Chapters 1-3 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 515

Louis Sachar begins Holes with a description of Camp Green Lake. Nothing is green there, and there is no lake. It used to be the site of the biggest lake in Texas, but now it is a wasteland. There used to be a town as well, but it died when the lake dried up.

In summer, it is very hot at Camp Green Lake. It is about ninety-five degrees in the shade, and there is almost no shade. There are only two old oak trees that stand on the edge of the empty lakebed. A hammock hangs between those two trees, but campers are not allowed to use it. Only the Warden gets to lie in the hammock.

On the lakebed, campers often find rattlesnakes and scorpions. They are poisonous but not usually deadly. Yellow-spotted lizards are another matter: anyone who gets bitten by one of them is doomed.

Camp Green Lake is so bad kids only go there because they have to. Bad kids are sent to Camp Green Lake, where the Warden forces them to dig a big hole every day. Some people think this treatment will turn bad kids good.

Stanley Yelnats gets a choice. The judge says, “You may go to jail, or you can go to Camp Green Lake.” Stanley’s family is poor, and he has never been to camp before. He does not know what Camp Green Lake is like, so he says he would like to go there.

Stanley rides to camp on a bus with a driver and an armed guard. He is handcuffed to his seat. On the trip, he thinks about his life and his family.

Stanley remembers how, when he was little, he used to play a game with his stuffed animals. He pretended they were at a camp called Camp Fun and Games. Now, sitting in the bus to Camp Green Lake, he tries to pretend that is where he is going. He tells himself he will make friends and swim in the lake.

Stanley is innocent of any crime. He got arrested “because of his no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing-great-great-grandfather!” According to family legend, Stanley’s great-great-grandfather stole a pig from a one-legged Gypsy, who cursed him and all of his descendants. Stanley and his family don’t really believe in curses, but they always pretend to blame this curse when they have bad luck.

Stanley and his family have a lot of bad luck. Stanley’s great-grandfather, who was also named Stanley (which is Yelnats spelled backward), made a fortune in the stock market. However, he was robbed by an outlaw called Kissin’ Kate Barlow. Ever since then, all of Stanley’s ancestors have been poor. His family now lives in a cramped apartment that smells like burned rubber and foot odor. It smells like this because Stanley’s father, a failed inventor, is constantly trying to invent a use for old shoes.

Stanley is jarred out of his thoughts when the driver says, “Welcome to Camp Green Lake.” Looking out the window, Stanley sees that there is no lake, and nothing is green.

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Chapter 4 Summary