Abstract: Since western history and the mythopoetic Old West are becoming increasingly rare themes in contemporary juvenile fiction, it is worthwhile to consider a popular narrative that relies heavily on the haunting presence of the Old West in the New West. Louis Sachar's novel Holes (1998), and Disney's 2003 film adaptation of it, suggest that the present is haunted by troublesome specters of injustices anchored in the past. These injustices manifest themselves in the present in various societal institutions, including education and the legal system. This essay examines the way haunting and history function in Holes and argues that feminist and minority issues in contemporary western narratives are symptomatic of larger fields of ideological critique of the history and mythology of the Old West. Both novel and film convert geographical places to culturally signifying spaces in terms of race and gender. Both film and novel illustrate how history and oral traditions can be mobilized as active social forces in the project of cultural recovery of those silenced in the myth of the West as white masculine space. The American West's prominent cultural function as a deeply invested symbolic space condenses not only the essential role of the frontier in US history but also sustains a powerful folklore tradition about the so-called Wild West. Holes ' theme of digging thus becomes a powerful metaphor for looking for clues to forgotten events and social practices that haunt the New West in unexpected ways.
Western American Literature – The Western Literature Association
Published: Aug 13, 2010
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