Course Hero. "Holes Study Guide." Course Hero. 7 June 2019. Web. 28 Sep. 2023. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Holes/>.
Course Hero. (2019, June 7). Holes Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved September 28, 2023, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Holes/
(Course Hero, 2019)
Course Hero. "Holes Study Guide." June 7, 2019. Accessed September 28, 2023. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Holes/.
Course Hero, "Holes Study Guide," June 7, 2019, accessed September 28, 2023, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/Holes/.
The next morning Stanley is sore and exhausted. He can hardly move, let alone dig. Still he gets a faster start on his hole today because he knows how to use his shovel and how to manage his piles of dirt. But he hurts all over, and he doubts he can finish the second hole.
While digging, Stanley unearths a flat rock with a fish fossil on it. He pockets it to show it to Mr. Pendanski. He knows the Warden wants to be alerted to interesting finds, and he hopes the fossil is interesting enough to earn him a day off from digging. But Mr. Pendanski laughs and says it isn't. The other boys grab the fossil from Stanley and pass it around.
As Stanley returns to digging, X-Ray approaches and asks to talk to him. He shows Stanley his thick glasses and claims his eyesight is terrible. He is never going to find anything interesting to show the Warden. He tells Stanley to hand over any other interesting finds he makes. X-Ray reasons he deserves a day off more than Stanley, since he's been at camp longer.
Stanley doesn't like this, but he reluctantly agrees. X-Ray is the obvious leader among the boys of D tent, and Stanley knows being on X-Ray's good side is more important than getting a day off, in the unlikely event he finds anything.
As he digs Stanley marvels that the boys in his tent have accepted him and given him a nickname. Derrick Dunne, the boy who bullied him back home, would have been terrified of any of the boys at Camp Green Lake. Stanley spends much of the morning entertaining himself with fantasies of the other camp boys coming home with him and protecting him from Derrick.
After Stanley finishes digging, he returns to camp and finds the boys sitting in a circle with Mr. Pendanski. Stanley tells X-Ray he agrees about the second hole being the worst, but again X-Ray contradicts him. "The third hole's the hardest," he says.
Stanley joins the circle around Mr. Pendanski, who is leading a discussion about goals for life after Camp Green Lake. When Magnet is pressured to set a goal, he hesitantly arrives at the idea of becoming a monkey trainer. The other boys laugh, and X-Ray says Magnet has no chance of doing that. Mr. Pendanski contradicts him and says anything is possible.
Turning his attention to Stanley, Mr. Pendanski asks whose fault it is that Stanley is in jail. Stanley is quick with his answer: "My no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather." The other boys laugh—even Zero, who normally just looks angry. Mr. Pendanski calms the group down and tells Stanley only he is responsible for what happens in his life.
Mr. Pendanski turns this statement into a pep talk about taking responsibility and finding a way to contribute to society. He says every boy at the camp is unique, adding, "Even you, Zero. You're not completely worthless." At this Zero's smile disappears. Zero claims he never wants to do anything but dig holes.
As Stanley begins his second hole, he isn't much stronger than he was at the beginning of the story. His weaknesses are mental as well as physical. As he digs he thinks mainly about how hard it is and how much it hurts. He is convinced the second hole is the worst. Meanwhile the author deftly shows several ways Stanley is already more capable than he was yesterday. Stanley uses his shovel more efficiently, manages his dirt piles effectively, and knows how best to use his small supply of water. Clearly Stanley has already learned a great deal—but he doesn't notice any difference in himself yet.
Stanley shows his hopeful nature when he finds a small fossil in one of his holes. It is only his second day of digging, and already he thinks he may get a day off because he has found something interesting. But the only people who care about the fossil are the other boys.
The author is setting up a mystery surrounding the digging at Camp Green Lake. It seems like the boys are supposed to be looking for something specific, but none of them know what. Mr. Pendanski's reaction to Stanley's fossil is a tantalizing clue about what they aren't looking for. When Stanley shows off the fossil, Mr. Pendanski is completely uninterested, not even connecting it with the search. Whatever the boys are looking for, then, it is very different from a fossil.
Although Stanley is angry he doesn't get a day off, he doesn't try to argue with Mr. Pendanski. Instead he goes back to digging, taking out his anger on his hole. This is a sign of Stanley's lack of power at this point in the story. When he senses injustice, he has no way to fight against it. He only does what he is told.
X-Ray has more power than Stanley. Although he can't change the adults' behavior, he is a leader among the boys. Because of this X-Ray can influence the others to do what he wants. He shows off this power when he asks Stanley to hand over any interesting finds. Stanley may be new to Camp Green Lake, but he has been bullied, and he understands X-Ray could easily lead the other boys to torment him. So he reluctantly agrees to X-Ray's demand, and as the day goes on, he decides he is better off being accepted than having a day off.
Being accepted at Camp Green Lake is surprising to Stanley because he isn't accepted at home. He reflects on the differences between the boys at Camp Green Lake and Derrick Dunne, the bully back at Stanley's middle school. Again Stanley doesn't realize his experiences are already changing him and making him stronger. He attributes his acceptance at camp as some sort of luck, and he imagines his camp friends beating up his school bully. it doesn't yet occur to him he could stand up to a bully himself.
In Chapter 12 it becomes clear the boys in Stanley's tent have been teaching him a lesson about surviving at Camp Green Lake. After finishing his second hole, Stanley says it really is the worst, but the others tell him he's wrong. "The third hole's the hardest," X-Ray says. At this point the pattern is clear. Every hole is going to be the hardest. All Stanley can do is take one day at a time.
When Mr. Pendanski leads a group discussion about goals, he briefly acts like a real camp counselor. In the first part of the discussion, he seems cheerful, encouraging, and eager to help the boys improve their lives. But just as before, he speaks in clichés and fails to really engage the boys. Even before the more disturbing side of his character shows itself, he appears to be going through the motions, not really trying to help anyone.
As always, everything at Camp Green Lake is a little off-kilter, as shown in the conversation between Stanley and Mr. Pendanski. When Mr. Pendanski asks Stanley who is responsible for his problems, Stanley names his "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather." This hilarious exchange sounds like a clichéd dramatic discussion between a caring adult and a smart-mouthed kid. In most books the kid would ultimately grow to learn the lesson Mr. Pendanski shares: we are all ultimately responsible for what happens to us. But in this book, Stanley is telling the truth rather than mouthing off, and the adult in charge doesn't really have his best interests in mind. Although Stanley goes on to grow and change, he never proves to be the ultimate source of his own problems. He is cursed, after all.
At the end of Chapter 12, Mr. Pendanski's true nature comes through. After spewing a series of clichés about every boy's value, he mocks Zero, suggesting Zero is worth less than anyone else in the group. Zero does nothing to provoke this cruelty. Mr. Pendanski just seems to enjoy hurting him.
Zero doesn't defend himself against Mr. Pendanski's cruelty. Instead he closes himself off, erasing the expression from his face. When pressed to say what he wants to do with his life, Zero claims to be what everyone seems to expect—a kid who has no potential beyond digging holes. This reaction suggests Zero, like Stanley, is used to being powerless. He either doesn't know how to fight back or doesn't think fighting will get him anywhere.