by Louis Sachar
Holes Theme of Fate and Free Will
The place of fate and free will in our lives is an ongoing question in Holes. Sachar has fun playing with the idea of destiny, but he never directly tells the reader what to think. Is the curse real? Does it actually determine what happens to Stanley and his family? Or is it just a funny idea that doesn't have much to do with Stanley's story? Different members of the Yelnats family seem to have different ideas about the curse and about how free they are to direct their own lives. Regardless of what they believe, though, the legacy of the past seems to hold sway over many of the book's characters. Sometimes for the better – but usually for the worse.
Questions About Fate and Free Will
- The narrator tells us more than once that Stanley and his father don't actually believe in the curse, thank you very much. But does the idea of the curse affect Stanley's actions in the book? Even if he doesn't believe in it, does it at all change the choices he makes?
- In Holes, we hear about a bunch of coincidences that don't directly have anything to do with the curse (think Clyde Livingston and Trout Walker having the same incurable foot fungus, Zero and Stanley surviving by finding Sam's overturned boat, etc.). Do all these coincidences make the reader more likely to believe in the curse?
- Is the story more or less compelling if you believe in the curse? Does it make a difference to you as a reader if you think the ending of a book is somehow "predetermined" and the events are destined to unfold the way they do?
- Stanley's mother consistently downplays the importance of the curse and tries to point out ways in which the Yelnatses have been lucky in their lives, rather than unlucky. Why does she work so hard to try to convince Stanley and his father that the curse isn't real? Can looking at your "destiny" in a certain way change how you might approach your future?
- After five generations of the Yelnats family suffering under the curse, why is the curse undone now? Is there anything special about Stanley that makes him worthy of fulfilling this destiny?
Chew on This
The curse is a cool literary device that makes the reader feel like things have worked out neatly at the end of the book. But beyond that, it really doesn't have much to do with the plot; the characters make their own decisions just as they would if there were no curse.
Through the course of the book, Stanley figures out that he isn't just a slave to his fate. By overcoming his sense of being controlled by the curse, he overcomes the curse itself.