Literature Study GuidesHolesPart 2 Chapters 35 37 Summary

Holes | Study Guide

Louis Sachar

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Holes | Part 2, Chapters 35–37 : The Last Hole | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 35

Zero looks terribly dehydrated and asks Stanley if there is water in his canteen. Stanley asks Zero to go back to camp, but Zero refuses. He offers Stanley some sploosh. Stanley uncertainly follows Zero under the boat, where Zero produces an ancient jar full of something brown. He whacks the top off the jar with the shovel and offers Stanley a drink.

Stanley hesitates, unsure if it's safe to drink the sploosh. But he's too thirsty to refuse. The sploosh tastes a little like peaches. When the boys finish, Stanley asks how much sploosh Zero has left. Zero tells him it is gone.

Stanley begs Zero to come back to camp, but Zero refuses. He asks instead about the name of the boat, which he has been trying to sound out. Stanley tells him the name: Mary Lou. During this conversation Zero collapses on the ground, moaning, and Stanley realizes the sploosh has made him sick. Zero obviously prefers death to Camp Green Lake, so Stanley tries a different strategy. He points out the strange mountain in the distance, the one that looks like a thumb.

Chapter 36

The boys set out with Zero's shovel, Stanley's empty canteen, and four unbroken jars in a sunflower seed sack. Before they leave, Stanley admits he often has bad luck. Zero doesn't mind. "When you spend your whole life living in a hole," he says, "the only way you can go is up."

Zero repeatedly collapses on the walk. Stanley worries they will never reach the Big Thumb, but he and Zero try to distract each other. They speculate about who Mary Lou was and guess she was a beautiful woman. Stanley also spells words for Zero to sound out.

Soon Stanley is too hot and thirsty to talk. He silently frets about the pain his disappearance will cause his parents. Again he and Zero try to rally themselves with banter. They tell each other there is a restaurant at the Big Thumb, and Zero asks for an ice cream sundae.

At the edge of the lake, the boys find a 50-foot cliff. They start climbing, and soon they get to a spot too high to reach. Stanley lifts Zero up, and Zero helps Stanley hoist himself up on the shovel. During this maneuver Zero hangs onto the shovel so hard his hands split open and bleed.

But soon the boys are out of the lake bed and getting closer to the Big Thumb.

Chapter 37

The boys stagger up the mountain, zigzagging back and forth, pulling themselves up on weeds. Stanley is so tired he wants to collapse, but he keeps going because Zero does. Zero tries to sound out words, but soon he doubles over and vomits.

As they walk Stanley notices more and more weeds and bugs. He says this must mean water. Zero grins and then collapses. Stanley tries to rouse him with a promise of a sundae, but Zero doesn't respond.

Analysis

Several elements of Stanley's story connect back to the historic plot. Miss Katherine Barlow paid Sam in jars of spiced peaches when he did repairs on the schoolhouse. Sam had a beloved donkey called Mary Lou, who died after a crash in his rowboat. Now Stanley finds Zero hiding under a wrecked rowboat with the name Mary Lou painted on the side. Zero has survived by drinking jars of a very old, indefinable brown substance that tastes a bit like peaches. It seems the boys have accidentally or magically stumbled on some objects Miss Katherine and Sam left behind.

In this scene it becomes clear Zero has decided to die rather than return to Camp Green Lake. Unlike readers, he has not heard the story of Miss Katherine and Sam. He has no idea how the jars of brown liquid came to be left in the center of the lake. He drinks it out of desperation. But it tastes good, and it gives him enough liquid to keep him alive for a couple of days. To Zero the existence of this liquid, which he playfully names "sploosh," must seem like a miracle.

But he doesn't hesitate to share the last jar of sploosh with Stanley. This suggests Zero values Stanley's friendship a great deal. It also shows Zero isn't hanging on to hope of survival. Even with the sploosh, he has nowhere to go except back to Camp Green Lake. And no matter how often Stanley asks, Zero refuses to return there.

In the face of this refusal, Stanley faces a major decision. Stanley usually isn't much of a risk taker. But he is a very hopeful person, and he is also impulsive. This critical moment in the story sets his cautious nature against his sometimes wild optimism.

The safe choice is returning to Camp Green Lake. Since he's had a little drink, he can almost certainly make it back. There he can get water, and maybe he'll be sent to a hospital to recover from whatever illness he might have contracted drinking the sploosh. But if he returns to the camp, he'll have to do it alone. It is hard to know whether Stanley might use his greater size to force Zero to return to camp, but the option doesn't occur to him. To his mind, returning to camp means leaving Zero behind to die.

The wildly optimistic option is taking Zero to the thumb-shaped mountain, where Stanley's great-grandfather may have found water 100 years ago. This is a risky proposition. Stanley isn't sure if they can make it, or even if they'll find water on the mountain. His theory about the water is more like a wild guess. But this is the option Stanley chooses. He puts his own life at risk to give Zero a tiny hope of survival.

When Stanley and Zero set out for the Big Thumb, Stanley is worried they won't make it. But he admits this out loud only once, when he says he is unlucky. After that he puts on a brave face for his friend. His head is full of dark thoughts about how his parents will feel if he dies, but his dialogue is full of jokes and reading tips. He is being very brave, continuing onward cheerfully in the face of great danger.

Readers don't have access to Zero's inner thoughts, but outwardly he seems quite cheerful. His comment about "living in a hole" suggests he has felt stuck in a difficult spot his whole life, not just at Camp Green Lake. An hour ago Zero was resigned to die alone, and now he has a friend trying to survive with him. So for him the decision to set out on this journey likely feels like a life improvement—even if there's little hope of success.

But the journey is incredibly difficult. The boys are weak and dehydrated, and Zero is sick. They have almost no resources aside from their own determination. In this regard Stanley proves far stronger than he was at the story's outset. Back then he didn't think he could dig his first hole. Now he tells himself he can keep going as long as Zero can.

On the walk Zero also shows almost superhuman toughness and loyalty. He never once complains, even when he is so sick and weak he collapses. And when Stanley needs help climbing a cliff, Zero uses every ounce of his strength to assist him, never mentioning the injury he sustains in the process. Everyone at Camp Green Lake discounted Zero as worthless, but he is clearly a strong, reliable, extraordinary person.

As Stanley and Zero start to climb the mountain, Stanley is exhausted but resolved to keep going as long as possible. His intelligence helps him. When he spots weeds and bugs, he reasons there must be water to sustain these signs of life, and this fuels his hopefulness.

Zero continues to show great mental toughness, but his body has its limits. He keeps up his cheerful attitude until he falls unconscious. Then he literally can't go on.

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