This study guide will help you analyze the novel Holes by Louis Sachar. You can also find a summary of the text, detailed characterizations, as well as inspiration for interpreting it and putting it into perspective.

Louis Sachar (b. 1954) is an American writer of children and young adult literature. His works often contain elements of mystery and comedy. His novels include the Wayside School Series (first book, Sideways Stories from the Wayside School published in 1978), Johnny's in the Basement (1981), and Small Steps (2006, sequel to Holes). 

Holes was published in 1998 and made its author world famous. The plot of the novel is complex and intricate. Past events repeatedly find their way into the present. The various storylines flow seamlessly into one another and ensure that Holes is much more than the story of a unlucky teenager. The narrative explores various complex themes, such as friendship, being an outsider, love, and magic.

Holes received two of the most important awards in the American literary world, the Newberry Medal and the National Book Award, in the year of its publication. In 2003, the novel was successfully adapted into a film by Disney with Sachar writing the screenplay. Even today, 20 years after its first publication, the novel Holes is still widely read and appreciated.

Here, you can read an extract from our study guide: 

The narrator sometimes uses multiple perspectives. While the narrator tells the story of Elya Yelnats and Katherine Barlow largely form their points of view, there are instances in which personal comments are inserted . Several examples of this are given here:

- In Chapter 7, the reader is presented with the story of Stanley's great-great-grandfather, Elya Yelnats. In a rather concise narrative, we are shown how Elya Yelnats invites a curse on his family and descendants. The narrator largely takes Elya's perspective and offers insight into his thoughts and feelings: "He thought she loved him. Even if she didn’t love him, couldn’t she see what a foul person Igor was?" (Part 1, 29%).

Despite everything, the reader is not limited to Elya's perspective, as in Stanley's case. The authorial narrator introduces personal comments, disagreeing with Elya’s judgment : "He was fifteen, and all he could see was Myra’s shallow beauty." (Part 1, 23%) and "Alas, poor Elya should have carried his pig up the mountain one last time." (Part 1, 26%).

- The story of Katherine Barlow, later to become the outlaw Kissin' Kate Barlow, is also a portrait of the town of Green Lake at the time. It is not surprising, therefore, that this part of the novel is rendered in a mainly omniscient narrative style: 

These are the facts: The Walker boat smashed into Sam’s boat. Sam was shot and killed in the water. Katherine Barlow was rescued against her wishes. (...) That all happened one hundred and ten years ago. Since then, not one drop of rain has fallen on Green Lake. You make the decision: Whom did God punish? (Part 1, 93%)

In Chapter 23, although Katherine is introduced as the main character protagonist of the following narrative, the inner lives of the other townspeople are also revealed. The narrator knows that the men who attended Katherine’s classes were "a lot more interested in the teacher [Katherine Barlow] than they were in getting an education" (Part 1, 88%) . The narrator also offers an insight into Charlie Walker’s thoughts and feelings: "Trout had always gotten everything he ever wanted. He found it hard to believe that Miss Katherine had turned him down." (Part 1, 88%). 

The reader does gain an occasional glimpse into the feelings and mind of Katherine Barlow, for example, after she kisses Sam: "Her brain and heart had been spinning ever since Sam kissed her" (Part 1, 90%). However, we are not given any insight into Katherine’s thoughts and feelings during the actual turning point in her life, when she becomes the outlaw Kissin’ Kate Barrow. 

After Sam's death, the reader is told only the following by the omniscient narrator: "Three days after Sam's death, Miss Katherine shot the sheriff (...). For the next twenty years, Kissin' Kate Barlow was one of the most feared outlaws in all the West." (Part 1, 93%). 

Even shortly before her tragic death, we are only given a small insight into her thoughts and feelings. During the torture by Trout Walker and his wife, the reader is not allowed into her head: "They loosely tied her legs together so she could walk, but she couldn’t run. They made her walk barefoot on the hot ground. They wouldn’t let her stop walking." (Part 1, 100%).

The author cleverly uses different narrative perspectives in the novel. While limited narrator creates intimacy and closeness through subjectivity, the omniscient narrator creates distance from the action through comments and reports and sometimes even addresses the reader directly.

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