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Themes

Those who don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. Or, you know, something along those lines. Dead End in Norvelt is a book that believes in its history—from its historical setting to Miss Volker, who school Jack and the entire town in the lessons of the past. The major point to take away? Well, there are two: (1) you have to learn from the past; (2) everyone is connected to everything. There's no such thing as an individual operating in radical isolation from his community or his history; we're all products of the people who came before us. Or at least, that's what Dead End in Norvelt seems to think.

Questions About Memory and the Past

  1. Miss Volker points out that "[W]e'll be judged by our history" (23.79). How do we judge some of the characters' histories? What about some of the other Histories (yes, with a capital H) in the book?
  2. Do you think that the history lessons that Miss Volker includes with her obituaries are effective? Why or why not? Would they be effective today? 
  3. How is Anne Frank's diary like the undeliverable letters that Mrs. Hamsby saves?

Chew on This

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

Norvelt is a Lost World. What it stands for cannot be recovered because the world has completely changed.

Dead End in Norvelt suggests that readers should question the histories that they have been taught in school.

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