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Themes

You might have noticed that there's a lot of violence relating to war going on in a book that is otherwise pretty comic and light-hearted. Dead End in Norvelt certainly isn't the first novel to throw this contrast in readers' faces (go check out Catch-22, for example). History, along with most of the people living in Jack's town, has been scarred by war and warfare—often in irreparable ways. In particular, the book focuses on how war hurts the innocent and those who can't defend themselves. No matter how standard history books attempt to pretty it up with talk of "honor" and "Dulce et Decorum Est," the winners are typically those who can be the most bloodthirsty and ruthless.

Questions About Warfare

  1. Why do you think that so many of the historical anecdotes that Jack reads have to do with war?
  2. In what ways do we see specific examples of people in Norvelt being significantly affected by various wars?
  3. In Dead End in Norvelt, does war help to knit communities more closely together? Or does it tear them apart? 
  4. How is the book's anxiety about the atomic bomb similar to current anxieties about terrorism? In what ways are these anxieties different?

Chew on This

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

A big chunk of Jack's dad's immaturity can be chalked up to the horrors of World War II. The war froze him into a state of adolescence.

Miss Volker's views on history indicate that she believes there are no good reasons to go to war.

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