Literature Study GuidesHolesPart 2 Chapters 29 30 Summary

Holes | Study Guide

Louis Sachar

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Holes | Part 2, Chapters 29–30 : The Last Hole | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 29

Back in the contemporary plot, the air gets humid, and thunderheads form over the nearby mountains. A storm starts beyond the mountains, but no rain falls on the lake. The boys suffer and sweat in the humid air as they dig. During a lightning strike, Stanley sees the shape of the mountains better than he ever has before. One of them is shaped like a thumb.

Stanley remembers the story of his great-grandfather, who "found refuge on God's thumb." Nobody ever knew what that meant. Stanley wonders if the thumb-shaped mountain could be the place his great-grandfather referred to.

Chapter 30

Zigzag claims it is July 8, his birthday. Stanley, who long ago lost track of the days, struggles to do the math to figure out how long it has been since his arrival on May 24. Zero confidently says it is 46 days.

That day, as Stanley digs his hole, he tells himself the 45th hole is the worst. But it isn't true. His body is strong and resilient now. Mr. Sir fills his canteen normally these days, but Stanley can get by on very little water.

The other boys continue to hassle Stanley about letting Zero dig for him. In the extra discomfort of the humidity, their arguments boil over, and Zigzag attacks Stanley. When Mr. Pendanski finds out, he orders Stanley to hit Zigzag back. Stanley tries, but Zigzag beats him up easily. Then Zero attacks Zigzag and nearly kills him. As the other boys struggle to stop Zero, Mr. Pendanski fires his gun into the air.

All the adults run to help. X-Ray tries to calm everyone down, but the adults aren't happy to learn Zero has been helping to dig Stanley's hole. Stanley says teaching Zero to read is more important than digging, and everyone laughs at the idea of Zero reading. They quiz Zero by having him sound out some words, and Zero does pretty well. But he hasn't learned the "h" sound yet, and when he is asked to sound out h-a-t, he guesses "chat." Stanley thinks this is a smart guess, but the counselors laugh and call Zero stupid.

Mr. Pendanski tells Zero to get back to digging. "It's all you'll ever be good for," he says. Without warning, Zero swings the shovel at Mr. Pendanski's head. Mr. Pendanski collapses, unconscious.

The counselors point their guns at Zero, but the Warden tells them not to shoot. "The last thing we need is an investigation," she says. Zero backs away, moving farther and farther. His canteen is by his hole, so the adults let him go, figuring he will come back to camp when he needs water. The Warden tells the counselors to guard all the water taps day and night and to bring Zero to her when they catch him. "It's almost time for me to paint my nails again," she says.

Then she says she still expects the boys from D tent to finish seven holes for the day.

Analysis

When thunderstorms reach the mountains near Camp Green Lake, they bring humidity and add to the boys' suffering. But they also bring Stanley a new insight. It comes during a lightning flash, when Stanley sees a distinct outline of the distant mountains for the first time. He notices one mountain shaped like a thumb and remembers his great-grandfather's story about finding "refuge on God's thumb."

Critics often accuse writers of poor technique when too many convenient coincidences drive a plot. And at this point in the novel, some readers might object to the growing list of coincidences in Holes. If Camp Green Lake's proximity to God's thumb were a coincidence, it would be quite a stretch. So would the presence of a descendant of Madame Zeroni at the camp. But this is a story involving forces such as curses and punishments from God. It seems possible, in this context, that positive supernatural forces are also at work. Perhaps fate or some magical force has placed Stanley at Camp Green Lake, intentionally giving him just enough information to figure out how to save himself.

A disagreement has been simmering between Stanley and several other boys for days. When it boils over, there is no single clear cause. Humidity-related discomfort may contribute. Zigzag also seems especially on edge, both happy because it is his birthday and upset because he is spending his birthday at Camp Green Lake. The kids at Camp Green Lake live under a great deal of stress, and some of them may be used to solving problems with violence. It doesn't take much to push them over the edge.

Few of Stanley's experiences at Camp Green Lake match his experiences in the outside world. But in both places he is physically harmed by boys who are smaller than him, and in both places adults seem to think Stanley should be able to defend himself because he is bigger. Here at Camp Green Lake, Mr. Pendanski even encourages Stanley to hit back. Stanley's attempt to obey is a mark of the change in his character. But he isn't a fighter, and Zigzag easily beats him up.

Zero, who never fought back when people picked on him, now intervenes to protect his friend. This shows a type of loyalty, but the way he fights is also desperate and vicious. People in fights sometimes follow unwritten rules about how far to go, but Zero seems unacquainted with these rules. It appears he is prepared to kill Zigzag. Mr. Pendanski, who didn't seem worried about the original fight, reacts to Zero's fighting style with great alarm.

The scene that follows reveals a great deal about the culture of Camp Green Lake. Readers see a hint of why X-Ray is the leader among the boys in D Tent. It is X-Ray who steps in to try to ease tensions between the gun-wielding counselors and the fighting boys. This is a risky move, and X-Ray clearly tries to be as unthreatening as possible while attempting to ease tensions.

The counselors, meanwhile, seem less concerned about the fight than about Zero helping Stanley dig. They say every boy needs to learn his own lessons from digging. Their attitude appears to reflect concern for the boys' well-being; yet when Stanley brings up the reading lessons with Zero, the idea of these adults as responsible caregivers is shattered. The counselors, especially Mr. Pendanski, mock the very idea of Zero reading. Even when Zero does well on their impromptu quiz, sounding out "sat" and "fat" and making a good guess on "hat," the counselors call him stupid and worthless.

Emotions are running high today. Zero has already fought to help a friend, and now he is being mocked for trying to learn to read. For a boy who has never had any opportunities, these reading lessons with Stanley must represent a tiny shred of hope for the future. When the adults mock him, Zero goes over the edge and attacks Mr. Pendanski, and then he flees.

The counselors don't hurt Zero or stop him from running away, but their dialogue shows their lenience has nothing to do with kindness. They are only concerned about being investigated if they shoot one of their campers. They also assume Zero will return to camp when he needs water. They let him run, assuming he is incapable of getting away for good.

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