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Free Chapter Summary for Holes by Louis Sachar

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THEMES - THEME ANALYSIS


Impact of Fate and History on Everyday Life

The events of the past one hundred fifty years have been setting the stage for a Yelnats and a Zeroni to be together again. Each time a Yelnats seems to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, a fateful turn of events makes it the right place at the right time. Though certain events may seem like mere coincidence, there are far too many “coincidences” in Holes to discount the hand of fate. If Stanley had not fallen into the mud on “God’s thumb” would he have found Sam’s onions (which cured Zero’s stomach and saved the boys from the yellow-spotted lizards)? If Kate Barlow had not robbed Stanley’s great-grandfather, would Camp Green Lake even exist? If Derrick Dunne had not taken Stanley’s notebook would the sneakers have landed on Stanley? If Stanley had been assigned to a different group at Camp Green Lake would he have met Zero? This combination of events is so unlikely that the only conclusion is that history has been manipulated by fate, to bring Stanley and Zero together where the water runs uphill, so a Yelnats could keep an age-old promise to a Zeroni.

Friendship

The value of loyal friendships is illustrated repeatedly in Holes. When Elya Yelnats betrays his friendship with Madame Zeroni, the trouble starts for the Yelnats family. When Stanley and Zero’s friendship leads to their mutual survival, the curse is broken. X-Ray’s brand of friendship, the false kind based on rewards and threats, earns alienation from Group D at the end of the story. Only true friendship, like the unselfish bond between Stanley and Zero, can earn freedom and fortune - not just physical freedom and material wealth, but emotional freedom, happiness, and self-satisfaction.

Compassion for Victims of Social Injustice/Misjudgment

Often in Holes, characters who are introduced with negative connotations evoke sympathy once the reader learns their stories. Stanley’s no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather was actually a sincere man who was treated insensitively, and inadvertently broke a promise. He was not a thief. Kissin’ Kate Barlow, first introduced as a murderous outlaw, was a sweet, loving schoolteacher whose life was destroyed by the cruelty and violence of the townspeople. Though she becomes a criminal, the reader is sympathetic to her pain. Even Stanley and Zero are at first introduced as bad boys who have been sent to a detention center, but once again the false first impression that gains them society’s punishment, earns them compassion from the reader who knows the truth. Many social stereotypes that lead to injustice, for example that the inability to read signifies stupidity, or that if you tell the truth you will be treated fairly, are challenged once the victims’ stories are revealed.



POINT OF VIEW

Stanley’s story is told by an omniscient narrator that is able to move back and forth between the events at Camp Green Lake, the story of Elya Yelnats in Latvia, and the stories of pre-drought Green Lake. The combination of stories creates the feeling that fate is at work, molding Stanley’s destiny. The historic scenes are narrated like fables. The modern day scenes are narrated in light of Stanley’s thoughts and actions. The narrator seems to know more than he shares with the reader and uses irony and dark humor to make his point, occasionally addressing the reader directly to make the reader form inferences before the facts are completely clear.


OTHER ELEMENTS


Significance of Names

Names have significance in Holes, the title itself describing many features of the novel. The boys dig holes at Camp Green Lake, there is a hole in Stanley’s life before Camp Green Lake, and there are holes in the story that the reader must fill in as the plot develops.

In addition, the dual character names denote two sides of each character’s image. Stanley’s “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-greatgreat-grandfather” is called simply Stanley’s “great-great-grandfather” after it is explained that he is not really a thief. The sweet-sounding name “Miss Katherine” changes to the dangerous-sounding “Kissin’ Kate Barlow” when her lifestyle changes from schoolteacher to outlaw. All of the boys in Group D have real names that “society will recognize them by” and their bad boy nicknames that they insist on being called at Camp Green Lake. The narrator uses nicknames for the other boys, however, continues to refer to Stanley as “Stanley” rather than “Caveman,” and that sets Stanley apart from the other boys. The view of each character that the narrator intends to present is reflected in the characters’ names.


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