Holes by Louis Sachar : Bullying or Drama?

231 pages
Newbery Medal Award Winner 1999

Stanley Yelnats’s family is cursed thanks to his “no-good-dirty-rotten-pig-stealing great-great-grandfather”  by the same name.  Because of this curse Stanley gets shipped off to Camp Green Lake, its no summer camp, instead it is a detention center.  Troubled boys are sent there to build character while they dig holes.  Or at least that is what he is lead to believe.  Eventually Stanley discovers that there is more to the story, the warden is searching for something and is getting the boys to do the work. Stanley teams up with Zero which could prove beneficial not just at camp.  Together they face both the bullying of the other campers and the adults running the camp.

There is a lot of bullying in this book but the interesting thing is that it is more pronounced in the adults behavior.  This could be because adults are expected to act more mature and be role models for children especially if they are trying to rehabilitate children.  For instance Mr. Pendanski is very mean to Zero and makes remarks about how dumb he is when he is there to help encourage these boys to change their lives around.  Mr. Pendanski for the most part tries to help the other boys but for what ever reason picks on Zero. Another example is when Sir brings Stanley to see the Warden because he is being accused of stealing sunflower seeds. The Warden gets so upset that she paints her nails with a polish that has snake venom  and then scratches Sir’s face. Now that skips bullying and goes straight to abusive.

The kid on kid bullying mainly focused on pressure.  X-ray was the leader and made Stanley and the other feel like they had to do everything that he wanted them to do. The best example would be when Stanley found a fish fossil and brought it to Mr Pendanski hoping to get the rest of the day off of digging. He didn’t get the day off but he did get a visit from X-ray telling him that if he should find anything else that he should give it to him claiming that since he had been there longer than Stanley that it was only fair that he should get the time off.  Stanley gave in and was happy about it because he didn’t want to get on X-rays bad side.  Also they had him confess for a few things that he didn’t do.  In return they gave him a nickname, Caveman, which made him feel like he was a part of the group.

There was a good article, Bullying as True Drama, by Danah Boyd and Alice Marwick in The New York Times that talks about how teenagers define bullying and drama.  The authors talked about how teens that find it hard to identify themselves as oppressed or oppressors are more likely to use the term drama over the term bullying.  This is because using the adult terminology has psychological affects on them that most are not ready for.  It means that they have to acknowledge that they have a problem or that there is a problem.  This is where I believe fiction can help, both books and movies.  If there are more stories told from the point of view of  the person being bullied (or at least it is their main character) and showing them how to deal with it, then those that are being bullied can have a good example and those that are doing the bulling can get  a different perspective.  It would also be a good way for adults in there lives to bring up discussions about bullying .  The important thing is to be sensitive to both parties, like the article says chances are the bully doesn’t even know that they are being one or has not come to terms with it yet.  The bully could also be a victim of bullying themselves and is acting out their own anger.  Either way it is topic that needs to addressed and should not be ignored.

Holes (movie 2003)

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5 thoughts on “Holes by Louis Sachar : Bullying or Drama?

  1. I think your mention that a bully may not even be aware that they are actually a bullying others is very insightful. In the course of this assignment I have had many options to assess my own internet activities, particularly communication that can use some improvement. I grew up in a family that did a lot of teasing and I’ve seen many individuals cry from such teasing whereas I would quickly, in defense, tease the person back. Online social communities is a host to a much larger audience and what may have been minimally embarrassing now can spread more rapidly then previously experienced.

    Also, since many individuals assume many less reliable resources are fact because they are “popular” or a top Google result as commonly known with Wikipedia. By the time someone is able to conclude that the source was not reliable, the damage has been done, and sadly even a public/digital social network apology may easily be overlooked and the rumors continue to spread. There is so much that is enmeshed with bullying and even social standing in face in face settings that the idea of tween/teen cyberbullying comes as no surprise though I am surprised at the percent frequency bullying has jumped when the bully is able to remain more anonymous.

    I also agree, whether it’s books or other media, fiction still has the power to teach and heal wounds. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with needing an occasional escape from reality as long as it’s done in a healthier manner like film/literature.

  2. The problem with bullying has created uproar in many communities and while the issue seems to be recognized it remains unresolved. No longer are the classic cases of being push, a post it with the word loser on your back or a Whoopi cushion on your desk the means of assault today’s youth use social media to outcast an individual or group of individuals with negative comments on their Facebook accounts, twitter pages and other online predatory attacks while millions of bystanders aid in the attack or sit back and do nothing. I think that as a society we have allowed young children to think that it is okay to call someone a nerd, fat, gay with no sense of remorse. Just last Monday while I was eating dinner with a friend we listened to this mother talking to her husband about an overweight person calling her derogatory names while this behavior should not be acceptable by any standard, what got me upset was the fact that she had her two sons listening to her. Her own prejudiced will affect the way her children interact and feel about individuals with weight issues and the cycle of calling people names will continue. In your post you talk that in the book Holes by Louis Sachar most of the bullying is done by adults and experienced proven true that bullies grow up and become parents, managers, bosses and so on and will grow up to bully other adults and teach their kids that this behavior is acceptable by society standards. This topic I think touches everyone one way or another and if it does not personally know that kids end their life for fear of being ridiculed should not be acceptable by anyone who cares for children. Bullying is a growing problem that needs to be addresses at home, the classroom, and by society at large and a great way of exploring the problem with bullying is through literature such as Hole and The Misfits. By exploring the issues faced by the characters in these stories children can better understand the consequences of bullying and positive ways to overcome bullying.

    • I know some adults that have very strong bullying characteristics. I wonder if they always are aware of it or not, and if they were abused in their youth and the role finally reversed as a means to cope. I don’t understand why adults feel the need to do it. I don’t think it’s always just to cause fear but to control situations. Bullying for the sake of manipulation. I was raised to believe that you don’t have to commit murder to murder someones character by means of words and gossip. I’m no perfect example, but am always glad if someone points out that they think something I said or did was not nice. Without it always being brought to my attention, I am not always aware of my character flaws. I am one of those individuals with a tendency toward sarcastic humor which can very easily be misunderstood and viewed as teasing/bullying. I think you’re right that we can all in one way relate. Truthfully, I don’t think any one individual is without some insecurities that a potential bully can take advantage of. It’s sad that we are our own worst critics when it comes to expectations (body, social acceptance, grades, etc.), so when others discover those weaknesses we feel entirely exposed, vulnerable, and sometimes quick to the defense (self-inflected harm or harm to others).

      Back to adults bullying other adults or even worse, children. I think these cases are far worse because children then become fearful of asking adults for help when certain circumstances require adult assistance. I’ve been a victim of cyber-stalking and no one, not even law enforcement were of much help. I was told it wasn’t “real harm”, or the “fear was irrational”, etc. I know internet jurisdictions can be a nightmare depending on how technologically savvy the person trying to harm is. I’ve been told in the past to completely stay offline for a week or two but it was impossible due to school and then was told I wasn’t obviously worried enough because I didn’t do as told. Cyber-harm of any kind needs stricter laws for everyone of all ages. Also open communication and feeling like victims are safe to talk to others for help needs to be emphasized greater. I like how Tumblr online offers on their help and privacy pages hotlines for abuse or suicide. Many, young and old are afraid of asking for help for fear of the how it may backfire which is a legitimate concern if the person doing the harm was for example a member of a gang. What’s “right” versus “wrong” is clearly defined, but how to always handle “wrong” actions has a lot of grey territory. This grey area is where far too many individuals fall into and are overlooked and such can have extreme results.

  3. I had the same thought about the adults treading the line between bullying the campers and being just plain abusive. It actually made me question my own definition of bullying. It seems that bullying is something that happens between peers, while abuse happens between people of disparate ages or levels of power, kind of along the lines of quid pro quo sexual harrassment in the workplace. What do you think? Can adults bully children, or is it always abuse in that case?

    You also make an interesting point about how the bully could be a victim of bullying him/herself and is therefore acting out his/her own anger. While Stanley doesn’t actually act out his anger (at least, not for the most part), he does envision his fellow campers beating up Derrick Dunne, who had bullied him at school. While digging, he takes solace from the fact that, in his imagination, “whatever pain he felt was being felt ten times worse by Derrick” (p. 54).In this way he is taking his revenge on his tormentor and releasing his anger, albeit in a less destructive way than kids who become bullies themselves.

    • There is a fine line between bullying and abuse. I believe bullying falls under the category of abuse (another type). So, regardless whether bullying is being done by an adult or peer it is still a form of emotional, verbal and/or even physical abuse. The intent of the abuse seems to have a more defined motive than other types. Maybe we want a different label so not to call children abusive? But if we framed it as it being a type of abuse, maybe youth would view it with a more negative connotation which may prevent some from acting out on it. (??) A lot of articles (newspapers) are easy to retrieve have similar titles “bullies abused….”. There’s is an obvious correlation.

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