Study Guide

Dead End in Norvelt Chapter 1

By Jack Gantos

Chapter 1

  • Meet Jack. His name might look familiar—you just read it on the front cover of the book.
  • He's just gotten out of school for the summer and is gearing up for a great vacation.
  • When we first see him, he's looking through his father's WWII souvenirs as well as sneaking glimpses of the town's drive-in movie theatre screen through a pair of binoculars from this stash.
  • Naughty Jack. He's not supposed to be messing around with his father's stuff, so naturally he lies about it when his mom starts questioning him about it.
  • Jack suffers from a peculiar problem: chronic and sudden nosebleeds. Yes: his nose apparently spouts blood messily whenever he is upset, stressed, or startled. That sounds… inconvenient.
  • After Jack gets his Mom to lay off about his nosebleeds, he points the unloaded rifle at the movie screen, and mimes popping off a few shots. A 1960s "Call of Duty," anyone?
  • Did we say "unloaded"? Silly us! The rifle actually is loaded, much to our and Jack's surprise.
  • Uh-oh: now there's an ambulance driving up to their neighbor Miss Volker's house. Did Jack shoot her?
  • Whew, no. Miss Volker hasn't been shot, but she did drop her hearing aid down the toilet (yuck!) because the gunshot startled her. And the ambulance driver also happens to be the town plumber.
  • Jack and his mother agree to not tell his father about the gun accident, since his Dad has worked hard to school Jack in gun safety.
  • She agrees to this, but grounds Jack until his father returns.
  • Before he goes to bed, Jack ponders the novel's first mystery: Who loaded the rifle?
  • A great lover of reading and history (a Shmoop kind of guy!), Jack reads from a history text about Francisco Pizarro's violent conquest of the Incas. Hm. Wonder if this is going to be important later?