Why is Stanley nicknamed Caveman in Holes?

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Stanley's friends give him the nickname "Caveman" during an incident in the "wreck room" on the second day of camp. Stanley trips over a boy called the Lump when the Lump has his foot outstretched, and the Lump warns Stanley to watch himself. Stanley, too tired to care, tells the Lump to watch himself instead. The Lump stands up, and he is about to take Stanley on in a fight. Stanley's friend, X-Ray, tells the Lump that he shouldn't take on the Caveman. Armpit agrees that the Caveman is "cool" and should be left alone.

Stanley doesn't realize at first that he is the Caveman. His friends have given him this name to make him seem so tough to the Lump that the Lump won't want to fight with him. The name "Caveman" denotes someone who is tough and uses his fists to get what he wants.

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All the boys in Holes have their own nicknames while at Camp Green Lake. Stanley receives his nickname in Chapter 9. While in the "Wreck Room", Stanley accidentally bumps into the camp bully, Derrick, who then tries to instigate a fight with him. In an attempt to deescalate the situation, X-Ray and Armpit chime in and tell Derrick that "You don't want to mess with the Caveman."

It is not clear exactly where they came up with this specific nickname. They certainly wanted something intimidating sounding to get Derrick to back down. The name most likely refers to Stanley's large size, which makes him sometimes seem like what they imagine a caveman to look like. Stanley does not think the name is particularly fitting for him, because he does not feel that he is as tough as the name makes him seem. The nickname is further cemented into Stanley's identity after he finds an ancient fossil of a fish in the next chapter.

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