"Dead End in Norvelt," Vocabulary from Chapters 15-21

Jack Gantos's "Dead End in Norvelt" is a funny take on the typical autobiographical "growing up" novel which includes appearances by a sniper rifle, an obituary column and the Hell's Angels. Eleanor Roosevelt also plays an important role.

Learn these word lists for the novel: Chapters 1-7, Chapters 8-14, Chapters 15-21, Chapters 22-28

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. intrigue
    a crafty and involved plot to achieve your ends
    “Well, when she finds out about my new top secret job,” he said in a muffled voice full of intrigue, “she might change her mind.”
  2. hover
    hang in the air; fly or be suspended above
    I had just thrown a shovelful of dirt out of the hole when I noticed a human shadow hovering over me.
  3. murky
    dark or gloomy
    The dump was just beyond it and sometimes the rats came out of the murky old mine shafts and swarmed over the dump and then spread out into everyone’s house and garden.
  4. amber
    of a medium to dark brownish yellow color
    “What’d you say?” he shouted, and screwed his finger into his ear then popped it out and stared at the waxy amber tip.
  5. tirade
    a speech of violent denunciation
    When I passed Miss Volker’s house I ducked way down as I ran because I didn’t want her to ask what I was up to and then get it out of me that I was doing a favor for Mr. Spizz, which would trigger a tirade I didn’t have time to endure.
    In addition to being angry or violent, a tirade is usually of a long duration, which at the moment, is the main reason Jack doesn't want to endure one from Miss Volker.
  6. ruddy
    of a red color at the end of the color spectrum
    I wiped my nose on my forearm and saw a ruddy streak from my wrist to my elbow.
    As suggested by the sound of the word, the color at the end of the spectrum that applies here is red. While "ruddy" also means "inclined to a healthy reddish color, often associated with outdoor life" this does not apply to the example sentence's description of the streak from the bloody nose.
  7. wince
    draw back, as with fear or pain
    Then he painfully stood up and winced when he put weight on the bad leg.
  8. bluster
    a violent gusty wind
    “That’s just bluster,” he replied, and squeezed his eyes together when he moved his leg.
  9. spatter
    spot, splash, or soil
    I turned my back and the moment I unpinched my nose the blood gushed out like a busted pipe and spattered all down my jeans and over my sneakers.
  10. violate
    act in disregard of laws, rules, contracts, or promises
    “But you did violate my trust. And if I can’t trust you then it makes me realize that you can’t trust yourself to make good decisions."
  11. strait
    a narrow channel joining two larger bodies of water
    "Their tiny room was in the dank bottom of the boat and it took weeks to travel down the Adriatic Sea and around the boot of Italy and across the Mediterranean Sea and through the Strait of Gibraltar and across the Atlantic Ocean."
  12. futile
    producing no result or effect
    After a final futile search for her they had to disembark along with the rest of the passengers.
  13. devout
    deeply religious
    “She was a member of the Roosevelt Food Bank for the needy, a devout Methodist, a Girl Scout den mother, and a cook for the volunteer fire department. She will be missed by all who knew her."
  14. fertile
    marked by great fruitfulness
    “Jefferson believed that every American should have a house on a large enough piece of fertile property so that during hard times, when money was difficult to come by, a man and woman could always grow crops and have enough food to feed their family."
  15. accuse
    blame for; make a claim of wrongdoing or misbehavior against
    “Think about it. This is the summer of your life when you did nothing! Oh, I take that back,” she said suddenly, and pointed her accusing finger at the bomb shelter.
  16. hoist
    raise or haul up with or as if with mechanical help
    The mules, once they entered the mines, seldom ever saw daylight again until they died and were hoisted up to the ground and sold to animal processing factories.
  17. gleefully
    in a joyous manner
    “Hey, Jackie,” he hollered gleefully, “say goodbye to a piece of old Norvelt.”
  18. stutter
    speak haltingly
    “You-you-you—!” she stuttered as she tried desperately to open the door handle, but her fingers were so rusted together she gave up trying and leaned out the open window.
  19. fume
    be mad, angry, or furious
    I was afraid to get back into the car because I knew Miss Volker was fuming and would be so angry with my dad she might take back her car.
    Compare with "fuse" in the list for Chapters 1-7. To blow a fuse is to suddenly burst into rage, while to fume is to gather your rage about you.
  20. fiery
    characterized by intense emotion
    “Alexander Berkman was a handsome and fiery revolutionary young man who wanted better pay and safety for miners and factory workers. He was full of hotheaded ideas—too hotheaded, really."
  21. interject
    insert between other elements
    “That sounds like some of Eleanor Roosevelt’s thinking,” I interjected.
    Here, this specifically means when the speaker is interrupted with a related idea from a listener.
  22. flee
    run away quickly
    “One story has it that their tunnel came up to a little patch of prison ground where only Berkman was allowed to exercise. Emma was waiting for him to take his daily walk, and then he’d sneakily drop down into the tunnel and off they’d flee to freedom and live a romantic life fighting for workers’ justice all over the world.”
  23. bungle
    make a mess of, destroy, or ruin
    “Well,” she said, “depending on who you talk to there are different dates on the bungled escape.”
  24. revolutionary
    a radical supporter of political or social change
    “I’d love to step into a hole and vanish with a handsome revolutionary and live a life of exotic adventure.”
  25. capillary
    a minute blood vessel connecting arterioles with venules
    I can see where a bundle of capillaries has ruptured.
  26. collision
    an accident resulting from violent impact of a moving object
    “My dad needs help cleaning the embalming room after he worked on some of those bus group people who died in that head-on collision at the Unity Bridge.”
  27. hinge
    a joint that holds two parts together so that one can swing
    It didn’t creak because I had earlier oiled the hinges.
  28. descend
    move downward and lower, but not necessarily all the way
    I rang the doorbell, and when she opened the door and saw it was me she smiled her special smile as her head slowly descended, like the sun setting against the beautiful beach of her tanned shoulder.
  29. eclipse
    the phenomenon when one celestial body obscures another
    She squinted at me and I knew I was supposed to start a conversation, but it was as if I had suddenly had a total eclipse of the sun and my mind faded to black and became wordless.
    "Eclipse" is used both figuratively and hyperbolically here. The hyperbole is in the exaggerated comparison of earthly humans to celestial bodies such as the sun and an orbiting planet (this emphasizes Jack's attitude and relationship to the girl). Jack did not literally experience an eclipse, so he is only figuratively in the dark about how to talk to the girl.
  30. gingerly
    with extreme care or delicacy
    Before I could say anything Miss Volker stood up and walked gingerly across the floor in her bare feet.
  31. catastrophe
    a sudden violent change in the earth's surface
    History began when the universe began with a ‘Big Bang,’ which is one reason why most people think history has to be about a big event like a catastrophe or a moment of divine creation, but every living soul is a book of their own history, which sits on the ever-growing shelf in the library of human memories.
  32. betray
    deliver to an enemy by treachery
    “This was the day that Anne Frank, a fifteen-year-old Jewish girl, last wrote in her diary of the two years she and seven of her family and friends hid in the secret rooms above her father’s office building, while the Nazis searched for Jews to deport to concentration camps. Three days later they were betrayed and captured."
  33. liberate
    grant freedom to; free from confinement
    “We are proud in Norvelt that our men and women fought in the war to liberate oppressed people and allow their found voices to record the history of that terrible time.”
  34. devoted
    zealous in allegiance or affection
    “Mrs. Roosevelt is the greatest American woman who ever lived and she has always been devoted to those who suffer."
  35. passionate
    having or expressing strong emotions
    She always needed to recharge her batteries after a passionate obituary.

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