Sachar is surprisingly descriptive when it comes to hands. He makes it a point to describe the open blisters that appear on Stanley’s hands when he first arrives, and the callouses which later form. The imagery around hands not only helps us empathize with Stanley, but it is symbolic of Stanley himself. He is “soft” when he first arrives, but camp toughens him.
Zero's hands are also described. When he helps Stanley up the mountain using his shovel, there are "deep gashes" on both of his palms (166). This imagery underscores the connection between the boys, and the loyalty and trust that has developed between them.
Dirt is the great equalizer in this novel, at least among the boys. They try to make hierarchies and enforce a social order, but at the end of the day they are all forced to do the same menial task, day after day. The dirt, which is the physical manifestation of the hard labor they perform, minimizes the differences between the boys - at least in Stanley's eyes. Sachar's narration tells us that "Stanley was thankful that there were no racial problems. X-Ray, Armpit, and Zero were black. He, Squid, and ZigZag were white. Magnet was Hispanic. On the lake they were all the same reddish brown color – the color of dirt." Annette Wannamaker writes that "Stanley is portrayed as a naive white boy who is oblivious to racism and the 'racial problems' that exist, whether he is aware of them or not." In any case, dirt is an important recurring image in the novel, underscoring the hard work that the boys do in the inhospitable setting of Camp Green Lake.
Imagery becomes very important when Stanley and Zero make it to the top of God’s Thumb. The shape of the rock has significance since it encourages the boys on from afar, telling them that everything will be "thumbs-up" when they finally make it there. Indeed, God's Thumb is the place where Stanley and Zero manage to survive against all odds, and strengthen the bond between them. The descriptions of the grass brook, the onion field, and even the shade of the rock formation help form the concept of an oasis in the middle of a desert - a magical place that is steeped in both historical and present-day significance.
The boys are given careful dimensions of the holes they are expected to dig (5 feet deep by 5 feet wide). While we spend a lot of time following Stanley's thoughts from inside the hole, the zoomed-out image of the barren lake dotted with hundreds and hundreds of holes is striking. The different shapes and sizes of the holes near the Warden's cabin give insight into her past and her present obsession: she was forced to dig holes as a child, and perhaps continues to dig near her cabin in the hope that she will stumble across the treasure. Kissin' Kate's treasure is, of course, the point of all the holes in the first place. Her legacy causes the land belonging to Sam's murderer to be torn apart, dried-up, and rendered worthless by his descendants who are desperately looking for treasure.
Holes Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Holes is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.