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Literature Study GuidesHolesPart 1 Chapters 16 17 Summary

Holes | Study Guide

Louis Sachar

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Holes | Part 1, Chapters 16–17 : You Are Entering Camp Green Lake | Summary



Chapter 16

The next day X-Ray returns to digging, and the boys are forced to work together again. When they don't find anything, the Warden grows increasingly impatient. She forces them to work longer and take fewer breaks. Then she threatens to make Mr. Sir dig too. This scares the boys, who work as fast as they can. The Warden makes them work well into the hottest part of the day.

That evening Stanley tries to figure out how to tell the Warden they are digging in the wrong place. He wonders who KB is, but he has no idea. He even considers sneaking out to dig in the right spot at night. But this would be impossible; the shovels are locked away after dark.

Stanley's thoughts are interrupted when Mr. Pendanski brings him a letter. Squid teases Stanley about being a mama's boy, but X-Ray sticks up for him.

The letter is indeed from Stanley's mother, who says she's glad he is making an effort at camp. She also complains about the awful shoe odor in her apartment. "I feel sorry for the little old lady who lived in a shoe. It must have smelled awful!" she says.

Stanley laughs at this, and Zero asks why he is laughing. Stanley reluctantly repeats the joke, but Zero has never heard the rhyme about the old lady who lives in a shoe. This seems impossible to Stanley. Zero asks him to repeat the rhyme, but Stanley refuses. He'd feel ridiculous.

Chapter 17

The Warden continues to force the boys from D tent to dig in the area where X-Ray supposedly found the gold tube. As the days go by, she gets even angrier and more impatient. Once, furious at Armpit for taking a bathroom break, she jabs him in the chest with a pitchfork. She also tells Mr. Pendanski to stop letting the boys drink as much water as they want.

Eventually the boys are all made to dig in one big hole. Late one afternoon, while Stanley is digging, Zigzag's shovel hits him in the head. Stanley collapses, bleeding. The counselors give him a makeshift bandage and tell him to get back to work. Zigzag forces Stanley to move the small pile of dirt he dropped when he collapsed. Zigzag isn't willing to move any more dirt than he absolutely has to.


The Warden continues to show her obsessive need to find whatever is buried in the lake bed. As time goes by, her strategy changes from kindness to threats. Clearly she's losing patience. And clearly she's unkind under pressure.

When the Warden threatens to make Mr. Sir dig alongside the boys, she again displays her power over the other adults at Camp Green Lake. Like Mr. Pendanski, Mr. Sir acts submissive and obeys orders, suggesting he is afraid of fighting back. The boys find this terrifying; they know he's likely to take out his anger on them.

The boys don't talk about the real location where Stanley found the gold tube. It is unclear whether any of them care about it as much as Stanley does, but they may be glad the Warden isn't getting what she wants. Meanwhile Stanley is desperate to figure out how to tell the truth. He doesn't because he's afraid of getting in trouble.

That afternoon, when Stanley receives a letter from his mother, he feels the benefit of his improved status at camp. X-Ray stands up for him when Squid tries to tease him about the letter. X-Ray's power is revealed implicitly when Squid backs off.

The letter also leads to an odd interaction with Zero. Zero admits he has never heard a common nursery rhyme and asks Stanley to recite it. Stanley thinks about how strange it would feel to recite children's poetry in a juvenile detention camp. But readers should note how much of a risk Zero takes when he reveals he wants to hear the nursery rhyme. He is putting himself in a deeply vulnerable position, giving the other boys an opening to bully him. He must know this. So this conversation reveals either his deep desire to hear the rhyme or an unusual level of trust in Stanley—or both.

As the boys continue digging in the wrong place, readers learn more about the Warden and the Camp Green Lake setting. As the Warden's impatience increases, she resorts to violence, and she withholds water from the boys as they work. This makes her seem unhinged and dangerous.

She has total power over the boys. They're isolated in the desert, with nobody to turn to for help. None of the other adults stand up to the Warden to stop her from hurting people—and it doesn't seem as if they want to. The only safe option for the boys is to do everything the Warden commands.

When Stanley gets hit in the head with the shovel, the adults make no effort to get him medical care. They put a makeshift bandage on him to stop the bleeding and force him to keep digging. This is absolutely irresponsible and puts Stanley at risk of major health complications. But nobody objects, not even Stanley. This shows the adults at Camp Green Lake place no value on the lives or health of the boys in their care.

When Stanley is injured, Squid's behavior helps reveal how stressful this situation is for the boys. Heat, exhaustion, and fear of violent punishment have pushed Squid almost to the breaking point. Powerless to fight back against any of the real injustices around him, he fixates on refusing to move "Stanley's dirt."

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