Holes Essay Topics

After reading Holes, use these questions to start a discussion with your students about the book. You can also use any of these questions as writing prompts.

  1. In what ways is the saying "You can't judge a book by its cover" a good one for this story? For example, what do you expect Camp Green Lake to be like based on its name? What is it really like?
  2. What do you think the title Holes means? What might be another reason other than the holes the boys dig in the lake? What hole (or holes) is in Stanley's life when he first arrives at Camp Green Lake? Are the holes still there when he leaves?
  3. Stanley's father, an inventor, says, "I learn from failure." What do you think this means? In what ways have you learned from failure?
  4. Why do the boys call Mr. Pendanski "Mom"? How does this name fit his personality? In what ways is it not a good name for him?
  5. What do the boys' nicknames tell about each of their personalities? Do you think a name changes the way others see a person and the way the person sees him- or herself?
  6. Why do you think Stanley lies to his parents in his letters home? Would you do the same?
  7. Stanley and his family half-jokingly blame their misfortunes on Stanley's "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather." Do you believe in fate — that people are lucky or unlucky — or do you believe, as Mr. Pendanski tells the boys, that we are all responsible for our selves and our destinies?
  8. As Stanley becomes stronger and his skin becomes tougher from digging the holes, how is he changing inside? What are the causes of those changes?
  9. Why do you think Stanley gives X-Ray the lipstick tube? What would you have done if you were in Stanley's place?
  10. Why do you think Stanley lies and says he stole Mr. Sir's sunflower seeds? If you were in Stanley's position, what would you have done?
  11. At home, Stanley did not have friends. But at Camp Green Lake, he forms a special friendship with Zero. How did Zero and Stanley prove their friendship to each other? In what way does Zero fill a hole in Stanley's life?
  12. How is Stanley's friendship with Zero similar to Kate Barlow's friendship with Sam? In each case why don't people approve of the friendship?
  13. Why don't the other boys like Stanley and Zero's agreement that Zero will help Stanley dig and Stanley will help Zero read? Do you think it is fair to both Stanley and Zero? Do you think it is fair to the other campers?
  14. Holes is really three stories tied together. One is about Camp Green Lake. The second is the tale of Stanley's great-great-grandfather and the "curse" put on him by Madame Zeroni. The third story is of Kissin' Kate Barlow, the outlaw who robbed Stanley's great-grandfather. How do these three stories fit together within the larger story of Holes?
  15. Stanley always seems to find humor even in the worst situations. He laughs on the bus to Camp Green Lake thinking about his "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather." While walking across the hot, dry lake, he laughs at the sight of the boat, Mary Lou. Climbing Big Thumb, he even makes Zero laugh. What does this say about Stanley? How does his attitude help him?
  16. What is the significance of Stanley's name being a palindrome, a word that is spelled the same way forward and backward?
  17. Where does Stanley find the strength to carry Zero up the mountain? Why did he do it even though he didn't know what he'd find at the top? Describe something you've done that at first seemed impossible. What did you learn from the experience?
  18. Even though his fate is uncertain, Stanley is suddenly very happy as he lies awake on the top of the mountain, staring at the stars. Why does he feel this way? How has his life changed from the start of the story?
  19. Why do you think Stanley starts to call Zero by his real name, Hector?
  20. When Hattie Parker sees Katherine and Sam kiss, she says, "God will punish you!" Based on the events later in the book, whom do you think God punished?

Some questions are adapted from Scholastic BookFiles: A Reading Guide to Holes. You can download the reading guide for free.

Holes

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Holes is a book about a boy named Stanley Yelnats who is convicted of stealing a famous basketball player’s shoes. His punishment for stealing a basketball player’s shoes is going to detention camp. Stanley believes that this all happened because of an ancient family curse or fate. This is true because both bad luck and fate led to detention camp where he turned his bad luck around once and for all.
In the book Holes Stanley Yelnats gets sent to a detention camp because of bad luck. His bad luck was that he was standing under a bridge when a stolen pair of a famous basketball player’s shoes got dropped on his head. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time because of an ancient family curse. The curse put on his family was set because of Stanley’s pig stealing great-great grandfather who disrespected one of the ancestors of Zero, the boy who committed the crime that Stanley was convicted of. Zero, who was also in the camp, told Stanley that his ancestor had told Stanley’s great-great grandfather how to get rid of the family curse but that he never got rid of it. This is the first time that Stanley realized that the curse could be broken. This curse is taken away at the end of the book. Stanley’s fate and bad luck were changed because he did something that his great-great grandfather was supposed to do.
     While at detention camp, Stanley is forced dig a hole at extremely specific regulations. Stanley’s holes get dug but not as fast as he’d like them to. Stanley doesn’t know this but the holes are a big part of his fate. The warden says that they dig these holes because it builds character, but the real reason is hidden. The real reason for the digging of the holes is so that the warden can find a legendary treasure. Stanley’s “hole digging fate” was all changed when he found out that Kate Barlow had buried treasure there.
     Stanley’s whole family’s luck was horrible all throughout life because of something his pig stealing great-great grandfather did. This would be a nasty fate to have because everything you ever did would turn out badly because of someone else’s actions.

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Holes         Basketball Player         Wrong Time         Wrong Place         Detention         Stanley         Curse         Grandfather         Shoes        




This fate of Stanley’s whole family was changed because of Stanley’s actions. This proves that doing certain things that are asked of you can change fates.
     In conclusion, Stanley changed his family’s fate by doing what his grandfather should have. Stanley changed his own and everyone in detention camp’s fate by finding out that Kate Barlow had buried treasure there and that the warden was trying to get rich by looking for it. This also proved that fates could be changed by actions.



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