Study Guide

Holes Power

By Louis Sachar

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During the summer the daytime temperature hovers around ninety-five degrees in the shade – if you can find any shade. There's not much shade in a big dry lake.

The only trees are two old oaks to the eastern edge of the "lake." A hammock is stretched between the two trees, and a log cabin stands behind that.

The campers are forbidden to lie in the hammock. It belongs to the Warden. The Warden owns the shade. (1.3-5)

Dun dun dun…the Warden. We know nothing about the Warden yet, except that he or she is clearly a very powerful person. And we can tell from the tone of this passage that the Warden sure doesn't use his or her power for good. This one definitely isn't going to end well.

Back at school, a bully named Derrick Dunne used to torment Stanley. The teachers never took Stanley's complaints seriously, because Derrick was so much smaller than Stanley. Some teachers even seemed to find it amusing that a little kid like Derrick could pick on someone as big as Stanley. (6.22)

Stanley may be <em>physically</em> powerful (or at least big), but this doesn't keep him from being bullied by other kids at school. Why do you think Derrick is able to push Stanley around?

Stanley looked around the room. This was the one place in camp where the boys could enjoy themselves, and what'd they do? They wrecked it. The glass on the TV was smashed, as if someone had put his foot through it. Every table and chair seemed to be missing at least one leg. Everything leaned. (9.42)

Food fight! Well, kind of – this is a bit more violent. Why do you think the boys at Camp Green Lake ruined the one place where they can relax? Does it make them feel more powerful? Do they have power or control over anything else in their lives?

He slammed his blade into the ground, then dumped out another shovelful of dirt. It was a little surprising, he thought, that X-Ray was the leader of the group, since he obviously wasn't the biggest or the toughest. In fact, except for Zero, X-Ray was the smallest. Armpit was the biggest. Zigzag may have been taller than Armpit, but that was only because of his neck. Yet Armpit, and all the others, seemed to be willing to do whatever X-Ray asked of them.

As Stanley dug up another shovelful of dirt, it occurred to him that Armpit wasn't the biggest. He, the Caveman, was bigger. (11.16-17)

Like the bully at Stanley's school, X-Ray is not a physically powerful person, but he is still the unchallenged leader of D tent. What is the source of his power? What is it about him that makes him the leader? What would happen if the other boys revolted?

[The Warden] gently shook the canteen, letting the water swish inside the plastic container. "Do you hear the empty spaces?" she asked.

"Yes," said Mr. Pendanski.

"Then fill it," she said. "And the next time I tell you to do something, I expect you to do it without questioning my authority. If it's too much trouble for you to fill a canteen, I'll give you a shovel." (14.39-41)

The scary, scary Warden is the most powerful person at Camp Green Lake. Did we mention she's scary? Anyway, her power allows her not only to tell other people what to do, but also to completely control the conversation. Just imagine someone shushing you all the time and you'll know what we mean.

Stanley put [the letter] in the big pocket of his pants.

"Aren't you going to read it to us?" asked Armpit.

"Give him some space," said X-Ray. "If Caveman doesn't want to read it to us, he doesn't have to. It's probably from his girlfriend."

Stanley smiled. (16.26-29)

This exchange conveniently takes place right after Stanley gives the lipstick tube to X-Ray, securing the bully a day off from digging; X-Ray is clearly feeling generous toward Stanley. Just as the Warden gives the boys more water when she thinks they're close to finding something valuable, X-ray uses his power to reward and encourage the people who do what he wants. Sneaky or brilliant? Or both?

After digging all day, he didn't have the strength to try to teach Zero to read and write. He needed to save his energy for the people who counted. (18.21)

Now that he's moving up in the world of D tent (thanks to his big lipstick tube find), Stanley doesn't want to waste his strength on someone less powerful than him. Why do you think Zero doesn't count to Stanley at this point? Who exactly are "the people who counted?"

A rattlesnake lay coiled beneath his foot. Its tail was pointing upward, rattling.

Stanley backed his leg away, then turned and ran.

The rattlesnake didn't chase after him. It had rattled its tail to warn him to stay away.

"Thanks for the warning," Stanley whispered as his heart pounded.

The rattlesnake would be a lot more dangerous if it didn't have a rattle. (21.10-14)

Let's take a quick step back: Stanley runs into this snake right after the whole nail-scratching episode with the Warden and Mr. Sir. Do you think the two encounters have anything to do with each other? The way Shmoop sees it, both of these moments show us how a lot of a person's power comes from the threat of what they might do, rather than the certainty of what they will do.

"You thirsty, Caveman?" Mr. Sir asked.

"Yes, Mr. Sir," Stanley said, handing his canteen to him.

Mr. Sir opened the nozzle, and the water flowed out of the tank, but it did not go into Stanley's canteen. Instead, he held the canteen right next to the stream of water.

Stanley watched the water splatter on the dirt, where it was quickly absorbed by the thirsty ground. (24.21-24)

This seems extraordinarily mean and inhumane, to boot. Why is Mr. Sir punishing Stanley this way when Stanley isn't the one who scratched him? What does he gain by punishing this kid for something he had no control over?

The lizard landed on Kate's bare ankle. Its sharp black teeth bit into her leg. Its white tongue lapped up the droplets of blood that leaked out of the wound.

Kate smiled. There was nothing they could do to her anymore. "Start digging," she said.

"Where is it?" Linda screeched.

"Where'd you bury it?" Trout demanded.

Kate Barlow died laughing. (28.42-46)

Why is Kate laughing as she dies? Does being on the brink of death give her a power she hadn't had before? Do we see this moments-before-death power anywhere else in the book?

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