The omniscient third-person narrator in Holes moves among three different settings: 19th century Latvia, 19th century Green Lake, Texas, and present day Camp Green Lake. The narrative voice allows the reader to move between these different storylines and characters seamlessly. In this way, we are able to understand the underlying curse that plays an important role in the main plot. Moreover, we are able to find recurring themes and patterns that tie these stories together in surprising and interesting ways.
While the 19th century subplots help to explain the contemporary story and character motivation, the most important story arc is that of Stanley, the protagonist of the novel. The narrative voice has full access to Stanley’s thoughts and feelings, and thus, the reader is able to sympathize with him. However, as a result of the omniscient narrative voice, the reader is privy to much more information that Stanley is. Due, however, to the nonlinear story-telling, the reader also has to solve the mystery of Camp Green Lake by piecing the different narratives together. Thus, we find ourselves working just like Stanley to make sense of the mysterious holes.
While we have full access to Stanley, the narrator does not let us really get into the heads of the other characters. We only learn about Zero, for instance, through Stanley’s eyes. This helps to cement Stanley as the sympathetic protagonist whose perceptions and experiences we trust – even while simultaneously knowing more about some characters and contexts than he does.
Another interesting aspect of the narration in Holes is the way in which the narrator occasionally addresses the reader by name: “the reader probably still has some questions” (229). In another instance, the narrator actually demands that the reader reflect upon the events and formulate his own opinion: “That [Sam’s death] all happened one hundred and ten years ago. Since then, not one drop of rain has fallen on Green Lake. You make the decision: Whom did God punish (115)?”