Why is Stanley nicknamed "Caveman" in Holes?

Quick answer:

In the novel "Holes," Stanley earns the nickname "Caveman" during an altercation with another boy, Derrick, in the "wreck room." His friends, X-Ray and Armpit, use the nickname to intimidate Derrick and prevent a fight. The moniker "Caveman" likely originates from Stanley's large size, giving the impression of a prehistoric, tough figure. Although Stanley doesn't feel the nickname suits him, it becomes part of his identity after he discovers an ancient fish fossil.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

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.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Why did the warden call Stanley a 'caveman' in Holes by Louis Sachar?

The warden called Stanley by his nickname, Caveman.

All of the boys are called by nicknames instead of their real names at Camp Green Lake.  The warden is less interested in the boys’ development than finding buried treasure.  When the warden addresses Stanley by his nickname, which the boys have given him, she is catering to the boys in a way.  She wants them to find her treasure.

Stanley does not even realize that he is Caveman at first.  He is one of the bigger boys.

"The Caveman's one tough dude," said Squid, and he lightly punched Stanley's arm.

Stanley leaned back against the torn vinyl upholstery. Despite his shower, his body still radiated heat. "I wasn't trying to start anything," he said. (Ch. 9) 

He says he doesn’t want to get into a fight with Caveman, because Caveman is kind of a scary nickname.  It isn’t until he realizes that the boys are talking to him and calling him Caveman that he understands that is his nickname.  It sounds tougher than Stanley. 

Stanley decides he likes his nickname.  Having a nickname means that he is one of the guys. It isn’t even that bad of a nickname like Barf Bag.  The nickname means "they accepted him as a member of the group."

When Stanley finally meets the warden, everything about her surprises him.  First of all, he had no idea she was a woman.  She is also meaner to the counselors than the boys, and seems to be more interested in treasure than character-building. 

The Warden turned to Stanley. "Caveman, will you come here, please?"

Stanley was surprised she knew his name. He had never seen her. Until she stepped out of the truck, he didn't even know the Warden was a woman. (Ch. 13) 

When the Warden calls him over to fill his canteen with water, she is making a point to Mr. Pendanski.  This is one of the reasons she used his nickname.  She was being sweet to the boy and mean to Mr. Pendanski.  He contradicted her when he said that he had just filled the canteens, and she did not like being contradicted.  Stanley found the whole incident unsettling.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Last Updated on