"The bus wasn't air conditioned, and the hot, heavy air was almost as stifling as the handcuffs" (6).
This simile clearly illustrates Stanley's uncomfortable situation and his lack of agency. The author creates a claustrophobic atmosphere and a strong sense that the character is trapped against his will, which is certainly the case. He is being shipped off to a hard labor camp for a crime he did not commit. He is being restrained by more than just handcuffs: the justice system is working against him, as is, more importantly for the rest of the novel, his family curse. Stanley isn't truly free because success is impossible for him as long as the Yelnats family is still under Madame Zeroni's curse. The reference to handcuffs is significant as it indicates Stanley's lack of freedom, a vital theme explored in juvenile fiction - especially juvenile fiction that deals with actual imprisonment and incarceration. It is significant that this quote occurs towards the start of the novel, which establishes the dominant tone of hardship and difficulty for Stanley and the other boys who are condemned to dig holes at Camp Green Lake.
Myra's Head (Simile)
"Myra's head is as empty as a flowerpot" (29).
This simile manages to characterize Myra - a rather superficial and two-dimensional character - in one quick, effective stroke. There are negative connotations to this description, of course. Myra is naive, unintelligent, and foolish, Madame Zeroni tells Elya, and it later turns out that she is justified in taking this critical view of Myra. The comparison to a "flowerpot" also suggests femininity, emphasizing Myra's girlish qualities. This simile can also suggest her beauty, as flowers embody the beauty of nature, and the speaker later admits that the girl is very beautiful. However, these positive connotations are crucially undercut by the adjective "empty." This biting simile succinctly suggests that while Myra is gentle, feminine, and attractive, she is far from being smart.
Huge Smile (Simile)
"Now he had such a huge smile it almost seemed too big for his face, like the smile of a jack-o'-lantern" (58).
This simile describes the first time Stanley sees Zero smile. This typically positive action is portrayed in a grotesque way. Stanley explains that because Zero is often angry, it is unusual when he does smile. For this reason, the author uses the simile to create a warped image of a wicked grimace. The comparison to a jack-o'-lantern has frightening connotations, and further emphasizes the incongruity of his smile. This simile gives great insight into Zero's character, presenting him as angry and bizarre, a boy that only Stanley can really get close to or elicit any positive reaction from. It is perhaps also important that this smile comes in the context of Stanley talking about his "no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather" - words that Zero's ancestor Madame Zeroni might equally have used when characterizing the man who forgot her and paid a heavy price for this betrayal.
Green Lake (Simile)
"One hundred and ten years ago, Green Lake was the largest lake in Texas. It was full of clear cool water, and it sparkled like a giant emerald in the sun" (101).
The simile conveys the former beauty of the now dried Green Lake. The simile comparing the lake to "a giant emerald" creates a clear image of a pristine environment with nothing to besmirch its natural beauty. Emeralds also symbolize preciousness and wealth, further emphasizing the former beauty of the place, and also hinting at the material wealth that families like Trout Walker derived from the lake. This elaborate description juxtaposes with the current state of Green Lake, described as "a dry, flat wasteland." Water becomes a precious commodity in the present Camp Green Lake - truly precious as emeralds to the boys who suffer from thirst day in and day out. Thus, the simile is significant as it contrasts the locations former beauty with its current derelict state, to make the place appear even more hostile.
Green Lake and Spiced Peaches (Simile)
"It was said that Green Lake was 'heaven on earth' and that Miss Katherine's spiced peaches were 'food for the angels'" (102).
This simile alludes to the former beauty of Green Lake, and evokes a strong sense of nostalgia through repetition of "were" and positive phrases such as "food for the angels." The religious imagery of heaven and angels is significant as it suggests that Green Lake used to be a Eden-like paradise, compared to the wasteland Stanley finds it in when he arrives. There is also a deliberate contrast between the delicious spiced peaches and the bland food the campers eat to further illustrate their dire situation.
"His mouth was as dry and as parched as the lake" (105).
This simile clearly conveys Stanley's fear and his thirst, as well as the constant hardships the campers face in the harsh conditions of Camp Green Lake. Furthermore, the simile echoes the natural imagery throughout the novel and the motif of the lake, connecting Stanley's fear to the dry, barren landscape. In this way, the land represents the plight of the campers who dig in it.
Holes Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Holes is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.