Student Reading Responses to Holes

Reading Responses from English 112B for Holes

Stanley, Hector ("Zero") and Clyde: all are thought of–in some way–as not being quite "perfect." Clyde may be a good ball player, but he is a social outcast because of his "smelly" feet. Zero has had a deprived life, scrounging in a society oblivious to his needs, but willing to punish him if he takes shoes to cover his bare feet. This society has made him into a "throw away" child. He cannot read; he’s a pariah. Stanley is also a pariah–that he and his family are outcasts from the "good karma" of a prosperous society. All these characters suffer from the judgment of others as to their worth.

When Stanley and Zero dig holes at Camp "Green Lake," they gain a value in that society of outcasts–and, more importantly, they begin to see past the judgment of others on them, to their own feelings of physical endurance and interdependence. Zero can dig a speedy hole and actually is vividly able as a reasoner, although he cannot read. Stanley becomes stronger and learns he can be a teacher; he has worth to toehrs and himself. Both become resourceful.

As Stanley and Zero learn to cope they lose their feelings of "un"worth; they find themselves in the holes they’ve dug–that’s the real treasure of the story.—Allison Moss-Fritch


The story hinges upon the friendship between Stanley and Zero; without their bond developing, the duty owed Madame Zeroni would likely never be exacted. Their friendship emerges from nothing, really. Stanley doesn’t belong at this camp for junvenile delinquents, and Zero is described as a "nobody." Even Stanley pays him no attention, dismissing Zero’s desire to learn to read: "He needed to save his energy for people who counted" (82). What brings them together (save this instruction that finally comes to pass) is that they both realize that they’re misfits. They were misfits outside of the camp, and they’re misfits there inside also. In their case, friendship is the recognition that people need people, that the mere acknowledgement of another to be like yourself is an acceptance of sorts. Stanley needs to be accepted here in the camp, and Zero just needs to accepted anywhere (even though Stanley’s had a terrible time of not being accepted at school). Once this realization of their vulnerabilities are out in the open, the stage is sest for them to sacrifice for each other. Seing oneself in another or vice versa is the heart of humanism and friendship is merely a maturation of that. Sacrificing the way they did isn’t seen as doing for others in this context. It’s more like doing for oneself, for one another, and that benefits all.—Scott Rocha


When Mr. Pendanski states that his name is easy to remember he breaks it down into its component parts. "Pen, dance, and key." On one level this is simply a pneumonic device to help the characters remember his name; however, as readers this line has another layer of meaning (like an onion). On this layer or frame, Sachar makes the reader aware of how this book should be read, and he sets up a tiered text with many interpretive levels.

One one level exist characters in the present. These are people like Stanly Yelnates(caveman), Zero, the Warden, and of course, Mr. Pendanski. On another level exists the second frame of reference: what Green Lake was like some 100 years ago. This frame is inhabited by Kissin’ Kate, Madame Zeronie, and Stanley’s greatgrandfather, Stanley. In the metacritical fram there is the reader in the process of reading, and interacting with the text. The reader is often reminded that he or she is reading a book, and this reminds s/he that the fundamental parts of each frame (including the metacritical) are interconnected.

Consider, for example, the way that Zero learns to read. First, he learns the alphabet–just a few letters at a time, but soon he proves himself capable of creating unique jumps in his understanding. The final leap, of course, is his question, "Is your last name your first name backward" (213)? This shows Zero’s ability to not only read, sound out words, but also to understand the meaning of written cues. In this case his ability was their salvation.

This is whast Sachar expects of the reader too. For example, the fact that Zero’s great grandmother is Madame Zeronie and Stanley’s great grandfather was saved by Big Thumb. In the scene all the component parts of the narrative combine under the metacritical frame in each layer of the story.—Jay Dunlap


Sachar is a playful, serious writer and his story is unforgettable. It’s all in the title, really. While Stanley digs his holes, the reader fills the holes in the story, slowly but methodically. Sachar supplies the missing pieces of his puzzle with subtle irony and great "bravurs." The plot is incredibly intelligent. The Camp Green Lake has no green or lake; the counselors are not in the business of counseling, the boys covered with lizards are the ones in less danger of being bitten, Zero is SOMEBODY VERY IMPORTANT to the story and to Stanley and so forth. What we perceive to be in a certain way is not true–the story has twists and tangles that make it extremely interesting. Yes, whatgoes around comes around; it’s all in the protagonist’s name too, for its palindronic nature is a foreshadow of Stanley’s Kharma. He will "rectify" the "wrongs" of his ancestor Elya Yelnats. He will also be saved by things/people connected to his family history. In the chaos of life, there is justice in the end. The Ying and Yang will balance. The family history will be readjusted by the just wheel of justice. Emptiness will be filled. The deceiving game will make sense at last. The story unfolds like Sam’s onions are peeled by the protagonist. Sachar enjoys his storytelling style just as Stanley enjoys eating his onions, peeling them slowly. Nothing is what it seems to be, in this story, and yest, in the end, we see that everything is what it was supposed to be and it makes sense.

Just like we don’t understand the perfect design of cross stitch work by looking at its back, and call it messy work, nonsense, random threads hanging loose for no purpose: only when we turn it we can see how it all makes sense. It was our prespective that was wrong.—-Francesca Ferracuti


The beginning of the book is important to get the reader’s mind ready for the many temporal shifts the narrative takes. The story jumps from Stanley’s bus rigde and arrival at camp, back to the day he was arrested, forward to the camp, back to his great-grandfather’s dealings with Madame Zeronie, back to the camp, etc. The opening also sets the framework for the connections between the Warden, Kissin’ Kate, the Mary Lou (boat) and Stanley’s great grandfather and Stanley.

Similarly, Stanley’s explantion that his name is spelled the same forward and backwars sets up the reader or rather primes the reader to look closely at all the names of all the characters. When Zero is introduced, a wary reader will wonder is there is a connection betwen him and Madame Zeroni. This suspicion is confirmed when Mr Pendanski says, "No one cares about Hertor Zeroni" (144). The puzzle of thelake is explained through the discovery of the puzzle of Stanley and Hector’s relationship. —William Brown