Holes | Study Guide

Louis Sachar

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Course Hero. "Holes Study Guide." June 7, 2019. Accessed July 24, 2021. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Holes/.

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Course Hero, "Holes Study Guide," June 7, 2019, accessed July 24, 2021, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Holes/.

Holes | Motifs

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Like Stanley's luck, these motifs can be interpreted as good or bad depending on one's point of view.

Holes

Holes in the novel represent both problems and opportunities. Boys at Camp Green Lake are required to dig a five-foot-wide, five-foot-deep hole every day. This is a terrible job to have to do in the stifling desert heat. The work leaves the boys dirty, exhausted, and often depressed. The holes become new habitat for yellow-spotted lizards, deadly creatures that pose a constant threat to the boys' survival. So in one sense, holes in the novel are the ultimate problem. Zero puts this into words in Chapter 36, when he says, "When you spend your whole life living in a hole, the only way you can go is up."

But holes are also opportunities. The adults who run Camp Green Lake claim digging holes makes the boys better people. Although this is just an excuse, it has some truth to it. Throughout the novel, Stanley's daily digging makes him physically stronger and more able to tackle new challenges. Holes also physically provide characters what they need. At the Big Thumb near the end of the story, Stanley gets water by digging a hole in the mud. After his return to Camp Green Lake, digging in the right spot leads him to treasure.

The Pig Lullaby

A strange lullaby makes several appearances in Holes. On the way to Camp Green Lake, Stanley sings himself a mournful lullaby he has often heard his father sing. Later, readers learn this song is a lullaby his great-great-grandfather, Elya Yelnats, used to sing to a pig every day at the top of a mountain. As the main plotline of the story continues, Stanley sings the song to his friend Zero Zeroni, now referred to as Hector. Finally, at the end of the book, Zero's mother sings him a different version of the song.

The lyrics of the pig lullaby change each time the song appears in the story. This is partly because the lullaby is translated from a foreign language and then passed down through generations. It is natural to change lyrics somewhat in translation, and people also often forget and change songs as years pass.

But in this case, the song's different versions reflect changes in the story from beginning to end. The versions of the song sung by Stanley's family sound mournful, scary, and regretful. The song contains a wishful woodpecker threatened by a hungry wolf, and it ends on a sad and wistful line: "If only, if only." This sounds like a song people would sing when they are stuck in endless bad luck, wishing for better lives.

The version of this song sung by Zero Zeroni's mother is far more encouraging and hopeful. It addresses the listener as a tired wolf who needs to be strong and brave, and as a newborn bird who needs to learn to fly. This version of the song ends on the following line: "My angel, my only." This sounds like a song people would sing when encouraging each other through difficult challenges they expect to overcome.

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