

  1. Which characters are the most trustworthy in the book? The least?
  2. Would it be fair to say that Miss Volker contributed to the murders, since she was not honest with Mr. Spizz about her intentions toward him? Why or why not?
  3. Why do you think Jack's family tells so many lies to each other? 
  4. How is "whisper history" a form of dishonesty? What functions does it serve?

Chew on This

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

Dead End in Norvelt suggests that honesty is always the best policy.

There are sometimes legitimate reasons for telling lies and keeping secrets, especially when you live in a very small town.

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