1. What evidence is there of a curse? Consider the malignancies roiling at Camp Green Lake. Consider Stanley’s ridiculously bad luck. Consider the pig-stealing great-great grandfather whom we’ll call the Pig Thief for short. See page 7 and 8 and Chapter 3 in general. See page 38.
2. When does the perception of a curse become a real curse or a self-fulfilling prophecy?
3. Explain the theme of history repeating its cycle and the way we can break from the cycle? (Centripetal and centrifugal)
4. Consider the importance of promises to the story’s theme. Look, for example, at Stanley’s promise to write to his mother once a week. Also see the original promise (a failed one) on page 30. See page 46.
5. What is the association between water and hope in the story? See page 30.
6. How does Chapter 7 set the stage for the Yelnat’s family legacy and its curse? See page 37.
7. How is Madame Zeroni’s lesson on pages 30 and 31 a lesson for creating an antidote for learned helplessness? Also see pages 32 and 33.
8. What kind of society are we that we no longer value promises?
9. What evidence that Elya’s curse has affected Myra? See page 35.
10. Is there a parallel between Zero and the runt pig? See page 37.
11. In Chapter 10, how does Stanley’s struggle parallel the struggle of Elya?
12. How is the theme of literacy vs. learned helplessness introduced in Chapter 18, page 80?
13. Venom is introduced on page 90. How does this pertain to one of the novel’s major theme? See page 99. Contrast with the “food of the angels,” the spiced peaches described in Chapter 23, 101-103
14. Explain all the novel’s interlocking parts or puzzle pieces, like stinky feet, curses, literacy, poison, onions, promises, etc. (good essay topic) See Hector Zeroni on page 119.
15. What do onions represent? See page 109.
16. What is the scandal at Green Lake in Chapter 26 and how does it interlock with the idea of a curse? Also see Chapter 28 where the curse continues.
17. How does “God’s thumb” pertain to the story? See page 128.
18. What suggests an end to the curse in Chapter 32? See page 148. Accountability.
19. What opposites are presented in the novel? See Chapter 35, elixir of “sploosh” vs. poison of lizards. What are the implications of these opposites regarding human development?
20. How does Stanley’s newfound strength evidenced in Chapter 36 pertain to his great great grandfather?
21. Discuss the theme of the Grand Injury and our reaction to it resulting in progressive disease or progressive strength. See Erich Fromm’s book Escape from Freedom. Poison lizards are a metaphor for self-poison of self-pity, the thwarting of human life.
Essay Option for Holes
Explain how the novel illuminates these two psychological processes described by Erich Fromm in his book Escape from Freedom (181-182):
It would seem that the amount of destructiveness to be found in individuals is proportionate to the amount to which expansiveness of life is curtailed. By this we do not refer to individual frustrations of this or that instinctive desire but to the thwarting of the whole life, the blockage of spontaneity of the growth and expression of man's sensuous, emotional, and intellectual capacities. Life has an inner dynamism of its own; it tends to grow, to be expressed, to be lived. It seems that if this tendency is thwarted the energy directed toward life undergoes a process of decomposition and changes into energies directed toward destruction. In other words: the drive for life and the drive for destruction are not mutually independent factors but are in a reversed interdependence. The more the drive toward life is thwarted, the stronger is the drive toward destruction; the more life is realized, the less is the strength of destructiveness. Destructiveness is the outcome of unlived life. Those individual and social conditions that make for suppression of life produce the passion for destruction that forms, so to speak, the reservoir from which the particular hostile tendencies--either against others or against oneself--are nourished.