Holes | Study Guide

Louis Sachar

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Holes | Quotes

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1.

There is no lake at Camp Green Lake.


Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 1

The opening line of Holes introduces the idea that Camp Green Lake isn't what one would expect based on its name. As it turns out, nothing at Camp Green Lake is quite what it seems to be. This opening is perfectly suited to a book full of contradictions.

2.

Take a bad boy and make him dig a hole every day in the hot sun.


Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 2

The narrator shares the purported rationale behind the hole digging at Camp Green Lake; if a "bad boy" does the hard work of digging a hole every day, "it will turn him into a good boy." But the narrator expresses this idea in such simplistic terms it sounds almost ridiculous. This reflects the narrator's apparent skepticism toward the idea.

It soon becomes clear the adults running Camp Green Lake don't care whether the boys become better people. They don't care what happens to the boys, period—even whether they live or die. The adults are using the boys as slave labor to search for a treasure buried somewhere in the lake bed.

3.

While the wolf waits below, hungry and lonely, / He cries to the moo-oo-oon, / "If only, if only."


Stanley Yelnats IV, Part 1, Chapter 3

On the way to Camp Green Lake, Stanley sings himself a lullaby his father used to sing to him. Later readers learn this is a magical song often sung by Stanley's great-great-grandfather, Elya Yelnats. The song is part of the reason Stanley's family is living under a generations-old curse.

The words of this lullaby are both threatening and regretful. This tone echoes Stanley's position in life at this point in the story. He is in danger, and he wishes his life were different. Later, as Stanley's fortunes change, he hears a different version of this song.

4.

This isn't a Girl Scout camp.


Mr. Sir, Part 1, Chapter 4

When Stanley first arrives at Camp Green Lake, the improbably named Mr. Sir tells him he isn't in Girl Scouts. Throughout the novel, Mr. Sir regularly repeats some version of this statement as he goads the boys at camp. He is saying Camp Green Lake is no fun, and he is also suggesting girls are weak and the boys are behaving girlishly. But Mr. Sir's statement never seems to have the intended effect. It makes Mr. Sir seem more ridiculous than threatening.

At the end of the novel, Camp Green Lake is shut down and bought by people who want to build a Girl Scout camp. This situational irony (in which what happens is the opposite of what is expected to happen) adds a bit of humor to the end of the novel.

5.

There's really only one rule at Camp Green Lake: Don't upset the Warden.


Mr. Pendanski, Part 1, Chapter 5

The Warden is the most threatening character at Camp Green Lake. This comment by Mr. Pendanski appears long before the Warden appears in the story. When the Warden does appear, she proves to be dangerous and erratic. Both adults and kids at Camp Green Lake are terrified of her.

6.

The first hole's the hardest.


Magnet, Part 1, Chapter 7

Magnet, one of Stanley's fellow inmates at Camp Green Lake, seems to encourage Stanley as he digs his first hole. But after Stanley is finished digging, the other boys tease him, saying the second hole is worse. They soon say the third is the worst, delivering an important lesson for survival at Camp Green Lake: every hole is the hardest, and every day is awful. This is grim news, but it is also genuinely helpful. As the novel progresses, Stanley learns to live in the moment and take each challenge as it comes.

7.

A lot of people don't believe in curses.


Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 8

In this passage the narrator suggests that, despite all logic, curses are indeed real and can cause harm, whether people believe in them or not. The narrator goes on to say, "A lot of people don't believe in yellow-spotted lizards, either," invoking these poisonous creatures to create a foreboding tone.

8.

You've all got something to offer ... even you, Zero. You're not completely worthless.


Mr. Pendanski, Part 1, Chapter 12

Mr. Pendanski often pretends he cares about the boys at Camp Green Lake. But his encouragement never reaches beyond clichés like "You've all got something to offer." Worse, he singles Zero out as worthless and stupid. Mr. Pendanski makes comments like these throughout the story, coming off as cruel and despicable.

9.

It was said that Green Lake was "heaven on earth."


Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 23

In the middle of the novel, the narrator introduces a historic plotline set in the old town of Green Lake. This section of the story includes many religious and supernatural terms, but the reality of Green Lake isn't so lofty. The so-called heaven on earth is a stratified society where racial segregation and even violence are seen as normal and even right. The narrator also says people described Miss Katherine's peaches as "food for the angels." Miss Katherine herself does seem something like an angel at first, but after her fellow townspeople murder her African American boyfriend, Sam, she transforms into a murderous outlaw.

Throughout the story people make many false judgments about God, fate, and supernatural forces. Meanwhile their actions affect these forces in ways they don't understand. This suggests people can't rely on supernatural forces and should focus on making good life choices instead.

10.

You make the decision: Whom did God punish?


Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 26

In the historic plotline about Green Lake, several townspeople say God will punish Miss Katherine Barlow, a white woman, for kissing Sam, an African American man. After the townspeople murder Sam, rain stops falling on Green Lake, and the lake dries up. The town dies with the lake, and the people scatter. When the omniscient narrator asks readers, "Whom did God punish?" he is suggesting God hates murder and racial violence, not interracial relationships.

11.

Kate smiled. There was nothing they could do to her anymore. 'Start digging,' she said.


Narrator, Part 1, Chapter 28

In the historic plotline about Green Lake, Kissin' Kate Barlow—formerly known as Miss Katherine—dies daring her old enemy, Trout Walker, to look for the treasure she buried somewhere in the dry lake bed. Later readers learn the Warden's last name is Walker, and she says her parents forced her to dig holes in the lake bed when she was a child. Apparently Trout Walker took Kissin' Kate's dare and never stopped digging for that treasure. Even after his death, his descendants continue to look for it.

12.

When you spend your whole life living in a hole ... the only way you can go is up.


Zero, Part 2, Chapter 36

In the novel, holes are a metaphor for problems, among other things. This is made clear in Zero's comment about living his whole life in a hole. When he and Stanley set out for the Big Thumb, Zero has already decided it is better to die than go on living as a nothing. For Zero, having a plan and a friend is already a step up, even if the plan might fail.

13.

His strength came from somewhere deep inside himself and also seemed to come from outside.


Narrator, Part 2, Chapter 38

When Stanley is carrying Zero up the mountain, he feels strong. Part of this strength comes from the toughness he has developed at Camp Green Lake. At this point Stanley is used to hard work. His body is stronger, and he knows how to keep his mind focused on the task at hand.

But some of Stanley's strength seems to come from outside himself. Stanley never thinks back on this explicitly, nor does the narrator explain it. One possible interpretation is that fate or some supernatural force is helping him along in this moment.

14.

You will have to fill in the holes yourself.


Narrator, Part 3, Chapter 50

At the end of the novel, holes are metaphorically associated with questions. The narrator leaves some questions about the story unanswered. For example, readers don't know what happens when Stanley faces his old bully, Derrick Dunne. Nor are readers told why Zero's mother disappeared. The narrator explicitly acknowledges there are omissions and invites readers to imagine the outcomes.

15.

Be strong my weary wolf, turn around boldly. / Fly high, my baby bird, / My angel, my only.


Zero's mother, Part 3, Chapter 50

In the final moments of the novel, Zero—now referred to by his real name, Hector Zeroni—is with his mother, who sings him a familiar lullaby. Stanley and his family sing a similar song several times in the story, but their version is full of regret. The version Zero's mother sings is more hopeful, offering words of encouragement and strength. Its happier tone echoes the happier state of Stanley's and Zero's lives at the end of the novel.

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