Study Guide

Holes Fate and Free Will

By Louis Sachar

Fate and Free Will

Supposedly, he had a great-great-grandfather who had stolen a pig from a one-legged Gypsy, and she put a curse on him and all his descendants. Stanley and his parents didn't believe in curses, of course, but whenever anything went wrong, it felt good to be able to blame someone. (3.11)

Hmm, we're not so sure about this one. The narrator tells us here that Stanley and his parents don't believe in the curse, but it sounds like <em>do</em> believe in it when they want to, right? Is this fair?

Kate Barlow didn't actually kiss Stanley's great-grandfather. That would have been really cool, but she only kissed the men she killed. Instead, she robbed him and left him stranded in the middle of the desert.

"He was <em>lucky</em> to have survived," Stanley's mother was quick to point out." (3.31-32)

Shmoop is all about looking at things from multiple perspectives. And that's exactly what Stanley's mom does here. The events of the first Stanley Yelnats' life (or anyone else's life for that matter) can actually be seen as either lucky <em>or</em> unlucky, depending on your point of view.

Stanley couldn't help but think that there was something special about the shoes, that they would somehow provide the key to his father's invention. It was too much of a coincidence to be a mere accident. Stanley felt like he was holding destiny's shoes. (6.30)

Stanley – philosopher that he is – always seems to be looking for meaning in the things that happen in his life. "Destiny," like the curse, gives him a way to understand things that are beyond his control.

It wasn't until the ship had cleared the harbor and was heading across the Atlantic that [Elya] remembered his promise to carry Madame Zeroni up the mountain. He felt terrible.

He wasn't afraid of the curse. He thought that was a lot of nonsense. He felt bad because he knew Madame Zeroni had wanted to drink from the stream before she died. (7.119-120)

Like so many others characters in the book, Elya Yelnats doesn't exactly believe in the curse. He sees himself as responsible for his own actions and what happens to him, and the only thing he's worried about is Madame Zeroni's disappointment. Hmmm… do you think the book is setting us up for something here?

[L]ife was not easy. Elya worked hard, but bad luck seemed to follow him everywhere. He always seemed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

He remembered Madame Zeroni telling him that she had a son in America. Elya was forever looking for him. He'd walk up to complete strangers and ask if they knew someone named Zeroni, or had ever heard of anyone named Zeroni.

No one did. Elya wasn't sure what he'd do if he ever found Madame Zeroni's son anyway. Carry him up a mountain and sing the pig lullaby to him? (7.132-34)

This one made us chuckle. Imagine Elya finding some random American guy and asking if he could carry him up a mountain and sing a pig lullaby to him. Also, don't you think Mr. Yelnats is going to a lot of trouble to try to do something about this curse he doesn't even believe in? What's up with that?

After [Elya's] barn was struck by lightning for the third time, he told Sarah about his broken promise to Madame Zeroni. "I'm worse than a pig thief," he said. "You should leave me and find someone who isn't cursed." (7.135)

Okay, now Elya's really having it both ways: he doesn't believe in the curse, but when bad things happen to him, he blames it on the curse. Remind you of anyone else in the book?

A lot of people don't believe in curses.

A lot of people don't believe in yellow-spotted lizards either, but if one bites you, it doesn't make a difference whether you believe in it or not. (8.1-2)

This one messes with our minds a little. Just think about it.

"I should have just kept them," said Zero. "I'd already made it out of the shelter and everything. I ended up getting arrested the next day when I tried to walk out of a shoe store with a new pair of sneakers. If I had just kept those old smelly sneakers, then neither of us would be here right now." (41.27)

Ah, the fickle finger of fate. Zero regrets giving up Clyde Livingston's sneakers, since it didn't help him stay out of trouble. But to the reader, Zero's decision to dump the shoes seems necessary and right, since it brought him and Stanley together to become friends. So sweet.

[Stanley] remembered what Zero had said a few days before. If Zero had just kept those shoes, then neither of them would be here right now.

As Stanley stared at the glittering night sky, he thought there was no place he would rather be. He was glad Zero put the shoes on the parked car. He was glad they fell from the overpass and hit him on the head.

When the shoes first fell from the sky, he remembered thinking that destiny had struck him. Now, he thought so again. It was more than a coincidence. It had to be destiny. (42.26-28)

Stanley often feels like the events of his life are being controlled by outside forces. But this is the first time (other than his very brief thoughts about "destiny's shoes" right before he gets arrested) that he sees the workings of fate as a good thing. What's different about his situation now that makes him want to see fate as a generous, beneficial force, instead of just something that holds him back?

Stanley's mother insists that there never was a curse. She even doubts whether Stanley's great-great-grandfather really stole a pig. The reader might find it interesting, however, that Stanley's father invented his cure for foot odor the day after the great-great-grandson of Elya Yelnats carried the great-great-great-grandson of Madame Zeroni up the mountain. (50.1)

Once again, the narrator is playing with us. This guy is a master of telling us something while also telling us the exact opposite at the same time, isn't he?

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