Symbols in Holes

Instructor: Jaclyn Radtke

I am a second grade teacher. I have been teaching second grade for two years. I previously taught fifth grade. I work in an urban school district. I am also interesting in drama and dance, which is why I am currently an assistant director of our after school for the arts program and co-director/choreographer of our school productions. I have a bachelors and a masters degree in elementary education.

In this lesson, you'll learn about some important symbols in the book 'Holes.' While it doesn't seem like much on the surface, there are many symbols in this book that represent deeper meanings. Let's look at some of these symbols now.

The cover of the book

What Is a Symbol?

In a book, a symbol is an object or a thing used to represent something else of greater meaning. For example, when you think of a red rose, you think of love. Therefore, a red rose is a symbol for love. Sometimes an author includes symbols in a book to show the power that something can hold as a representation of something else.

Symbols in the Book Holes

Let's explore a few symbols author Louis Sachar uses in his book. We'll look closely at the significance of the use of holes, onions and nicknames.


In one sense, the use of holes in this story symbolizes negativity and punishment. Specifically, digging holes in the book is the punishment that is given to the boys who reside at Camp Green Lake. The boys are serving a period of time at the camp due to bad choices they made in the past. The warden requires the boys to dig one hole a day in the hot sun.

While holes symbolize negativity in some parts of the book, they reveal positivity in other parts. For instance, Stanley and Zero hide in a hole to save themselves, and while hiding in that hole, they find the fortune that belongs to Stanley's family. This fortune helps to bring Stanley's family out of poverty. The fortune also helps reunite Zero with his mom, filling the symbolic 'hole' he felt in his heart from missing her for so long.


In the book, onions symbolize health. At the beginning of the story, Sam, the onion man, sold onion products to people who were having health issues.

Also, when Stanley and Zero were trying to get back to Camp Green Lake, they came across an onion patch. After not feeling so good from being dehydrated for so long and climbing the mountain in the heat, they ate the onions and were eventually strong enough to make the journey back to the camp.

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