Character analysis of Stanley in Louis Sachar’s novel, ‘Holes’
Holes is a novel by Louis Sachar published in 1998. The book follows the story of the Yelnats family over a period of five generations, culminating in the period of Stanley Yelnats IV. There are various themes explored in Holes, the most prominent one being how young Stanley redeems the curse that has been upon his family for generations. Other topics explored are buried treasure, magic and delinquency. Stanley Yelnats, the main character, is a fifteen year old boy whose family has a history of bad luck, believed to be caused by a curse placed upon his great-great-grandfather. He is poor, friendless, overweight, self-conscious, constantly picked on and innocent of a crime for which he is sent to a correctional facility. While Stanley Yelnats IV has family history and luck against him, he makes the most of every situation and is able to rise above his misfortune.
Stanley’s family history was one that left much to be desired, and one that he believed had a lot to do with his various predicaments. Stanley’s great-great-grandfather, Elya Yelnats, was cursed by Madame Zeroni for failing to keep up with his end of the deal. He failed to realize this and immigrated to America where bizarre things continued to happen all his life as a result of the curse. For instance, his barn kept being struck by lightning. His son too after amassing considerable wealth was robbed by the famous outlaw, Kissin’ Kate Barlow. These unfortunate events seemed to follow the Yelnats wherever they went and from generation to generation. It is for this reason that Stanley is not surprised when he is found guilty of a crime he did not commit. “For Stanley, his current troubles are just a natural part of being a Yelnats.” (Sachar, 2002). He accepts his fate as the result of the actions of his “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather.” (p. 7). From Stanley’s point of view and in deed that of his family, they are fated to misfortunes.
Stanley’s entire life seems to be a string of bad luck that culminates with his being sent to Camp Green Lake. To begin with, Stanley is from a poor family and his father seems to be as unlucky as he is, “Stanley’s father was smart and had a lot of perseverance… He just never had any luck.” (p. 8). For this reason, he is excited at the prospect of going to camp, much as he sees the rich kids do. In addition, Stanley is friendless, both at home and at school. He hopes to make new friends at the camp. His weight is also a sensitive topic for Stanley, one which other kids at school tease him about. His teacher once made an insensitive example of it. Further evidence of Stanley’s string of bad luck is seen when he is sentenced to life in Camp Green Lake after being accused of stealing a pair of shoes. Although the judge does not believe in his innocence, “that’s exactly what happened.” (Sachar, 2002). It is clear that Stanley’s luck has never come knocking. In fact, the author states how Stanley and his father, and his father before him seem to be followed by bad luck wherever they go. However, they remain hopeful that things will get better, even though this sets them higher up for disappointment when instead bad luck visits them yet again.
Despite the bad luck and unfortunate family history, Stanley gains self-confidence and luck due to his friendliness and good nature. At Camp Green Lake, Stanley keeps to himself and does what is required of him. “He learns how to dig his holes. He tries not to antagonize anyone.” (Marshall, 2010). By accepting his fate and making the most of his situation, Stanley is unknowingly turning the wheels of justice to his favor, something that has eluded his family for generations. He forms a friendship with one of the kids at the camp, Zero, who turns out to be Madame Zeroni’s great-great-great-grandson. Zero was in fact the person responsible for stealing the shoes, the crime for which Stanley was convicted. However, he did it out of necessity, as he is homeless. Through his friendship with Zero, Stanley is able to discover himself as well as turn “their awful luck” around (p. 9). By the end of his stay at Camp Green Lake, through his genuine friendship with Zero, Stanley is self-confident and assured, and his family is free of the curse.
Through hard work, persistence and wit, Stanley discovers his true self, as well as a secret that authorities do not want him to. Even though Stanley may be considered a bad boy, “Camp Green Lake is a camp for bad boys,” (p. 5) he proves his worth not only by forming an ideal friendship, but by also discovering the secret behind the many holes they dug at the camp. The warden “makes the boys build character” at Camp Green Lake through digging holes that are five feet wide and five feet deep every day (Sachar, 2002). Through the hard work, Stanley is able to lose weight, but his true worth is realized when he is wise enough to discover that the warden has vested interest in the digging of the holes; he is searching for treasure. This discovery leads Stanley down a road of truth and self-discovery, leaving him with a sense of confidence and worth he had never felt before. Even though family history and luck seem to be against Stanley from the very beginning, he makes the most of every situation and is able to rise above his misfortune.
Marshall, J. (2010). Holes by Louis Sachar – 1998 (Review of the book Holes). Reading Matters. Retrieved from http://www.readingmatters.co.uk/book.php?id=84
Sachar, L. (2000). Holes. New York, NY: Dell Yearling.
Sachar, L. (2002). Holes the book (Review of the book Holes). Retrieved from http://www.louissachar.com/HolesBook.htm