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Chapters 36–43

Summary Chapters 36–43

Zero and Stanley make a large hole for water with the shovel. Stanley realizes that he is happier than he has ever been before. He realizes he is happy he got arrested because now he has a friend and likes himself as well. Stanley thinks about secretly returning to camp and digging up the treasure that may be in the hole where he found the lipstick container.

Zero and Stanley pack water in the bottles and onions in the sack and plan to return to Camp in an attempt to dig up treasure and then escape. They wait until daylight before leaving. While they wait, Zero tells Stanley more about his life. Zero remembers his mother singing him the same song that Stanley sang, only with different words. One day Zero's mother left him in a park and told him to wait for her. He waited for a month, but she never returned. As they return to Camp Green Lake, Zero steers them in the right direction after Stanley takes a wrong turn. They reach camp and hide near the hole that Stanley found the lipstick tube in.


Stanley and Zero demonstrate their commitment to each other and their true friendship. They each make sacrifices for the other which show that they honestly want to help each other and are not just helping each other in order to attain some benefit for themselves. When they reach God's thumb it becomes clear that this is Sam's old onion patch, a place where, according to Sam, water runs uphill. At this point the real parallels between Elya Yelnats and Madame Zeroni's story and Stanley and Zero's story become clear. Elya Yelnats promised to carry Madame Zeroni up a mountain to a stream where the water ran uphill and then sing her the song about the wolf and the woodpecker. Although Elya never fulfilles this promise, his descendent, Stanley Yelnats, carries Madame Zeroni's descendent up a hill to a place where the water runs uphill and then sings him that same song. By doing this, Stanley demonstrates true dedication and perseverance, qualities that Elya obviously lacked when he broke his promise to Madame Zeroni.

The fact that Zero is the one who stole Clyde Livingston's shoes brings up the issue of fate. The set of coincidences that results in both Stanley and Zero being at Camp Green Lake is so extraordinary that it appears as if the hand of fate pushed a Yelnats and a Zeroni together again. While fate landed Zero and Stanley in Camp Green Lake, it is entirely their own actions of friendship that helped them to reach the onion field on top of the thumb-shaped mountain. A knowledge of history helps explain Zero's miraculous recovery atop the mountain. Sam once saved a girl who was suffering from stomach problems by giving her onion remedies and these same onions help Zero recover more than one hundred years later. This information reinforces the theme of cycles that repeat themselves throughout the ages. Another similarity between characters is the fact that Zero often went to the same homeless shelter that Clyde Livingston, the famous baseball player, once lived at. Being homeless is a clear disadvantage but the reader knows that Livingston went on to become a successful baseball player and it now appears that Zero might succeed as well. Zero has already improved his reading skills dramatically and it is obvious that he is naturally very intelligent. If he and Stanley escape Camp Green Lake then Zero has a good chance of becoming successful himself.