Holes / Treasure Island "study questions - please help a simple-minded reader (me)

Sometimes in kid’s books they will have questions at the back meant to encourage the literary criticism skills of the readers. Some of those questions stump me, I majored in science, not the liberal arts. And a lot of “obvious” symbolism escapes me. :frowning:

Here are two things I recall that were supposed to point to something subtle/interesting, but it must have gone right over my head.

Holes by Louis Sachar - in the book, Stanley Yelnats is nicknamed “Caveman” by the other kids at Camp Green Lake. One of the “study questions” in the back of the book was "Why did the other kids call Stanley ‘Caveman’ "? My answer was: because he was big? In other words, no clue why this was significant.

I just got Treasure Island by Stevenson for my son. One of the “study questions” in the back was “Some of the chapters switched from Jim Hawkins’ point of view to being told from the point of view of Dr. Livesey - how did this affect the story? Why do you think the author did that?” I don’t see any special significance, except that the author wanted to show what was happening in two different places at the same time. What is the subtle meaning of this point of view change?

I guess one reason would be to better control what information he wanted the reader to have. By switching POVs, he could reveal information known to one character, while withholding information about what was happening to another. This heightened the dramatic tension and allowed for plot twists to occur.

Having just finished Treasure Island, I’m happy to be able to answer the second question. Not only does the author control plot development by switching POV, he reveals new things about the characters with this switch as well. Dr. Livsey is a mature adult and an experienced seaman. He knows things about people and about their predicament that Jim can’t know. By showing us things from his point of view, the siege becomes more interesting and we get a better feel for what the adults were doing during this point in the book. Jim just wants to adventure; the men want to survive. The new POV for those chapters helps us see these distinctions.

It’s been too long ago for me to remember details, but switching viewpoints can also let an author show how different characters experience the world and interpret the actions of the people around them. It can let the reader get into the character’s heads.

And while hiding information that different viewpoint characters don’t have can set up plot twists, revealing information that different viewpoint characters have can create anticipation, allowing the reader to see an inevitable conflict coming that neither of the characters, separately, is yet aware of.

Thank you for the insights, everybody! I will take re-read Dr. Livesy’s chapters this week in light of your commentary.

Miss Woodhouse, you are as witty as you are charming, I feel like Miss Bates after reading your post.

In the movie “Holes”, Stanley is nicknamed Caveman after he finds a fossil fish in the hole he’s digging and thinks it would be of interest to others. So the other kids derisively refer to him as Caveman (as in, fossil).

If the book has it differently, I don’t know.

All the kids in camp had a nickname. Stanley receiving his nickname from the others was a sign of him finally being accepted after having had a hard time originally fitting in.

I should have hit preview - **Miss Woodhouse **covered my first point and did it better.

Yes, he does find a fossil in the book. Maybe your explanation is the right one.

The “study question” makes it seem like more than that. Form my (paperback) edition, the “readers circle” question is

I have not read the book - only seen the movie. But if I were to nickname someone “Caveman” it would be because they’re slow to pick up on how things work. Wasn’t Stanley pretty oblivious to how things worked at the “camp”?

I’m blushing. You so sweet, Mr. Winkleried that I shall not restrict you to three dull things. You can say as many as you wish.

It’s been awhile since I read Holes, but I do seem to remember that the significance of the nickname wasn’t so much the name as it was that they gave him one. It meant he was an accepted part of the group. I’ll have to reread that one next. I’m reading Emma again, so it may be awhile. (One does enjoy reading nice things about one’s self.)

Yeah, this question does make it seem like there is some deep reason for Sachar having chosen the nickname Caveman for Stanley, but you have to remember that these questions are meant to be answered by kids. I think your original thought (That he’s big) is actually the one they’re looking for. If you think about the other characters, their nicknames all have to do with some pretty obvious character/physical traits - X-Ray wears glasses, Magnet steals stuff, Zero is considered worthless (and also, coincidently, his last name is Zeroni)… And Although in the movie, Shia LeBouf is a pretty skinny guy, in the book, Stanley is supposed to be big, overweight, and awkward. I remember there was quite a bit of criticism in casting LeBouf when the movie first came out.

I still stand by my original comment that they fact that Stanley got a nickname at all, and the point at which he got it, was more significant to the story than what the particular nickname was.

Actually, upon reading the question again, I suppose you could connect the trait that inspired the nickname with the problems and conflicts each character experiences. Magnet’s stealing things caused him to be sent to Camp Green Lake, and got Stanley in trouble when he stole the sunflower seeds. Zero is considered such a loser that no one even knows his real name, but spends much of the book trying to improve himself. Stanley (Caveman) is self conscious about his size, and as a result let’s others push him around, and it contributes to his feelings of being completely unlucky and isolated.
I don’t know if this is much “deeper” but perhaps more what they were looking for…