Stanley is the protagonist of Holes, although he is an unlikely hero. He is an overweight boy who does not have any friends from school and is often picked on by his classmates and the school bully, Derrick Dunne. Stanley's family is cursed with bad luck and although they do not have much money they always try to remain hopeful and look on the bright side of things. Stanley shares these traits with his family and although he does not have a lot of self-confidence, he is not easily depressed, a characteristic that helps him adjust to the horrendous conditions of Camp Green Lake. As the book progresses, Stanley slowly develops physical strength and personal strength. He identifies the people who threaten him, like the Warden, and while he tries not to get in trouble he also stands up for his own right and the rights of his friends. Stanley gradually develops the self-confidence necessary to disregard the opinions of the majority of the boys and form a friendship with Zero, the least popular kid in the camp. Although the cruelty of those around him initially causes Stanley to become hard and treat Zero with contempt, he eventually realizes that what he is doing and he and Zero form a strong friendship. They each make sacrifices for one another and by the time that he leaves Camp Green Lake, Stanley is physically and emotionally stronger.
Zero's real name is Hector Zeroni, but he has been called Zero for most of his life. He has been homeless for most of his life, and his mother abandoned (or lost) him when he was still small. Zero has not had much of an education so he does not know how to read or write. Despite all the adversity that he has faced, Zero knows that he is smart and he has a sense of standing up for himself. At first he is presented as a strange character because he rarely speaks and always walks around with a scowl on his face. Eventually, when Zero becomes friends with Stanley, the reader learns that Zero is silent because he does not like answering questions and most likely because he is wary of people like Mr. Pendanski, who always mock him. Zero has suffered so much hardship in his life that he eventually cannot stand Camp Green Lake anymore and he runs away. He has a generous spirit, exemplified by the fact that he shares his last jar of "sploosh" with Stanley after he has run away. As Stanley gains self-confidence, Zero begins to talk more and scowl less. Zero is also very honest and although he steals because he lives on the street, he tries to steal less valuable things so that people will not mind as much. It is really Zero who has stolen the shoes that Stanley was accused of stealing and Zero feels bad for Stanley and apologizes for stealing them.
X-Ray is the unofficial head of the group of boys in tent D at Camp Green Lake. X-Ray decides that Stanley will be called Caveman and fixes the order of the line for water. X-Ray maintains his position as the leader of the boys even though he is one of the smallest boys and can barely see without his glasses. He convinces Stanley to give him the gold tube that Stanley finds in the dirt so that he can have the day off instead of Stanley. X-Ray is able to maintain his position at the head of the group through a system of rewards and allies. Every time that Stanley does something nice for X-Ray, X-Ray is nice to Stanley and stands up for him when the other boys pick on him. When Stanley becomes friends with Zero, however, X-Ray's system is threatened and he becomes hostile towards Stanley. When Stanley and Zero are released from the camp all of the boys come over to congratulate them except for X-Ray. It is clear that X-Ray is not only jealous but also threatened that more attention is being paid to Stanley and Zero. X-Ray's authority is being questioned by this attention and X-Ray does not have a way of handling this.
Katherine Barlow is a sweet and intelligent woman who teaches in a one-room school house on Green Lake one hundred and ten years before it becomes Camp Green Lake. She falls in love with Sam, the man who sells onions in the town, because he is kind, strong, and smart. Although the rest of the white people in the town are racist and enforce rules that prohibit blacks from going to school, Kate (who is white) does not care about the color of a person's skin and she loves Sam (who is black) for the person that he is. When Kate and Sam kiss the town grows angry and kills Sam. Kate is devastated by Sam's death and decided to have revenge. She becomes Kissin' Kate Barlow, one of the most feared outlaws in the west. Although Kate is still responsible for the cruelty that she perpetrates, it is clear that if she and Sam had not suffered so much cruelty at the hands of others she would have retained her warm and helpful personality. Kate is one of the many examples in the book of a person who sounds cruel or bad but in reality is simply unlucky and misunderstood.
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