Literature Study GuidesHolesPart 1 Chapters 4 5 Summary

Holes | Study Guide

Louis Sachar

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Holes | Part 1, Chapters 4–5 : You Are Entering Camp Green Lake | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 4

Stanley has a feeling of unreality as he arrives at Camp Green Lake. The driver tells him to be careful, and he thanks the driver for the ride. He surveys the surroundings, which are barren except for some dreary buildings and tents. He briefly pities the bus driver, who now has to make the long drive back home.

Inside a building, the driver talks to a scary-looking, tattooed man. The man has a huge bag of sunflower seeds, and he says he has been eating them constantly ever since he quit smoking. He tells Stanley to call him Mr. Sir, and Stanley obeys but feels a little silly using such an odd name.

Mr. Sir strip searches Stanley and tells him about life at Camp Green Lake; he repeatedly says the camp isn't like the Girl Scouts. He says Stanley will dig a five-foot-deep, five-foot-wide hole every day. He also points out there are no fences or guards. There is no water anywhere near camp, so if Stanley tries to run away, he will die of thirst.

At the end of this speech, Mr. Sir asks Stanley if he is thirsty. Stanley, who has been tormented by thirst for hours, eagerly says yes. Mr. Sir tells him to "get used to it."

Chapter 5

Stanley is assigned to a tent called D tent. His counselor, Mr. Pendanski, cheerfully gives Stanley a mnemonic device for remembering his name: "Three easy words: Pen, dance, key." He also says Mr. Sir isn't as bad as he seems. The only person who should scare Stanley is the Warden.

Mr. Pendanski gives Stanley a pep talk about using his time at Camp Green Lake to get over his past mistakes. Then he introduces Stanley to his tent mates, who look filthy and exhausted. Mr. Pendanski, also known as Mom, calls the boys by their real names, but the boys use bizarre nicknames instead. Stanley is assigned to sleep in a cot that used to belong to someone called Barf Bag. And he shakes hands with kids who call themselves X-Ray, Squid, Magnet, Armpit, Zigzag, and Zero. Zero "either didn't have a real name or he didn't have a nickname." Both Mr. Pendanski and the other boys call him Zero. Mr. Pendanski says this is because "there's nothing inside his head." Zero doesn't react.

Stanley is desperate for a drink of water and asks one of his fellow campers where to get some. Uncomfortable with nicknames, Stanley uses the boy's real name, Theodore. The boy flings Stanley on the ground and insists on being called Armpit instead. Stanley is mystified, but he feels mildly better about using things once owned by someone called Barf Bag. He guesses the boys here give each other gross nicknames out of respect.

Analysis

Stanley's entry into Camp Green Lake feels eerily unreal. Dazed from thirst and a long bus ride, he is unsure what to make of his surroundings. On his way out of the bus, the driver tells him to be careful; Stanley doesn't know if the driver is referring to the bus steps or all of Camp Green Lake. The landscape and tents look strangely foreign to him too.

As readers learn more about Stanley's character, it seems clear he's out of place at a juvenile detention camp. He automatically thanks the bus driver for the ride. In spite of his own discomfort, he feels sorry for the driver and guard for having to take the long trip home. He is sweet and polite, and he isn't just on good behavior because he doesn't know what to make of his surroundings. His thoughts are genuinely empathetic.

Nothing in Camp Green Lake works quite like the world outside. The names definitely aren't normal. The man who checks Stanley in to Camp Green Lake introduces himself as Mr. Sir. Stanley can't believe this is a real name, but he uses it obediently.

Mr. Sir is all-around unpleasant. He may intend to humiliate the boys with his constant comments about Girl Scout camp, but his remarks just come across as weird. He seems to enjoy Stanley's fear and discomfort as he says escape is futile and denies Stanley a drink of water. But like his strange name, these details of Mr. Sir's character seem over the top. It's hard to tell whether he is really as bad as he seems.

Stanley's counselor, Mr. Pendanski, is the polar opposite of Mr. Sir. Mr. Pendanski talks more like a kindergarten teacher than an official at a juvenile detention center. He says Mr. Sir is an okay guy, reinforcing the idea that nothing at Camp Green Lake is quite as it seems.

But Mr. Pendanski isn't quite what he seems, either. He makes a big deal of saying Stanley can overcome his mistakes. His comments on this subject are clichés: "Everyone makes mistakes. You may have done some bad things, but that doesn't mean you're a bad kid." He seems to be saying these things by rote because he is supposed to. He doesn't take any time to get to know Stanley or figure out how to help him.

When Mr. Pendanski introduces the other boys in the tent, he briefly reveals his true character. After making a point of using every boy's real name, he refers to Zero by the same name everyone else does. Mr. Pendanski explains this by saying Zero is brainless. The casual cruelty of this comment suggests Mr. Pendanski is far less caring than he pretends to be.

Nicknames appear throughout the novel, and they are especially important to the boys at Camp Green Lake. This camp is a surreal place where nothing works the way it does in the outside world. It seems natural, then, for each boy to have a different name and identity at camp. Names like Armpit, Barf Bag, and Squid may seem gross or silly under normal circumstances, but as Stanley reflects at the end of Chapter 5, they are symbols of status and respect at camp.

Among all the boys in the tent, Zero is introduced last, and with only one name. Unlike the other boys, it seems, Zero doesn't have a special Camp Green Lake identity. Other than the strange matter of his name, little is revealed about Zero in this first introduction. Readers only see how Zero chooses not to react to a stinging insult from the adult in charge of caring for him.

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