Study Guide

Dead End in Norvelt Chapter 21

By Jack Gantos

Chapter 21

  • For the first time ever, Jack gets to drive all by himself. (Again: don't try this at home, kids. Rules were different then.) He makes a trip for Miss Volker to Mertie-Jo's to pick up some more Girl Scout cookies.
  • We learn more about how Jack has a thing for Mertie-Jo, but won't even admit it to himself.
  • Dead-end Norvelt strikes again: Mertie-Jo's family is moving to Pittsburgh because her father needs a job.
  • Jack takes a risk and tells Mertie-Jo that he would "eat a thousand cookies" if she could stay in Norvelt.
  • Um. We would eat a thousand cookies just … because they were in front of us.
  • Our hero makes a total fool of himself in front of his love interest when he gets freaked out by a fake plastic skeleton in Miss Volker's trunk.
  • Another old lady death: This time, Mrs. Hamsby (and sure enough, Mr. Huffer notices that she had "body spasms" before her death, and that she also died in her kitchen) (21.37).
  • Through her obituary, we learn that Mrs. Hamsby was Norvelt's first postmistress, and she saved undeliverable letters in her home, like a "tiny museum of lost history" (21.44).
  • On the same day as Mrs. Hamsby died (August 1, but in 1944), Anne Frank made her last entry in her famous diary before she was hauled off to a concentration camp.
  • It turns out that there's a sort of Norvelt connection to Anne Frank: Eleanor Roosevelt wrote the introduction to the first published American edition of the book.
  • Finally, someone starts to connect the dots: a Mr. Greene thinks that someone should investigate the deaths of the old women who seem to be "dropping like flies" (21.59).
  • Not the most sensitive metaphor, but we think he's right.