“Hey,” said X-Ray. He smiled and shook Stanley’s hand. He wore glasses, but they were so dirty that Stanley wondered how he could see out of them.
The narrator introduces X-Ray’s character into the story as Stanley meets him for the first time. Upon meeting Stanley, X-Ray smiles and shakes Stanley’s hand. X-Ray seems friendly and welcoming. The narrator, however, also details X-Ray’s dirty glasses. In this moment, just as X-Ray cannot see clearly, the reader does not get a clear picture of X-Ray’s hostile personality, still hidden from both Stanley and the reader.
The shovels were kept in a shed near the showers. They all looked the same to Stanley, although X-Ray had his own special shovel, which no one else was allowed to use. X-Ray claimed it was shorter than the others, but if it was, it was only by a fraction of an inch.
As Stanley digs his first hole at the camp, he begins to recognize the group dynamics and X-Ray’s position as the leader. In this quote, the narrator describes how X-Ray has convinced the other boys of the superiority of one shovel over the others, and that only he can use that shovel. Such behavior portrays X-Ray’s true character as someone who bullies others into conceding to him and places his own needs above everyone else’s.
“Don’t lie to me,” said X-Ray. “I bet you always wanted to dig a big hole, right? Am I right?” Stanley had never really thought about it before, but he knew better than to tell X-Ray he wasn’t right. “Every kid in the world wants to dig a great big hole,” said X-Ray. “To China, right?” “Right,” said Stanley.
Under the disguise of befriending Stanley, X-Ray ultimately controls him. In this example, Stanley agrees with X-Ray because he senses that arguing invites trouble, knowing that X-Ray has a lot of power at Camp Green Lake. Just before this dialogue, X-Ray defused a fight between Stanley and another boy and gave Stanley his nickname: Caveman. However, X-Ray’s behaviors don’t stem from wanting to befriend Stanley, but rather to control him and the other boys.
The truck stopped and the boys lined up. They always lined up in the same order, Stanley realized, no matter who got there first. X-Ray was always at the front of the line.
Here the narrator gives another example of X-Ray’s place of power in the hierarchy at Camp Green Lake. Regardless of when X-Ray gets to the water truck, all the boys concede the first place in line to him. With rather smug behavior, X-Ray holds this position of power through fear and intimidation rather than through loyalty, admiration, and respect.
“Say, listen,” said X-Ray. “If you find something else, give it to me, okay?” Stanley wasn’t sure what to say. X-Ray was clearly the leader of the group, and Stanley didn’t want to get on his bad side. “You’re new here, right?” said X-Ray. “I’ve been here for almost a year. I’ve never found anything. You know, my eyesight’s not so good . . . I mean,” X-Ray went on, “why should you get a day off when you’ve only been here a couple of days? If anybody gets a day off, it should be me. That’s only fair, right?”
After Stanley finds a fossil while digging, X-Ray attempts to persuade him to give him the next object Stanley finds, so X-Ray can get a day off from digging. Such manipulation highlights X-Ray’s bullying and threatening tactics. X-Ray plays on Stanley’s fear and weakness as well as his newness at the camp to convince Stanley of the equity of this agreement. X-Ray is a master manipulator with egotistic motives.
It was a little surprising, he thought, that X-Ray was the leader of the group, since he obviously wasn’t the biggest or the toughest. In fact, except for Zero, X-Ray was the smallest. Armpit was the biggest . . . Yet Armpit, and all the others, seemed to be willing to do whatever X-Ray asked of them.
As Stanley adjusts to his life at Camp Green Lake, he tries to understand the group dynamics in order to better survive the situation. However, the narrator describes Stanley’s confusion as to how X-Ray maintains his position as leader, delineating X-Ray’s small size and not-so-tough character. This description points to X-Ray’s manipulative abilities and persuasive intelligence, convincing others of the value of his friendship.
The other bodies in the room were little more than bags of flesh and bones, dumped across broken chairs and couches. X-Ray was full of life, laughing and waving his arms around as he talked . . . “What’s the matter?” asked X-Ray. “You guys tired or something?” He laughed.
After X-Ray gets a day off from digging due to an object Stanley found and gave to him to claim, he taunts the other boys for their apparent exhaustion. Such behavior reveals his arrogance and self-centeredness. He shows off his energy in the face of their suffering. He behaves in a loud and obnoxious way, caring little for anyone else. X-Ray even goes as far as to pompously ask if the other boys are tired even though he knows exactly how they feel.
Stanley dug out another shovelful of dirt. He knew X-Ray wouldn’t have been talking like that if he was the one teaching Zero to read. Then X-Ray would be talking about how important it was that he got his rest, right? So he could be a better teacher, right?
Stanley angrily reflects on his situation after X-Ray and some of the other boys mock him for letting Zero dig some of his hole in exchange for reading lessons. Stanley tries to explain his reasoning, but X-Ray intentionally depicts Stanley as racist, saying whatever he can to rile up the others. However, in these lines, the narrator explains how Stanley recognizes X-Ray’s tactics, pointing out X-Ray’s double standards and egocentric character.
“You’re insulting him, Zig,” said X-Ray. “Why should Caveman take your place, when he deserves to be at the very front? He’s better than all of us. Aren’t you, Caveman?”
X-Ray instigates conflict with Stanley because of Zero’s digging part of Stanley’s hole. X-Ray’s behavior reveals his jealousy of Stanley’s influence with Zero as X-Ray goes on the offensive. He proclaims that Stanley feels superior to the other boys. Even when Stanley disagrees, X-Ray bullies him into accepting the front of the water line in order to pit the others against Stanley. X-Ray continues to use bullying in order to maintain his control. Here he attempts to create discord to protect the status quo.
X-Ray was the only one who didn’t come over. Stanley saw him hang back behind the others a moment, then return to the Wreck Room.
At the end of the novel as Stanley and Zero return to Camp Green Lake after surviving the desert and finding the buried treasure, the narrator describes X-Ray as withdrawn while the other boys show their happiness for Stanley and Zero. X-Ray’s behavior reveals his true nature as a false friend. He cannot accept that Stanley or Zero have proven themselves as the real leaders who overcame adversity despite his bullying tactics. He can’t move beyond his anger and jealousy to show happiness for someone else.