Literature Study GuidesHolesPart 1 Chapters 23 26 Summary

Holes | Study Guide

Louis Sachar

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Holes | Part 1, Chapters 23–26 : You Are Entering Camp Green Lake | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 23

In Chapter 23 the narrator jumps back in time to describe what Green Lake was like 110 years ago.

The Green Lake of old is a real lake. A thriving town beside it is sometimes called "heaven on earth." There are many peach orchards nearby, and a young woman in town, Miss Katherine Barlow, has a recipe for spiced peaches so good people call them "food for the angels."

Miss Katherine teaches school in the town's run-down, one-room schoolhouse. In the evening she teaches adult classes. She loves her work, but sometimes she is annoyed by a young man who attends her evening classes. His name is Charles Walker, but everyone calls him Trout because his feet have a terrible fishy odor. They're infected with the same smelly fungus that earns Clyde "Sweet Feet" Livingston his nickname in the story's main plotline.

Trout Walker is the son of the richest man in town, and he always gets what he wants. But Miss Katherine dislikes him; he's disruptive and disrespectful in her classes, and he's stupid, too—and proud of it.

One day Trout Walker asks Miss Katherine out on a date. He wants her to ride in his new boat, a motorized contraption she finds noisy and ugly. Miss Katherine refuses, and he is furious. "No one ever says 'No' to Charles Walker!" he says. But Miss Katherine doesn't change her mind.

Chapter 24

Back in the story's main plotline, Stanley is shocked to see Mr. Sir's face almost unrecognizably swollen. When a boy asks what happened, Mr. Sir grabs the boy and chokes him, not letting go until the boy says he sees nothing wrong with Mr. Sir's face.

Later, when Mr. Sir arrives to fill the boys' canteens, Mr. Sir speaks normally to Stanley but dumps Stanley's water onto the ground. Stanley is left with an empty canteen, but he doesn't complain.

Chapter 25

In the historic plot, the people of Green Lake are superstitious. When they get sick, they go to the doctor—but they also buy magical remedies from Sam, the onion man. Sam grows onions somewhere on the far side of the lake. A couple of times a week, he rows across to get them. The rest of the time, he hooks a cart to his donkey, Mary Lou, and walks through town selling onions. He also sells many tonics and pastes made from onions. Sam claims his onion cures can fix any problem, from illness to baldness.

One day when Miss Katherine is buying onions from Sam, she complains about the schoolhouse's leaky roof. He offers to fix it, and she promises to pay him with several jars of spiced peaches. While he works Miss Katherine realizes she enjoys talking to him. He is smart and well read. Unfortunately he can't attend her evening classes because he is "a Negro."

When the roof is fixed, Miss Katherine asks Sam to fix something else, just for a chance to spend more time with him. She continues to make such requests for months, all the time getting to know Sam better. Eventually the schoolhouse is in perfect condition and everyone in town is proud of it. Miss Katherine is sad because she has no excuse to ask Sam to come and see her anymore.

When Miss Katherine confesses her feelings to Sam, he kisses her. Neither of them notice a local woman, Hattie Parker, watching them. Horrified at the sight of an African American man and a white woman kissing, she says, "God will punish you!"

Chapter 26

The historic plot continues in Chapter 26, when Miss Katherine arrives at school and finds the classroom empty. Then Trout Walker leads a mob inside. He calls Miss Katherine "Devil Woman," and the crowd begins tearing down the classroom, preparing to burn down the school.

Miss Katherine runs to the sheriff, who is drunk and refuses to help. He demands a kiss, saying she should be willing to kiss anyone if she is willing to kiss Sam. He grabs her and tells her if she kisses him, he will drive Sam out of town instead of killing him. Miss Katherine frees herself and runs to find Sam. As she leaves the sheriff says, "The law will punish Sam. And God will punish you."

Miss Katherine finds Sam and tells him they have to flee. She makes him leave his donkey, Mary Lou, and get in his boat. He rows halfway across the lake, but Trout Walker soon arrives in his motorized monstrosity. The Walker boat smashes into Sam's boat. Sam and Miss Katherine tumble into the water, where Sam is shot and killed. Miss Katherine wants to die with him, but the townspeople rescue her instead.

Now it's been more than 100 years since Sam's murder, and it hasn't rained on Green Lake once. The narrator addresses readers directly, saying, "You make the decision. Whom did God punish?"

A few days after Sam's death, Miss Katherine shoots the sheriff. She then puts on bright red lipstick and kisses him. For the next 20 years, everyone in the area lives in fear of the outlaw Kissin' Kate Barlow.

Analysis

In Chapter 23 the omniscient narrator describes the setting of Green Lake 110 years before Stanley arrived there. This description is the polar opposite of Camp Green Lake today. The lake is full of water, and the land is fertile. Most of all, the people are happy.

The setting description in this section is heavy on religious and supernatural imagery. Words like heaven and angels appear in the town's descriptions. This makes historic Green Lake seem like a very special place. But as elsewhere in the story, religious and supernatural words are used in a confusing way, as if the people who use them are missing the point.

One person from the town of Green Lake seems truly angelic: Miss Katherine Barlow, the schoolteacher. The description of Miss Katherine is completely at odds with earlier mentions of Kissin' Kate Barlow; some readers may wonder if she is the same person. Here she seems the picture of perfection. Everything she does, from canning peaches to teaching school, is sweet and admirable. She is even polite when she rejects a man she finds repellant.

Green Lake clearly has some negative aspects. Its residents value wealth greatly, and they defer to a rich man who thinks he deserves anything he wants. And this man, Trout Walker, wants to date Miss Katherine Barlow. This creates a conflict, because Miss Katherine takes no interest in him.

In a brief return to Stanley's story, the author shows the aftermath of Stanley's recent adventure with the Warden and Mr. Sir. This chapter's events are all consistent with the callous culture of Camp Green Lake. Mr. Sir has been abused by someone more powerful than him, so he takes out his anger on someone weaker. Although he is an adult who should care for the campers, he treats Stanley with inhuman cruelty, depriving him of water in the desert. Stanley, one of the least powerful characters within the structure of Camp Green Lake, has nowhere to turn for help. He must accept Mr. Sir's actions because fighting back would only bring worse punishment.

Chapter 24 doesn't add much new information about Camp Green Lake or Stanley's story. But it provides a bit of information about what is happening to Stanley. It also heightens tension and uncertainty by putting Stanley in a deeply uncomfortable and dangerous position—while his status has risen with his fellow campers, his status with the adults is dangerously low.

Returning to the historic town of Green Lake in Chapter 25, the omniscient narrator introduces a character who is widely admired but also an outsider. Sam, the onion man, claims his onions and onion products can cure any illness or problem. Although many people believe it and buy his products, Sam is clearly poor. He uses a cart pulled by a donkey, and he goes to fetch his onions in a rickety rowboat. These are surprisingly humble possessions for a man who can cure anyone of anything.

If Sam's onions do everything he says they do, they must be magical—a very unusual type of magical object. In most myths and legends, magic is associated with objects and substances people find important, like blood or bone or fire. Onions, in contrast, are mundane, everyday objects. But in Holes seemingly unimportant objects or people often turn out to have great significance. Examples include Kissin' Kate Barlow's lipstick tube and the underestimated boy named Zero. So Sam's onions may be very important indeed.

As the story progresses, it becomes clear why Sam is poor and an outsider. Unlike the other characters readers have met in Green Lake, he has dark skin. This means he faces both discrimination and segregation. He isn't even allowed to attend school.

Readers have already seen Miss Katherine portrayed as unusually angelic. Her good qualities include a lack of racial prejudice. She befriends Sam, attracted by his intelligence and kindness. Over time she and Sam fall in love.

The jumble of religious and supernatural terms in Holes gets even more muddled as readers follow the story of Sam and Miss Katherine. As Miss Katherine appears ever more angelic, the town of Green Lake seems less and less like heaven. Readers now know the townspeople are both classist, sexist, and racist. And when a woman sees Sam and Miss Katherine kissing, she warns, "God will punish you!" On its own this may seem like an odd, overdramatic statement. But the people of this town may not fully grasp the power of the words they use.

In Chapter 26, when the town of Green Lake turns against Miss Katherine and Sam, people claim to be acting in the name of God and good morals. They call the Miss Katherine "Devil Woman," all the while behaving like demons themselves. They don't simply turn against Miss Katherine and Sam, they also destroy the school and physically attack Miss Katherine.

Trout Walker leads the mob. Although he makes no personal comments to Miss Katherine during this scene, it's likely he's at least partly motivated by revenge and jealousy. From Trout's perspective, Miss Katherine wronged him by refusing to date him and then insulted him by choosing Sam instead. The mob is acting out of racism, but Trout has a personal score to settle as well.

Miss Katherine runs for help from the sheriff, but he refuses to provide it. The sheriff openly admits he plans to participate in the planned lynching of Sam, and he claims there is a law against African American men kissing white women. Whether the law actually says this is irrelevant. Green Lake is an isolated town, and he is in charge of upholding the law. This gives him the power to do as he chooses, and he chooses violence.

The scene with the sheriff helps explain why Miss Katherine becomes an outlaw famous for kissing the men she kills. In his conversation with Miss Katherine, the sheriff repeatedly demands a kiss. He even tries to force her to kiss him. Later, after Sam is killed for kissing Miss Katherine, she murders the sheriff in revenge and then kisses him. Readers should note lipstick is an important tool in her revenge plan. It seems highly likely Stanley is correct about the original owner of the lipstick tube he found.

Near the end of the chapter, readers find out no rain has fallen on Green Lake since the day of Sam's murder. This drought eventually caused the lake to dry up and the town to die. Earlier, two different townspeople predicted God's punishment would fall on Miss Katherine and Sam for kissing. Now the omniscient narrator suggests God punished the townspeople for racism and violence instead.

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