. See “Freedom”; Emily Dickinson “I’m nobody.”
1. Here is the whole poem that Winnie thinks about, but she remembers only the first two lines. Obviously, there is an analogy between what the poem is talking about the what the book is talking about. What would you suggest?
To Althea, From Prison
Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage;
If I have freedom in my love,
And in my soul am free,
Angels alone that soar above,
Enjoy such liberty.
2. The first week in August like the top of Ferris Wheel. What is a Ferris Wheel? How does this suggest the theme of the story? In what ways is the figure (image) of a Ferris Wheel significant in relation to the theme of the story?
3. Chapter 1. “The Road to Treegap.” “Treegap.” Why does that have any meaning? Gap? A Way out? a way in? Something not there? A hole in the trees. A tree that is the hole? The tree is a way in or a way out? Out of what?
4. The road was trod out by cows. What kind of road? What is the polarity? The road is personified. What significant contrast in attitude is suggested by the polarity? The road avoids the woods. As the road is personified, what is it avoiding by circling away and around the woods?
5. The description of the “touch-me-not cottage” with the “painfully cut grass.” Why these images? Of the village we know only about the jail house and the gallows. Why? What does this suggest about people versus nature? Why the contrast in the two homes, the Tucks and the Fosters: “The Foster women had made a fortress out of duty.” Discuss how the image of her house is connected to Winnie’s banging the stick against the iron bars of the fence.
6. What is a music box (9)? “Painted with roses and lilies of the valley”? Examine and discuss the symbolism here.
7. The Stranger: A yellow suit that seemed to glow a little. He “moved in angles, rather jerkily. But at the same time he had a kind of grace, like a well-handled marionette.” What is a “marionette” as opposed to a puppet? What is the importance of the image? See also “His eyes were closed now, but except for that, he looked more than ever like a marionette, a marionette flung carelessly into a corner, arms and legs every which way midst tangled strings” (91).
8. Beginning of Chapter 12: the pond. Study this carefully. The interlude on the pond is a key to understanding the book. Examine the tropes here and then connect them with Jesse’s plea to Winnie.
9. Notice Winnie on page 93, bottom, as she departs with Mae and the Constable. Read carefully the last paragraph, almost as a poem, for expressions, pictures, etc. that are relevant to the story’s theme. This section connects with the image of the clock as Winnie waits for her moment to make a difference in the world. Examine all the relevant tropes here.
10. What is the irony in the final paragraph on page 118? The end of the book. The inscription on the tombstone. “In loving memory, Dear Wife Dear Mother, 1870-1948. Winifred Foster Jackson.” Does this tell us anything of significance? After all, it is about as spare as a tribute can be.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
1. What is the relevance of the setting to the story? “This story is about something that happened to [four children] when they were sent away from London during the war because of the air-raids” (1). What does this add to the story?
2. Picture the architecture of this very old house, in which “no one will mind what they do.” What is implied in this statement and connect the architecture to ideas of the self.
3. What are the laws of time and space that govern Narnia? Discuss how the transition is made between the natural world and the imaginative world. Compare and contrast the differences in chronotopes.
4. This story involves the act of reading–interpreting signs–on several levels. What are some of the conventional signs which must be read or interpreted correctly? Why does Lucy seem better at this than Edmund?
5. Madness–lack of control–as a theme is touched upon directly or indirectly several times in this book, most notably in the figures of Lucy, Edmund, and the White Witch. How is this insanity akin to excessive imagination? What might your definition of madness be?
6. Look carefully throughout the book for images of darkness, “vanishing,” light, warmth, cold, and touching. Is there a pattern? What conclusions can you draw?
7. C. S. Lewis has fun with words and mythologies. Discuss a few of them and how they make the story more understandable. Are they consistent? Mixed mythologies?
8. What is your definition of magic?
9. Explain the change in Edmund during the course of the story. Is there any relevance to Lewis’s life? Discuss the differences between the males and the females in this story.
10. What age group of students can read and appreciate this novel? Is it only for young people?
1. Chapter 3. “Depth, he decided, as if one were looking into the clear water of the river, down to the bottom, where things might lurk which hadn’t been discovered yet. He felt self-conscious, realizing that he, too, had that look” (21).
2. Chapter 9. “Now Jonas had a thought that he had never had before. This new thought was frightening. What if others–adults–had, upon becoming Twelves, received in their instructions the same terrifying sentence?” (71).
3. Chapter 11. “The experience explained itself to him” (81).
4. Chapter 11. “The man corrected him. “Honor,” he said firmly. “I have great honor. So will you. But you will find that that is not the same as power” (84).
5. Chapter 13. “We really have to protect people from wrong choices” (98).
6. Chapter 16. “Do you love me?” There was an awkward silence for a moment. Then Father gave a little chuckle. “Jonas. You, of all people. Precision of language, please! (127).
7. Chapter 23. “Dimly, from a nearly forgotten perception as blurred as the substance itself, Jonas recalled what the whiteness was” (175).
Study Questions for Holes
1. The book starts by explaining what is not at Camp Green Lake. There used to be trees, a lake, a town, shade, and people, now there are only lizards, rattlesnakes, and scorpions. How is this puzzle attractive reading? How does this beginning illustrate the basic pattern of the narrative? A braided narrative? juxaposition as narrative form?
2. “My name is easy to remember,” said Mr. Pendanski as he shook hands with Stanley just outside the tent. “Three easy words: pen, dance, key.” How is this sentence a metacritical comment? In other words, how does this sentence show us how to read this book? How does Stanley’s own name illustrate the narrative plot?
3. This is a story about juvenile delinquents, about learning, about reading, about crooks, thieves, and pig-stealings. Or is it? What satirical comments are being made about our views of these folks? Give two examples.
4. “Do you hear the empty spaces?” she [the Warden] asked (67). What are some other “empty spaces” in the book? Discuss the connection between empty spaces and the statement, “Zero was nobody” (81). How are these connected to black holes and time warps.
5. What are all the connections between Clyde Livingston, smelly feet, Zero, and Stanley? Digging holes makes character. Whose? Why?
6. “Doc Hawthorn was almost completely bald, and in the morning his head often smelled like onions” (109). Now look closely at this sentence: “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” (41). Examine the ways in which the ideas behind these two sentences are connected. This should also lead you to consider how myth and folk tales are woven into the fabric of this story.
7. There are some ethnic considerations elements in this story. What are they? How are these situations connected to a transcendence of these same elements?
8. Friendship. What is it? How do Stanley and Zero develop their friendship? What do they sacrifice?
9. Irony. What is irony? How does irony work in this book? Discuss some examples to illustrate how the Holes is an ironic demonstration of the onion-eating, layers of onion metaphor/episode in the book.
10. There seems to be nothing that is predictable in this book. Is this book in the absurdist tradition? a black comedy? What is serious becomes funny, and what is funny quickly turns serious. What seems to be a game turns deadly very quickly.
- “You’re not dead yet are you? There was a long moment in which Cammy held her breath. . . . It was a rough game that Tut manged to play with Cammy. Pretend dead-as-a-doornail was what Cammy called it” (10). Discuss how this game is ironically connected to the theme of the story. Don’t overlook such statements as “held her breath” in your analysis.
- “Gram lost plenty of time. She could speed it up, though, when she felt like it” foreshadows and hints at the element of time in the story. How is it possible to lose time and “speed it up”? (14)
- The Care. “Beyond the glass door was bright sunshine and summer. Shade trees and woods surrounded the Care on three sides. Outside, Cammy wondered why all of the folks didn’t just walk on away and live under the trees in the woods” (23). Consider the implications of nominalization of “to care.” Discuss the spatial dynamics of this description.
- “But Patty Ann wouldn’t be disturbed until she had practices her entire lesson” (28). Who is speaking here? What predictions can be made about Patty Ann and about Cammie?
- “She looked at Patty Ann. Cammy felt hard as nails inside toward her one second. The next second, she felt peevish that she wasn’t more like her” (73). Discuss this ambivalence.
- “Out there was an odd bluish color. Kind of sickly, and dark bluish-green. But mostly it was a blue mystery. . . . She called it the blue devil. All the kids Cammy’s age called it the bluety” (85).
- “I won’t get an A this time, her look seemed to say” (92). What is the reference here? Discuss the various implications and meanings of this statement in the context of not only what is happening but what has happened.
- “A silence came over everything. It pinned this day to them forever after. . . Not a trace” (94). This is poetry–almost. Explain.
- “Are you my daddy?” (104). Look at the importance of father figures in this story. How present are they? Vital or not? Discuss the effects of not having fathers present in the girls’ lives, their mothers’ lives.
- “Put a focus on . . . each little thing comes before you. Just one thing at a time. That’s how it’s done. Always be ready. I’m ready” (120). Discuss what is being said here and how this is compared to the previous action of the book.