Study Guide

Holes Chapter 7

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Chapter 7

  • Stanley is digging a hole the next morning while it's still dark.
  • After breakfast that morning, the boys had each filled their canteens and fetched a shovel from a shed near the showers. Then each group of boys was sent to dig in a different area.
  • The camp is full of holes that have been dug in the past: just picture it! Kind of creepy, right?
  • If the boys find anything interesting or unusual while digging, they're supposed to tell Mr. P or Mr. Sir. And if the Warden likes what they find, they'll get the rest of the day off with no more digging. Weird system, but hey, no one's complaining about a day off.
  • Stanley continues to dig, struggling in the heat.
  • Get ready to shift gears. Suddenly we're in the past, hanging out with Stanley's great-great-grandfather. His name is Elya Yelnats, and when we meet him he is fifteen years old and living in Latvia (a small country in northeastern Europe).
  • Bonus, this is a love story! Stanley's great-great-grandpa is in love with the local beauty, Myra Menke. He wants to marry her, but she's also being courted by Igor Barkov, a fifty-seven-year-old pig farmer.
  • Turns out this is some tough competition: the pig farmer offers Myra's father his fattest pig in exchange for Myra. Top that, Elya.
  • Elya goes to see his friend Madame Zeroni – an old woman with only one foot – to ask her for advice. She tells Elya that he shouldn't marry Myra anyway: she's got nothing going for her other than her beauty.
  • But Elya doesn't get it. As the narrator tells us, "[h]e was fifteen, and all he could see was Myra's shallow beauty" (7.40).
  • So Madame Zeroni agrees to help mini-great-great-grandpa. She gives him a little baby pig, the runt of the litter, and tells him that if he carries the pig up a nearby mountain every day and lets it drink from the stream at the top, by Myra's birthday – the big decision day – the pig will be big and strong. Oh, and one more thing: Elya has to sing a special song to the pig while he's carrying it. Weird, we know, but she's a wise old lady, so just go with it.
  • Speaking of going with it, there's more: on the last day, after he gives the pig to Myra's father, he has to carry Madame Zeroni (yep, the old lady herself!) up the mountain and sing the song to her, too. If he doesn't do it, she tells him, things will be bad. Very bad. In fact, "he and his descendants would be doomed for all of eternity" (7.59).
  • Whoa.
  • Now we're back in the present with Stanley, who is still digging his hole. His progress is super slow, he's finished the last of his water, and he has blisters on his hands. Not great.
  • Mr. Sir drives up in the water truck, refills the boys' canteens, and tells Stanley he'd better learn to dig faster. The guy is still eating sunflower seeds, and he spits some shells into Stanley's half-dug hole. Not the best motivator, it seems.
  • Get ready: through the magic of narrative, we jump back again to the story of Elya in Latvia.
  • Elya has been carrying the pig up the mountain every day, singing to it, doing exactly as he was told. In the meantime, he's been growing bigger and stronger from all that hog-hauling.
  • On Myra's birthday, Elya gets a little over-eager: he skips the climb up the mountain and just takes the pig straight to Myra's father. When Myra's father weighs the pig, he finds that it weighs exactly the same as Igor Barkov's pig. What are the chances?
  • (Back in the present, Stanley is still digging. He is thoroughly miserable, and even his blisters have blisters. Ouch.)
  • Since both pigs weigh the same, Elya suggests that Myra decide which suitor to marry. Seems fair enough.
  • Just one problem: Myra doesn't even remember who Elya is (talk about heartbreak!), can't decide which one to marry, and doesn't even seem to care. So Elya walks away in disgust – he doesn't want to marry a girl like that anyway.
  • (Back at Camp Green Lake, Mr. Pendanski has brought the boys lunches and fresh water. Stanley is still way behind the other boys in his digging. It is his first day, after all.)
  • Now back in Latvia (anyone getting dizzy?), Elya wanders around in despair, finally seeing the truth of what Madame Zeroni had told him about Myra at the very start of this whole ordeal.
  • He decides right then and there to go to America as a deck hand on a ship. And of course he gets hired right away because of his new buff, post-pig-carting body. Only after the ship sails does he remember that he had promised to carry Madame Zeroni up the mountain so she could drink from the stream at the top. Uh oh. This can't end well.
  • (Back at Camp Green Lake, Stanley is – you guessed it – still digging. Although he's the smallest kid in the group, Zero finishes his hole first. One by one, each of the other boys finishes and goes back to the tent to shower and rest, leaving only Stanley still out digging in the hot sun.)
  • Great-great-grandpa Elya, having moved to America, falls in love with a woman very different from Myra. His new wife can "push a plow, milk a goat, and, most important, think for herself" (7.131). Sounds like the perfect woman, eh?
  • There is one hitch: Elya always seems to have really bad luck. He starts to think that maybe Madame Zeroni's curse is real.
  • Meanwhile, Elya teaches the pig lullaby to his wife, who sings it to their child when he is born a year later. The child's name is Stanley (that's our Stanley's great-grandfather), and the song is the same one our Stanley's father sang to him when he was little. Tradition!
  • (Back at Camp Green Lake, Stanley finally finishes digging his hole. Whew! He is beyond exhausted, but very proud.)

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