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Themes

Sure: the melting hands, rampaging Hells Angels, and Grim Reaper cosplay are fun and quirky additions to the ominous murder mystery that drives Dead End in Norvelt's plot. But if we scrape down underneath all that, we discover that Gantos is concerned with issues surrounding wealth and poverty. How is wealth distributed? What can money do—and are there any alternatives to money? What's the difference between a handout and a hand up?

Questions About Society and Class

  1. How are class differences signaled in the book? Who are some residents that might qualify as being more "upper class"?
  2. What might Florida represent in the book? Why do several people have a dream to move there?
  3. Why do you think that the government originally wanted to provide "barnlike" accommodations for communities likes Norvelt?
  4. Where in the book do we see actual physical differences between poor people and rich people? What do those physical differences look like?

Chew on This

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

Jack's dad continually complains about being poor, and not having a big enough slice of the "American pie," but we never really see him working hard to better himself and his family.

Dead End in Norvelt suggests that the concept of the American Dream is continually changing.

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