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Sam’s onions are a symbol of everything good. Significantly, they grow where the “water runs uphill.” Whenever the narrative flashes back to a tale about the onions there is healing and good will. In addition to being a positive force in the past, the onions become key to Stanley and Zero’s survival in the present. They provide sustenance, cure Zero’s food poisoning, and keep Stanley and Zero alive among the yellow-spotted lizards until the lawyer and the Attorney General arrive to free them.


The holes symbolize the negative aspects of Camp Green Lake. They are referred to as graves several times in the novel. In the holes lurk rattlesnakes, scorpions and deadly yellow-spotted lizards. The boys who dig them resent the holes as the emblem of their punishment, and spit in them. Stanley finds that the holes lead right up to the Warden’s cabin. A hole is Stanley’s undoing when he tries to take the water truck to rescue Zero. Metaphorically, all the holes must be filled in for the story to resolve itself into a happy ending.


A motif, or idea that recurs throughout Holes, is how the landscape affects the characters at Camp Green Lake. The longer the characters are out on the lakebed, the more prone to violence they become. After prolonged digging in the unrelenting heat, the Warden jabs Armpit with a pitchfork and Zigzag strikes Stanley with a shovel (see Ch. 17). The tough, harsh surroundings become a metaphor for the personality traits of the characters. Conversely, when Stanley is away from the desert, in the cool, green shadow of “God’s thumb,” he is relaxed and happy. The relative abundance on the mountain nurtures the generosity of spirit that Stanley and Zero share.


Title/Author - Holes by Louis Sachar

Setting - Camp Green Lake juvenile detention center in Texas in the late 1990’s; with flashbacks to Green Lake one hundred years ago and to Latvia in the mid-1800’s

Major Characters - Stanley Yelnats and Hector “Zero” Zeroni, two inmates at Camp Green Lake

Conflict - Stanley struggles to survive and eventually prevail over the severe people and conditions at Camp Green Lake, and in the process breaks the family curse.

Themes - the impact of fate and history on everyday life; the power of friendship; compassion for victims of social injustice

Mood - hardship and confusion

Point of View - omniscient narrator

Symbolism - Onions symbolize good things; holes symbolize negatives

Motif - The landscape acts as a metaphor for the personality traits of the characters.

Names - The desired perception of the characters is achieved by having dual names.

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