Stanley Yelnat in Louis Sachar’s Holes

Stanley Yelnat in Louis Sachar’s Holes

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In Louis Sachar’s Holes, Stanley changes his perspective of life through fear, courage, and perseverance. Louis Sachar began Holes as a basic concept of the area which would later be called Camp Green Lake (Sachar). The story puts us into the streets of Stanley’s neighborhood and immediately into the action. We meet the young Stanley Yelnats, who is about to embark on an unexpected journey that takes him through the extremely painful and unforgettable Camp Green Lake where he is forced to fight for survival against the unbearable heat and all of the dangers lurking in the sandy pit of a camp. Stanley is a typical everyday kid that finds himself in the wrong place and the wrong time. Although he is a good kid that never seems to bother anyone, his family has an alleged history of being cursed. It ran in his family for centuries and it was only a matter of time before it caught up to him.

After taking a pair of used sneakers that had been thrown down from a nearby overpass, Stanley finds himself sitting in a prison camp bus seat with nothing more than a toothbrush, toothpaste, and some writing utensils waiting on the unknown. He can’t get much passed the guards on the bus despite his good behavior, they only ignore him or bash at him to be quiet. The bus ride is long and painfully boring as they travel further and further into the desert heat. Eventually the bus slows down and the patrolling guard tells Yelnats that this is his stop. Stanley steps right from the bus onto the grounds of what used to be a camp for young adults called Camp Green Lake. Now it is a fiery oasis filed with holes. The biggest mystery behind Camp Green was why that the once wonderful lake and campgrounds were nothing more than sand and rocks in a desert now (Sutton). Stanley is then introduced to the camp warden, a mean and vicious woman with no sympathy for any human that walks the grounds of the camp. Stanley is walked around the camp to his new living quarters where he meets Zero. They soon become best friends and Stanley finds himself at peace with the camp. It doesn’t take long for the warden to ruin that, however, as she walks in and takes Stanley to see what must be done for the duration of the time he is at the camp.

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The warden at camp forced the boys to dig holes ranging five feet in diameter, but no one understood why. (Faust and Wiley).

Once finished they make another, continuing the process until they are either finished with their camp sentence or dead. The other kids start to worry Stanley as they tell him that the holes and heat should be the least of his worries. The desert is full of scorpions, snakes, and yellow spotted lizards. The lizards are said to be the most dangerous thing in the entire desert, for with one bite to anyone unfortunate enough to come into contact with it would die in a matter of minutes with no chance of any medical help at the camp grounds. Stanley is faced with a life changing journey of fear, courage, and perseverance as he begins his life on the grounds of Camp Green Lake.

Fear grasp at Yelnats as reality sets in. Stanley is as being the underdog in life. He suffers from bullying and lack of friends. His home life is depressing for him, along with his family’s history as well (Sachar and Novelli). He is an average kid that faced an issue of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was placed under blame for theft of a baseball player’s shoes (Bill) His parents told him it was because of their family’s long run of bad luck that has been around for centuries. Stanley finds himself in a juvenile center for teenagers named Camp Green Lake, which hasn’t seen a single drop of water in decades (Hearne). From the first minute that Stanley steps from the bus, he already has a fear deep in the pit of his stomach that makes him sick. It is unlike anything he imagined it to be. Expecting a camp environment, he is dropped face first into a sand pit with nothing more than a few small buildings and hundreds of holes dug in the ground. He is nervous, but he hides it enough to walk through and make his way to his bunk. Stanley is placed into what now seems like his new family. Group D is the section of the camp that he is placed and teamed up with. He later learns his new nickname to be given to him as Caveman (Cusac). He already knows that Camp Green Lake won’t be a fun camp, or that it won’t be a camp at all. Stanley sees it as a prison and immediately the fear sets in. Other camp inmates talk to him about things to watch out for in the desert and that some of the past inmates were taken out over serious injuries or were dead in body bags. Stanley faces fear with both the camp and the desert during his time there. Between Warden Walker and the strict rules over camp, he finds himself in a predicament where he can trust no one but the few kids that he is paired with. Even with the support and help of the others, the thought of the heat and deadly animals in the desert also frighten Stanley. The stories that he hears pushes him to be twice as cautious while he is out digging in the sand. Stanley is already uneasy due to his run in with bad luck and the legend of his families curse. He is left with a choice of either overcoming the struggles of the desert and facing his fears, or sitting back and becoming a pawn to its unbearable climate and unrelenting force. His courage begins to peak and the fear of what was once unknown becomes something of normal everyday life to him.

Courage plays a huge role in Stanley’s journey as he holds his good behavior and makes sure that his friends are okay. While watching over his fellow inmates in the sun, he holds his own and sticks to what the warden tells him so that he has no issues while he is there. Mr. Sir and Warden Walker stand over the boys with their threatening personalities to force them into digging holes. The warden is not concerned for the group and uses them to do her dirty work. She uses fierceness to strike at them emotionally and persuade them to find the hidden treasure located in the old lake bed (Review). The boys follow up with her demand until one day when Zero comes up missing. Stanley sets out to find him and leaves camp to enter the desert. He travels at night so that he has a better chance to stay focused and find his young friend. On his journey, he encounters several dangers lurking in the desert that the other boys warned him about with at camp. He sees everything from scorpions to the infamous yellow spotted lizards while on his journey. He uses high ground for shelter and rations his supplies to make it last longer. After hours of searching, he finally finds Zero and leads him back to safety at the camp. His fellow inmates look upon his bravery and courage and they show their respect to him for making such a bold move and saving Zero’s life. Stanley builds a relationship with Zero through their work together. In return for helping Yelnats with his hole digging, Stanley teaches Zero how to read (Helen).

Stanley treats it as if he is only doing the right thing for the people he knew would do the same for him if it were he stranded in the desert. By the time Stanley gets used to the camp, most of the other people enjoy his company as they see him being the mentally strongest person in the group. Despite Stanley coming into the camp weak minded and with not much strength to show forth, he opens up and perseveres the obstacles that he faces with no hesitation. Now he is growing up and understanding that he must strive in life to achieve his goals and provide for the ones that he cares about. He not only becomes a role model but builds self-character through his choices of helping out the other guys while in camp.

Stanley’s perseverance gets him through every challenge that he faces at Camp Green Lake. He makes friends, faces his fears, overcomes the desert and the warden, saves a life, and finds the hidden treasure. The story of Stanley Yelnats expands as we watch him begin to understand life and appreciate all of the little things in his journey. He builds character, courage, and strength while learning from the other camp members (Review). Stanley proves it to himself that he isn’t beyond being the hero. He makes it known that he is the hero. The boys face a major problem when Zero comes up missing. They immediately set out on a journey to help each other find their lost fellow inmate (Alison).

Louis Sachar’s Holes bases its story similar to most fairy tales through its story and characters. The personality of each character relates to something that most people can automatically connect to (Nicosia). It starts with Stanley thinking that he is going to an easy-going discipline camp for minors. Stanley’s trip to the camp proves to be more than what he had hoped for. He finds himself digging for the hidden treasure as instructed by the warden (Sachar). As the story concludes, the protagonist survives a hellish desert camp, makes memories, and finds a positive outlook on life. The key elements that made Holes such a strong and magnificent novel is revolved around the young adults fighting harsh times with unbearable odds to find a light in the darkness. The desert serves as a good setting on struggles that people in day-to-day situations. The young men survive and overcome the odds showing a strong sense of hope in life. It also provides a life lesson on never giving up no matter what the odds are. A western backdrop falls into the story with a struggle to survive a wasteland setting while using limited resources (Møllegaard). Holes brings a journey of hope and courage to the inmates at Camp Greenlake. They find themselves facing all odds, but overcome with the strength of teamwork and respect (Roger).

Life isn’t so peaceful at the camp, either. The story revolves around the twisted humor of an over enforcing warden (Peacock). Warden Walker serves as the perfect antagonist in the novel because so represents an adult figure pushing down and forcing the boys to dig for a treasure due to her greed. When they strike back against her, it shows that people can learn to stand up for themselves and what is right. Each of the young men at Camp Green Lake mature and learn to handle situations of pressure with ease after using teamwork and trust to help build one another up. Overall, the story proves that anyone can be anything that they want to be. Sachar’s well-crafted novel relates to both children and young adults with it’s incredible cast of characters and each of their deep personalities (Anne). The story behind holes has made an impact on readers of all ages. It’s addictive and charmingly bittersweet story made for an interesting read for children and adults alike (Dennys).



Works Cited

Sachar, Louis, and . Holes. New York, New York: Random House Children's Books, 1998. Print.

Hearne, Betsy. "He Didn't Do It." New York Times Book Review 103 (15 Nov. 1998): 52. Rpt. in Children's Literature Review. Ed. Scot Peacock. Vol. 79. Detroit: Gale, 2002. Literature Resources from Gale. Web. 3 Mar. 2014.
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