Stanley is the protagonist of Holes, although he is an unlikely hero. He 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.

Read about another character who grows stronger through adversity, Brian Robeson from Gary Paulsen’s Hatchet.