Study Guide

Holes Choices

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"Myra," said her father. "Elya and Igor have each offered a pig for your hand in marriage. It doesn't matter to me. A pig is a pig. So I will let you make the choice. Whom do you wish to marry?"

Myra looked confused. "You want me to decide?"

"That's right, my blossom," said her father.

"Gee, I don't know," said Myra. "Which pig weighs more?"

"They both weigh the same," said her father.

"Golly," said Myra, "I guess I choose Elya – No, Igor. No, Elya. No. Igor. Oh, I know! I'll think of a number between one and ten. I'll marry whoever guesses the closest number. Okay, I'm ready." (7.93-98)

This is a pretty silly example of someone having trouble making a choice. Besides the fact that it's funny, does this moment suggest anything else about what it means to make – or refuse to make – choices?

"Well, let me tell you something, Caveman. You are here on account of one person. If it wasn't for that person, you wouldn't be here digging holes in the hot sun" […]

"That person is you, Stanley. You're the reason you are here. You're responsible for yourself. You messed up your life." (12.35, 40)

Not that we trust Mr. P, but his take on things is that Stanley's situation is all the result of poor choices. What do you think of this? Besides the fact that we know it's not true (Stanley didn't really steal the shoes, after all), do you think it's that simple? Does anyone make choices in a vacuum, without being affected by other people or society?

His hole was waist deep. He dug his shovel into the dirt. As he dumped it out, he thought he saw something glisten as it fell onto the dirt pile. Whatever it was, it was quickly buried.

Stanley stared at the pile a moment, unsure if he'd even seen it. Even if it was something, what good would it do him? He'd promised to give anything he found to X-Ray. It didn't seem worth the effort to climb out of his hole to check it out. (13.10-11)

Talk about a lack of freedom. Faced with his own powerlessness in the face of the Warden and X-Ray, Stanley has few choices. Even the choices he does seem to have are restricted by others.

Out on the lake, the other boys asked Stanley what he knew about Mr. Sir's face, but he just shrugged and dug his hole. If he didn't talk about it, maybe it would go away. (24.14)

Throughout the first half of the book, Stanley typically reacts to conflict by avoiding it as best he can – often with his characteristic shrug.

The side of Stanley's face was pressed flat against the dirt. He tried to protect himself, but Zigzag's fists slammed off his arms and pounded his face into the ground.

All he could do was wait for it to be over. (30.75-76)

As always, Stanley is as passive as a… passive kid. We know he is bigger than Zigzag, so he could fight back if he chose to. Why doesn't he? Do you see this as a strength or a weakness?

Stanley angrily dug his shovel into the dirt. He was angry at everyone – Mr. Pendanski, the Warden, Zigzag, X-Ray, and his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather. But mostly he was angry at himself. (31.1)

This passage opens the chapter right after Zero runs away from camp. Why is Stanley suddenly so angry? Have we seen him angry at any time before this in the book?

He knew he never should have let Zero dig part of his hole for him. He still could have taught him to read. If Zero could dig all day and still have the strength to learn, then he should have been able to dig all day and still have the strength to teach.

What he should do, he thought, was go out after Zero.

But he didn't. (31.2-4)

Why do you think Stanley is struggling so much with deciding whether to go after Zero? Certainly fear plays a role, but is there anything else going on?

Stanley wondered if Mr. Sir had left the keys in the ignition. […]

<em>It's too late</em>, he told himself. Zero couldn't have survived.

<em>But what if it wasn't too late? </em>(32.20-21, 27)

This is the first point in the book where we see Stanley taking the initiative and making a decision instead of waiting for the decision to be made for him. Why now?

He lay on the dirt staring at the truck, which stuck lopsided into the ground. He sighed. He couldn't blame his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather this time. This time it was his own fault, one hundred percent. He had probably just done the stupidest thing he had ever done in his short and miserable life. (32.39)

After trying to steal the water truck only to crash it into a hole, Stanley realizes he's done a stupid thing. But for maybe the first time in the book, he explicitly blames himself, instead of falling back on the curse. Is this the first time Stanley's really made a choice?

It occurred to him that he couldn't remember the last time he felt happiness. It wasn't just being sent to Camp Green Lake that had made his life miserable. Before that he'd been unhappy at school, where he had no friends, and bullies like Derrick Dunne picked on him. No one liked him, and the truth was, he didn't especially like himself.

He liked himself now. (42.20-21)

Do you think Stanley likes himself now because he's finally taken some action and made some choices for himself? Or is it simply Zero's friendship that has made him feel this way? What do you think?

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