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Literature Study GuidesHolesPart 2 Chapters 38 41 Summary

Holes | Study Guide

Louis Sachar

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Holes | Part 2, Chapters 38–41 : The Last Hole | Summary



Chapter 38

Stanley hoists Zero onto his shoulders and carries him, leaving the jars and the shovel behind. He notices a terrible smell, and he struggles over the thickening weeds. Eventually the ground flattens out, and the huge, stone thumb is overhead. Stanley drops Zero and collapses with his face in the mud.

Stanley is so tired he can hardly think, but after a moment, it occurs to him the mud is a sign of water. By now it is dark, and he digs a hole with his hands until he feels water. He laps it up, then digs deeper and drinks more. He carries handfuls of water to Zero and drips it into his friend's mouth.

In the process of digging, Stanley finds an onion. He eats half and gives the other half to Zero. Stanley tells Zero it is a sundae.

Chapter 39

Stanley wakes up in a grassy field under the thumb-shaped rock. His mouth is full of dirt from the muddy water he has been drinking. He scoops up some more of the muddy water and drinks it.

Stanley is in bad shape, but Zero is worse. He is sick as well as sore and dehydrated. He claims he is the thief who stole Clyde Livingston's shoes. Stanley doesn't believe this, but Zero seems more peaceful after saying it. He falls asleep, and Stanley sings him the song Elya Yelnats was supposed to sing to Madame Zeroni at the top of a mountain long ago.

Chapter 40

As Zero sleeps, Stanley remembers the wild onion he found and decides to look for more. He soon realizes the field is full of onions.

At this point the story jumps back in time to a scene in the old town of Green Lake. A woman named Mrs. Gladys Tennyson thanks Sam for selling her a tonic made from his special onions. She says the tonic cured her daughter, Becca, of a terrible disease.

Back in the main plot, Stanley and Zero spend two days sleeping, drinking water, and eating onions. Stanley is feeling pretty good, and even Zero is doing a bit better. Stanley wants to make their well hole bigger, so he decides to walk down the mountain to find the shovel and jars they left below.

Stanley tries to follow the trail he and Zero made days ago, and he thinks he is doing okay. But he can't find the shovel and jars. He continues walking until he feels tired. Then, sure he has gone too far, he almost turns around. But he sees something odd in the weeds, and it turns out to be the shovel and the sunflower seed sack. Stanley can't believe he carried Zero so far up the mountain. He grabs the things and climbs back up.

Chapter 41

Every day Zero gets a little better. Besides drinking water and eating onions, he talks. He says he rarely went to the homeless shelter because he was afraid of being caught. He knew he would become a ward of the state, which sounded bad to him.

Zero says he and his mother always stole, but when he was very young, he didn't know stealing was wrong. After his mother disappeared, he stole for himself. He needed shoes, so when he saw some at the homeless shelter, he just took them. Since they were old and smelly, he thought they didn't matter. But when people started running around looking for the shoes—not noticing them on Zero's feet—he got scared. He threw them off a freeway overpass. Then he stole some new shoes, got caught, and ended up at Camp Green Lake.


The scene in which Stanley carries Zero up the mountain has several clear parallels to the story of his great-great-grandfather, Elya Yelnats. Elya carried a pig up a mountain every day to drink from a stream that ran uphill. In the process, he got so strong he should have been able to carry his friend Madame Zeroni up the mountain too. But he let his friend down and ran away, forgetting his promise and bringing a curse down on himself and his family.

Stanley, similarly, has grown very strong in a few months. Unlike his great-great-grandfather, however, he stands by his friend. He carries Zero—whose real name is Hector Zeroni—to the top of a mountain, where he helps Zero drink from a mysterious source of water. If Zero is a descendant of Madame Zeroni, Stanley may actually be fulfilling the promise his great-great-grandfather made long ago. In other words, Stanley is undoing the curse.

In the process of digging for water, Stanley finds an onion. This event connects back to the historic plot involving Sam, the onion man, in the old town of Green Lake. Readers need to remember Sam had an onion field somewhere across the lake from the town. It is also important to remember these onions supposedly had magical healing properties.

Holes is a story of coincidences. A prime example is Zero's story about being the real thief who stole Clyde Livingston's shoes. This coincidence is deftly woven into the plot. Because the confession is so strange, Stanley initially discounts it. Stanley's disbelief helps soften the disbelief readers would likely feel if they were presented with this story more matter-of-factly. Stanley's doubtful reaction also heightens the sense of realism surrounding the magic.

By now the story interconnecting Stanley and Zero contains countless odd coincidences; it must be connected with magic in some way. The author doesn't explain how this magic came to be. Perhaps Madame Zeroni felt sorry for setting the curse and worked magic to undo it. Perhaps Zero has some magical abilities he doesn't know about and he set off the events, unintentionally. Even Stanley may have somehow worked supernatural forces in a way that influenced events.

Since long before the opening scene of Holes, the curse has been bringing Stanley bad luck. But now all those unlucky events are starting to look lucky after all. After Stanley is falsely convicted of Zero's crime, the chain of events puts him in a position to become a stronger person and reverse his family's bad fortunes, as well as righting a very old wrong.

Back when Madame Zeroni gave Elya Yelnats a pig, she made three requests. Stanley has already fulfilled two of them, in his way. Stanley carried Zero up to the top of a mountain and gave him water from a source that runs uphill. Now Stanley fulfills the third request by singing the song Elya Yelnats was supposed to sing to Madame Zeroni.

When Stanley realizes the meadow on the top of the mountain is an onion field, the omniscient narrator makes a clear connection between these onions and the historic plot involving Sam, the onion man. A brief flashback proves Sam's onions have curative powers. This strongly suggests the onions will help Stanley and Zero fight off the bacteria they consumed with the sploosh they drank. It also suggests the onions will sustain the boys for quite some time.

Stanley did something truly amazing when he carried Zero up the mountain. But Stanley was nearly delirious at the time, and he doesn't fully understand what he accomplished. His brief, solo journey back down the mountain gives him, and readers, a clearer picture of what Stanley did for Zero. Significantly, Stanley gets tired on the downhill walk alone to find the shovel, jars, and sunflower seed bag he left behind. He also has to rest many times on the way back up. Yet somehow he made it up, while exhausted and dehydrated, carrying Zero over his shoulder. This accomplishment shows Stanley has gained both physical and mental toughness since the beginning of the story.

During the boys' recovery at the top of the mountain, Zero and Stanley learn a great deal about each other. Here it is revealed that Zero is the thief who stole Clyde Livingston's shoes. His theft is connected to Zero's inability to read. Zero explains he was simply taking something he needed to survive and had no idea the shoes were special.

This interlude reveals a great deal about Zero's character. He has spent his life on the streets, somehow surviving for years by himself. He hid from the authorities to avoid becoming a ward of the state, even though he didn't know what that was. He also threw away Clyde Livingston's shoes when he realized they were important to people. These two tiny anecdotes create a picture of a lonely, frightened boy who survives largely by maintaining a very low profile and avoiding anything confusing or scary. Zero seems to be a boy who has never had anyone to rely on and wouldn't know how to ask for help if he did.

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