Literature Study GuidesHolesPart 1 Chapters 18 19 Summary

Holes | Study Guide

Louis Sachar

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Holes | Part 1, Chapters 18–19 : You Are Entering Camp Green Lake | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 18

The next day Stanley's group goes back to digging individual holes in a new part of the lake. Stanley's head is swollen, and he has to move slowly to avoid hurting it. Otherwise he feels good. Although he still digs more slowly than the other boys, he is getting much faster and stronger.

Back in the tent at the end of the day, Stanley writes to his mother. Once again he makes up stories about happy activities at camp. Once again he notices Zero looking angrily at his paper. But when Stanley tells Zero to stop reading over his shoulder, Zero admits he doesn't know how to read. He asks Stanley to teach him.

Stanley is taken aback. But he tells Zero he doesn't know how to teach someone to read and write. In truth Stanley is just too tired. Reflecting on his decision, he tells himself "to save his energy for the people who counted."

Chapter 19

One night Stanley hears Squid crying in the tent. Stanley tries to help, but Squid just gets angry. He says he will beat Stanley up if Stanley mentions it again.

Over time Stanley learns to keep quiet and avoid angering the other boys. They are criminals, after all. The tent holds a mix of African American, white, and Hispanic kids, but luckily, there have been no racial tensions.

One day after Mr. Sir comes to fill everyone's canteens, Magnet offers the other boys some sunflower seeds. It turns out he has stolen Mr. Sir's bag. He is thrilled with himself, bragging, "My fingers are like little magnets." The boys toss the bag around, sharing the sunflower seeds and laughing.

Stanley watches unhappily. He doesn't want sunflower seeds, or trouble. But as the water truck returns with an angry Mr. Sir inside, Zigzag tosses the bag to Stanley, who drops it. The seeds spill all over Stanley's feet.

Stanley makes a frantic effort to bury the seeds, but when Mr. Sir arrives a few moments later, he easily finds them. Unwilling to tell on the other campers, Stanley claims he stole and ate the seeds. Mr. Sir grimly orders Stanley to come with him to see the Warden.

Analysis

The changes in Stanley are starting to add up. When he and his group go back to digging "normal" holes, he feels quite good in spite of his head injury, which causes him a fair amount of pain. His increasing strength and skill at digging aren't dramatically noticeable. But his mental changes are more pronounced. Stanley no longer feels overwhelmed by the drudgery of digging every day. After being forced through several harder and more stressful days, the challenge of digging one five-foot-wide, five-foot-deep hole seems comparatively easy.

That afternoon Stanley learns why Zero has shown so much interest in letter writing. It turns out Zero has never learned to read and write. This scene once again shows Zero's willingness to reveal weakness to Stanley. Combined with his earlier admission about never having heard a common nursery rhyme, it strongly suggests Zero has missed out on many normal childhood opportunities. This is a kid who clearly needs kindness and help, and he is stuck in a place where all he gets is cruelty.

Some of the changes in Stanley's character are positive, but he has changed in negative ways too. When Zero asks for help learning to read, Stanley refuses without a second thought. A few weeks ago, he arrived at Camp Green Lake as a sweet, caring kid. Now he has lost much of that kindness. Instead of thinking about Zero's needs and feelings, Stanley focuses on how much effort it would take to help Zero and how little he, Stanley, would get out of it. Stanley callously decides it isn't worth helping Zero because Zero doesn't count. This shows Stanley has adopted some of the inhuman ways common at Camp Green Lake.

Stanley hasn't lost all of his empathy, but he soon learns not to show his softer side even with the kids who have high status in the group. When he hears Squid crying and shows concern, Squid threatens him. This reminds Stanley to tread carefully around the other boys. Unlike him, they really are criminals. He decides it is safest not to get too close to anyone.

When Magnet steals the bag of sunflower seeds from Mr. Sir, the differences between Stanley and the other boys seems particularly pronounced. Unlike the others, Stanley doesn't find this theft funny, nor does he welcome the break in routine it brings. Stanley isn't much of a risk taker, and he is more interested in avoiding punishment than in taking petty revenge on Mr. Sir.

It is worth noting Zero isn't mentioned in the scene about stealing the sunflower seeds. The boys don't share the bag with him. At this point Stanley has discounted Zero just like everyone else, so he doesn't glance at Zero to see his reactions. Therefore, readers have no information about how Zero feels.

Because Stanley is more accepted than Zero, he gets a chance to share the sunflower seeds. This is a problem. Stanley doesn't want trouble, but there's no way to avoid it. Refusing to share the seeds might not sit well with the other boys, but sharing them makes it more likely he will get in trouble. And as it turns out, Stanley doesn't even get a chance to decide between these two bad options. When the bag of sunflower seeds spills at Stanley's feet, there's no way to avoid trouble.

When Mr. Sir discovers the bag of sunflower seeds in Stanley's hole, Stanley claims he stole them and ate them all himself. This reveals an interesting aspect of his character. Although he avoids trouble whenever possible, he also accepts it head on when it can't be avoided. He doesn't try to weasel out of the problem by telling on the other boys. This decision is brave and loyal, and probably also smart. Stanley would likely face punishment from the adults no matter what, so his best bet is to avoid damaging his status with the other kids.

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