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by Louis Sachar

Analysis: Writing Style

To-the-Point, Accessible, Direct

How is Stanley Feeling?

Holes doesn't try to give us any big challenges. Sentences tend to be short and to the point, giving us just the information we need and no more. Oh, and there is very little figurative language.

Let's take an example: early on, when the narrator tells us about Stanley's life before Camp Green Lake, the narrator doesn't provide us with much info. He doesn't say that Stanley was as lonely as a cloud. He doesn't even say that Stanley leads a lonely life. All he tells us is that Stanley "didn't have any friends at home" (3.5). We're left to draw our own conclusions about the feelings involved.

No Frills (or Adverbs)

And now for another example:

He dug his shovel into the dirt.

It couldn't always be this hot, he thought. Surely it got cooler in December. Maybe then they froze.

He dug his shovel into the dirt.

His skin had gotten tougher. It didn't hurt so much to hold the shovel. (13.4-7)

Notice the short, simple sentences, and the lack of adverbs. Adverb are words that describe how things are done and tend give a little bit of insight into where a character is coming from emotionally. How does Stanley dig his shovel into the dirt? Angrily? Sadly? Wearily? Determinedly? We just don't know.

How is the Narrator Feeling?

In the absence of such clues, we're left to make do with simple, plain sentences like "[h]e dug his shovel into the dirt," or "Zero said nothing." All these direct, uncomplicated statements make the story sound kind of a like a newspaper report, or an account from a police blotter. Just the facts, ma'am, just the facts.

(Check out our section on "Tone" for more about how this lack of emotionally descriptive language affects the feeling of the book.)

Keep It Simple

No figurative language, no adverbs, no feeling: what else could possibly be missing? Well, how about description? Think about it: the few moments where things are described at length – like when we first see the town of Green Lake and hear about its physical beauty and the seeming tranquility of its people – we sit up and take notice. Given the lack of tranquility soon to show up in Green Lake, could this be the narrator's way of drawing our attention to the apparent perfection of the town? Or maybe even suggesting that we look at it more closely, and think about it more deeply than we otherwise might?

Bottom line: there's something to the simplicity of Sachar's language in Holes. Don't knock it till you try it.

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