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Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
Here at Shmoop, it's not a real Monopoly game until someone sends the board, money, the shoe, and the top hat flying off the table. While the game in the book doesn't end this way, there's definitely some bad blood between Jack's parents that goes deeper than just the game. How do Jack's parents' differing views on Monopoly show us a miniature version of America's ongoing debate about the extent to which the government has responsibility for those of us who are less fortunate or less capable?
Jack is history's fanboy. Have you ever stopped to think about where you stand in The Big Picture? What do you think Gantos is trying to say about the individual's placement within the larger realm of history?
The book establishes that there were no smartphones in 1962, so kids had to resort to super fun activities like mowing corn or building book igloos. What might be some other differences between growing up in 1962 and growing up now? In what ways do you think it was easier? More difficult? (And not just because they didn't have Angry Birds.)
You probably wouldn't be too happy if you woke up tomorrow morning to a big bulldozer getting ready to mow down your house—even if the point was to install a cellphone tower so you'd finally get reception on that new smartphone of yours. Progress always requires sacrifice, but what is ultimately acceptable? In what ways is Dead End in Norvelt a book about the history of people who are "in the way of progress" (4.29)? How do different people define "progress" in the novel?
While he's by no means the bravest kid in the world, Jack does learn how to conquer some of his fears. When does Jack demonstrate the most courage in the book?
The book's beginning and ending both have something to do with a movie screen. So, what's up with that drive-in movie theatre, anyway? What is the significance of movies in general, or the types of movies shown on the Viking's screen in particular?
When you hear "Florida," you probably think of that giant mouse, his fancy castle, and all of the fun rides. You might also think of hurricanes, humidity, and cockroaches—er, palmetto bugs.
Several of the characters in the book have either moved (Miss Volker's sister) or want to move (Jack's Dad and Mr. Spizz) from Norvelt to Florida. What do you think Florida represented in 1962? Do you think it means something different to the characters who grew up in the Depression than it does to younger people, like Jack?
Check out these top music hits from 1962. What do you think Jack's playlist might be for the summer of 1962? How do the songs you chose reflect the actions, feelings and insights of Jack's twelfth summer?