Study Guide

Holes Family

By Louis Sachar

Family

Everyone in his family had always liked the fact that "Stanley Yelnats" was spelled the same frontward and backward. So they kept naming their sons Stanley. Stanley was an only child, as was every other Stanley Yelnats before him.

All of them had something else in common. Despite their awful luck, they always remained hopeful. As Stanley's father liked to say, "I learn from failure."

But perhaps that was part of the curse as well. If Stanley and his father weren't always hopeful, then it wouldn't hurt so much every time their hopes were crushed. (3.21-23)

Family is both a blessing and curse (literally!). Stanley is able to keep the hope alive because, well, it's in his genes. But the narrator suggests that maybe this hope isn't always the best way to stay happy. What do you think?

"If it makes you feel better to call me Mom, Theodore, go ahead and call me Mom." (5.36)

Why do the boys call Mr. Pendanski "Mom"? Is there something motherly about him? And one other thing: are they just making fun of this guy, or is there some comfort in thinking about D Tent as a kind of family?

"What's in the box?" asked Squid.

Stanley had forgotten he had brought it. "Uh, paper. I was going to write a letter to my mother."

"Your mother?" laughed Squid.

"She'll worry if I don't."

Squid scowled. (9.37-41)

Squid scowled. Awesome sentence, don't you think? But <em>why </em>does Squid scowl when he finds out that Stanley is writing to his mother? What does it tell us about Squid himself, and his relationship to his own family?

Dear Mom and Dad,

Camp is hard, but challenging. We've been running obstacle courses, and have to swim long distances on the lake. Tomorrow we learn […] to rock climb. I know that sounds scary, but don't worry.
(18.6-8)

Stanley's a good kid. So why on earth is he lying to his parents?

"You sure [Zero] has no family?" the Warden asked Mr. Pendanski.

"He's a ward of the state," Mr. Pendanski told her. "He was living on the streets when he was arrested."

"Is there anyone who might ask questions? Some social worker who took an interest in him?"

"He had nobody," said Mr. Pendanski. "He was nobody." (31.33-36)

In the world of Camp Green Lake, the only way to protect yourself is to have power. And, as we see throughout the course of the book, power seems to come from social relationships, right? So that means that <em>having</em> nobody amounts to <em>being</em> nobody. Double whammy.

What scared Stanley the most about dying wasn't his actual death. He figured he could handle the pain. It wouldn't be much worse than what he felt now. In fact, maybe at the moment of his death he would be too weak to feel pain. Death would be a relief. What worried him the most was the thought of his parents not knowing what happened to him, not knowing whether he was dead or alive. He hated to imagine what it would be like for his mother and father, day after day, month after month, not knowing, living on false hope. For him, at least, it would be over. For his parents, the pain would never end. (36.39)

Ever wonder why your mom is such a worrier? Well, that's what family does to you, especially as you grow up. We love our families and we want to protect them: that means we worry. So cut your mom some slack next time she reminds you to wear a coat.

He wondered if the Warden would send out a search party to look for him. It didn't seem likely. She didn't send anyone to look for Zero. But no one cared about Zero. They simply destroyed his files.

But Stanley had a family. She couldn't pretend he was never there. (36.40-41)

Whew, this one really makes us appreciate our families. And then some.

"Some kids had a birthday party," Zero said. "I guess it was about two weeks after my mother left. There was a picnic table next to the playscape and balloons were tied to it. The kids looked to be the same age as me. One girl said hi to me and asked me if I wanted to play. I wanted to, but I didn't. I knew I didn't belong at the party, even though it wasn't their playscape. There was this one mother who kept staring at me like I was some kind of monster. Then later a boy asked me if I wanted a piece of cake, but then that same mother told me, 'Go away!' and she told the kids to stay away from me, so I never got the piece of cake." (43.64)

What's going on with the birthday-party mom here? Is she just a crotchety lady who's getting her mean on? Or is she trying to protect her children from what she sees as a danger?

"She's going to ask a lot of questions," said Mr. Sir. "And this time she'll have the A.G. with her."

"Let her ask her questions," said the Warden. "Just so long as I have the suitcase, I don't care what happens. Do you know how long…" Her voice trailed off, then started up again. "When I was little I'd watch my parents dig holes, every weekend and holiday. When I got bigger, I had to dig, too. Even on Christmas." (45.21-22)

We know that the Warden is a descendent of Trout and Linda Walker, but this whole digging-on-Christmas thing is the only information we get about her family. Pretty awful, right? Family, for her, isn't a source of protection and love: it's a burden.

"Will you do me a favor" asked Squid.

"I guess," Stanley agreed, somewhat hesitantly.

"I want you to – " He turned to Ms. Morengo. "Hey, lady, you have a pen and paper I can borrow?"

She gave it to him, and Squid wrote down a phone number which he gave to Stanley. "Call my mom for me, okay? Tell her… Tell her I said I was sorry. Tell her <em>Alan</em> said he was sorry." (48.59-62)

Shmoop broke out the tissues for this one. But wait a second: wasn't Squid the one who scowled at Stanley before when he was writing to his mother? And now he wants to contact his own mom. What does this tell us about how Squid may have changed from earlier in the book?

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