Holes Quotes and Analysis

"The Warden owns the shade."

Narrator, p. 3

This quote from the very first chapter of the novel is a clever use of foreshadowing. Before we even meet the Warden, we are already shown the extent of the authority she wields. By this statement, we are given the impression that the Warden even has jurisdiction over the environment, which is true in the sense that she owns the lake. However, the Warden is unable to make the landscape yield to her and produce the treasure it contains. The Warden owns the shade - but it doesn't do her much good.

"It was all because of his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig stealing-great-great-grandfather!"

Narrator, p. 7

This phrase, repeated several times in the course of the story, refers to the family curse which the Yelnats believe is the cause of all of their problems. Although the family curse is central to the plot, it is also a commentary on our common desire to find a scapegoat. Although even Stanley himself is not sure if he believes in the curse, or whether the whole thing is just a "family joke," he feels that it is nice to have something to blame when things go wrong (7). This quote suggests that we are products of our past, and largely helpless in the wake of the disasters our ancestors have wrought. On the other hand, Mr. Pendanski wants Stanley to accept his actions as not a product of bad luck but of his own willpower, saying, "You messed up your life, and it's up to you to fix it" (58).

"Excuse me."

The Warden, p. 66

This phrase is used by the Warden whenever she is questioned on even minor details, or when someone tries to resist her command or go against her desires. What is important to note is that it is always written as a statement, never a question. The implication is not a request, it is an order. The Warden is not to be questioned, and she paradoxically asserts her authority through this seemingly mild and acquiescent statement.

"If only, if only, the woodpecker sighs, / The bark on the tree was just a little bit softer./ While the wolf waits below, hungry and lonely,/ He cries to the moo-oo-oon, / If only, if only."

Multiple characters (Stanley, Stanley's father, Elya Yelnats, Sarah Miller, Madame Zeroni), p. 8

This quote, the first line in "the pig lullaby" which could be considered the family dirge, underscores the desire of the Yelnats family to overcome their bad luck. It seems that throughout the generations of the Yelnats family, success comes often, but is always just out of reach. Stanley Yelnats II made a fortune in the stock market, but was robbed. Stanley's father is a brilliant inventor, but his devices never quite seem to work. Stanley seems destined to carry on this tradition, but ends up righting some of the families past wrongs. Ironically, the accurate translation of the song, given at the end of the book, offers a much more hopeful outlook of the future.

"I can fix that."


Sam, an onion picker not given to many words, barters his services as a handyman for jars of Kate Barlow's pickles. We as the readers are given the impression that this business arrangement is an excuse for Sam, an African American, and Kate, a Caucasian, to be together, keeping in mind that this part of the story takes place in a time when blacks and whites generally did not associate. Eventually, the prejudice of the town, something that not even Sam can fix, consumes them.

"And hardly anything was green."

Narrator, p. 10

This is a highly ironic statement, and its placement (it is a stand-alone line that ends Chapter 3) lends it emphasis. Stanley has been led to have a certain set of expectations based on the name Green Lake, and this sentence puts an end to his dreams of water-skiing in quite a brusque and final way. We get the history of Green Lake later, and learn that it was once as green as its name suggests, and toward the end we see the rain start to fall again - so there may be more greenery in Green Lake's future.

"This isn't a Girl Scout Camp."

Mr. Sir

This phrase by Mr. Sir is meant to intimidate the boys and instill a sense of respect and fear in them. He takes some twisted pleasure in telling the new boys about the difficulty and exhausting nature of digging. He uses Girl Scouts as an example of the sort of soft, feminine, and non-physical work that he obviously looks down on and which has no place at Camp Green Lake. (The huge irony is, of course, that in Part Three of the novel we learn that the land has been bought by a charitable organization that wants to turn Camp Green Lake into a Girl Scout camp.)

This phrase makes its way into the boys' states of mind and lexicon, as in Chapter 19 when Stanley looks around him at the other boys and thinks they are dangerous. He reminds himself that "[a]s Mr. Sir would say, this wasn't a Girl Scout Camp" (84). Therefore Mr. Sir is somewhat successful at instilling his views into the boys.

"You make the decision: Whom did God punish?"

Narrator, p. 115

The people of Green Lake, e.g., Hattie Parker, have been cursing Kate and Sam's illicit interracial love, saying that God will punish them. After presenting the facts of Sam's death in a very dry way, in short sentences in the passive tense ("Sam was shot and killed... Katherine Barlow was rescued...) the narrator-lawyer then asks us, as if we are the jury, "You make the decision: Whom did God punish?" (115). Here, the narrator turns the question on its head and asks us to consider the real losers of the situation. The answer is clear: God punished the townspeople and the descendants of those who persecuted Sam and Kate. The lake dried up and deprived Trout Walker of his wealth and his sanity, while Kate Barlow made money from robbing travelers.

This quote underlines an important theme in the book: all of our actions have consequences, even if the cause is too distant to be easily seen.

"Kate Barlow died laughing."

Narrator, p. 123

Kate Barlow is bitten by a yellow-spotted lizard at the end of Part One of Holes, and we have the death that we were warned about in the first chapter. The narrator told us at the very opening of the novel that if you are bitten by one of the lizards, "There is nothing anyone can do to you anymore" (4). In the description of Kate's death, he writes that "There was nothing they could do to her anymore" (123). Kate dies laughing because she is beyond Trout Walker's power, just as she was beyond the law when she was rampaging around the country. She can die - if not quite on her own terms, then at least not under the control of anyone else. This is a tragic end to her tragic story of lost love and violent grief.

"Behind them the sky had turned dark, and for the first time in over a hundred years, a drop of rain fell into the empty lake."

Narrator, p. 225

This is the last line of Part Two, and it carries a lot of significance. Stanley and his family suffer from a curse, which is broken at the end of the novel. Green Lake also suffers from a sort of curse, punished by God with an unending drought for what the townspeople did or let happen to Sam the onion man. By finding the treasure and keeping it out of the hands of Trout Walker's descendant (the Warden), Stanley seems to have managed to break Kate's vengeful curse. The drops of rain at the end of Part Two signify a return to normality for Green Lake, and a better, greener future.