Analysing meaning

Consider the following extract from Holes by Louis Sachar.

Read through it carefully and see if you can use the IDEAS technique to answer the question underneath.

Stanley didn't have many friends at home. He was overweight and the kids at his middle school often teased him about his size. Even his teachers sometimes made cruel comments without realising it. On his last day of school, his math teacher, Mrs Bell, taught ratios. As an example, she chose the heaviest kid in the class and the lightest kid in the class, and had them weighed themselves. Stanley weighed three times as much as the other boy. Mrs Bell wrote the ratio on the board, 3:1, unaware of how much embarrassment she had caused both of them.

Holes by Louis Sachar


What do you learn about Stanley from this extract? Try using the IDEAS technique. When you have finished, compare your answer with this example.


The reader learns that Stanley is probably lonely and unhappy because he 'didn’t have many friends at home'.


The fact that he didn’t have many friends suggests that he might find it difficult to make friends.


This is possibly because he 'was overweight and the kids at middle school often teased him'. This could be the reason for his loneliness and the writer could be trying to make us feel sorry for him. The example of teachers making 'cruel comments without realising it' and causing him 'embarrassment' suggest that Stanley experiences negative comments from almost everyone at school, even those who should be looking after him, adding to the impression that Stanley’s school life is unpleasant.


The revelation that the teacher’s comments caused Stanley embarrassment gives the impression that Stanley is affected by being singled out for being different and that it makes him unhappy.


The writer clearly wants the reader to feel sorry for Stanley at this point in the story and does this through showing us the ways in which he is treated by both pupils and teachers at his school.