Sample 1. The fence is a physical separation between Bruno and Shmuel. What else does the fence represent in this story?
The Boy In The Striped Pajamas is a book about Bruno, the son of a World War II commandant and his friendship with Shmuel, a Jewish captive in a concentration camp. Bruno and his family move to a new house where there are no other children to play with. Bruno decides to explore the area around his house and finds a boy around his age who is wearing striped pajamas. The two boys end up talking every day and become best friends, which a year later ends in a tragedy. The barbed wire fence in this book stands as a powerful symbol. It shows the concentration camp through the eyes of children, and powerfully shows the innocence of children.
When Bruno first arrives at his new house, he is greatly disappointed. There is nowhere for him to play, the house is small, and there are no other children for him to play with. Out his window, however, he sees hundreds of people enclosed in a fence, but there was something strange to him about the fence. “There wasn’t any grass after the fence; in fact there was no greenery anywhere to be seen” (The Boy In the Striped Pajamas, p.21). That statement alone sends a very powerful message. In a child’s eyes, the fact that there is no greenery shows that life beyond the fence is miserable and lifeless. Right away he can tell that something is wrong with life on the other side of the fence, but he doesn’t know what and doesn’t understand why all these people are wearing the same clothes and are living in such a small space together.
After he meets his friend Shmuel, the book takes a look into the innocence of children. Bruno was told that the people on the other side of the fence were Jews, and he was also told many things about why they shouldn’t ever talk to them. He was told that they “weren’t even people at all.” Even though he was told all of these horrible things, all Bruno could see was another little boy who was a person just like him, only on the other side of the fence. “Children have no preconceived notions as they are not yet tainted by experience and they say things both honestly and sincerely” (Edienn, p.1). Bruno doesn’t see Shmuel as anything other than a new friend for him to play with. The book really shows how children have a mind of innocence. They do not see race, instead they just see another child. The things that seem to bother adults about other people does not even register in the mind of a child.
The barbed wire fence in the book obviously is a separation from the two characters, but it also represents other types of separation. It represents the separation of the two different types of people during World War II. There is also a huge difference in the living conditions of the people on opposite sides of the fence. The book does a very good job in portraying that without having to give too gruesome of details. The main theme in the book, however, is the portrayal of the innocence of children. It shows that no matter what the circumstance is, a child will always just see another child; they do not see race, color, or any other of the prejudices that adults tend to have. Anne Frank once said, “Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”
Edienn The Beauty of a Child’s Innocence. (n.d.). Retrieved December 21, 2014, from http://ediann.hubpages.com/hub/The-beauty-of-a-childs-innocence
Boyne, J. (2006). “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: A Fable.” Oxford: David Fickling Books.
Goodrich, F., & Hackett, A. (1956). The Diary of Anne Frank. New York: Random House.
“Symbolism: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.” Ms Ogrady. N.p., 27 May 2013. Web. 21 Dec. 2014.
Sample 2. Compare Bruno’s and Shmuel’s lives in places they were forced to live in. What are the distinctions and the similarities in their living?
A story that makes the soul fall apart. The move of the German family to Poland was the beginning of something beautiful and, at another moment, something terrible. Bruno, the main character, quickly gets to know the boy in the striped pajamas on the other side of the fence. Two boys, nine years old, became friends and spent time over a year every day, for several hours talking, sitting opposite each other, divided only by the camp fence. On the one side, there is Bruno’s misunderstanding, why people in striped pajamas are considered to be “non-humans” and how they differ from others. On the other side, there is awareness of reality and unnatural acceptance of the world as it is. The friendship of the German and Jewish boys, filled with naivety and the desire to get care, ended incredibly tragically. Two small personalities, whose lives were completely different, shared the same fate. The point is to find out what are the distinctions and the similarities in the living of two boys.
To start with, two boys, born on April 15, 1934 had two different fates on different sides of the fence. The first one, Bruno, was born in Berlin, in the family of a man who wore a military uniform with a red-white-black bandage and proudly threw up his hand, uttering a greeting to a man whose very existence was the curse of the twentieth century. What is more, the echoes of his terrible ideology have sprouted now. Another, Shmuel, was born in Cracow, in the family of a watchmaker who pretended to be happy once (Boyne, John). However, the hands of both his relatives and him were bandaged with yellow stars. It becomes clear that it ended up with striped pajamas and Auschwitz oven. There is no arguing with the fact that there are two such different destinies. Two of these boys could not, even should not become friends albeit they did. All in all, it led to a tragedy.
As it was mentioned above, the plot of the short novel is quite simple. A nine-year-old boy from a family of high ranking in the Third Reich military is transported with his family to a new place. There are no friends; there are no moves, there are no houses and people. There is only a strange camp that the boy sees from the window of his new bedroom and calls it a “farm” with strange “farmers in striped pajamas” who live in boring houses. The boy does not understand anything at all and sincerely thinks that the stripes are fun there. Once, he met a boy sitting on the other side. An unusual friendship is born at that very moment. On the other side, there is Shmuel who is much smarter than Bruno. The war forced him to understand a lot. It is impossible not to appreciate his spiritual qualities. He does not talk about Nazism, about oppression, about his hardships. Shmuel solemnly keeps Bruno’s childhood. Moreover, he does not ask for food from him, although he could have. In their friendship, he is an adult who cares about both souls. As for Bruno, he is a naive boy albeit kind-hearted. Age, loneliness and childish naivety are what unite the German Bruno and the Jew Shmuel and help them to be friends, regardless of the wire.
It is known Jews suffered from Nazi who had the irresistible sick desire to kill the first one. It is nothing but the truth is described in the book. “The Jews were rounded up in the market place, where they were beaten and humiliated. First the younger men and the old rabbi were killed one by one with axes and other farm tools. Then the whole population, the elderly, women, and children — families often with 6 or 8 children — were herded into a barn, and the barn was set on fire” (“Q&A: Hundreds Of Jews Locked In A Barn And Burned To Death (By Poles, Not Nazis): Poland, 1941”).
Bruno and Shmuel did not have this hatred. They were just two little boys who did not even have the faintest idea of what is going on around them and how it is called. The point is made by every conceivable indicator, Shmuel sees everything a little differently than Bruno. Nevertheless, he remains the same boy who still needs training, upbringing, and care.
To sum up everything that was mentioned above, it should be noted that history hides many facts. Holocaust is one of the events that are widespread among people, but about which little is known. The author of the book brings the lives of Polish Jews to the forefront, writing everything with the eyes of the little boy. Life through the eyes of a person who has not actually realized the reality as it was and the cruelty of events. A boy who wanted to have friends, and he found one, not a childlike naive, full of desire to live and a refusal to perceive reality. Two different lives, two layers of society shared the same fate.
Boyne, John. The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas (C). Oxford, David Fickling Books, 2006,. Retrieved 25 August 2017.
“Q&A: Hundreds Of Jews Locked In A Barn And Burned To Death (By Poles, Not Nazis): Poland, 1941.” Huffpost, 2017. Retrieved 25 August 2017, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-national-book-review/qa-hundreds-of-jews-locke_b_8540678.html.
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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas continues a literary tradition of exploring the evils of the Holocaust through the eyes of a child. In the same vein as Jerry Spinelli's Milkweed, this novel contrasts the dichotomy of man's inhumanity to man with man's capacity to care and love.
Author John Boyne has said that he believes that the only way he could write about the Holocaust respectfully was through the eyes of a child. He does so masterfully in this novel, demonstrating how Bruno and Shmuel maintain the innocence of their childhood in spite of what is happening around them. Boyne acknowledges that the only people who can truly comprehend the horrors of the Holocaust are those who lived through it. Boyne's novel gives a voice to the victims, especially the millions of innocent children who perished at the hands of the Nazis.
What makes The Boy in the Striped Pajamas so effective is that rather than examining the big picture of the Holocaust and its atrocities, the novel instead focuses on individual relationships and gives readers an intimate portrait of two innocent boys seeking the same thing: friendship. Readers are cautioned, however, that even though the novel is about two nine-year-old boys, the novel is most definitely not geared toward this age group. The novel's devastating conclusion is not only beyond children's ability to comprehend but also in defiance of their worldview.
Interestingly, Boyne classifies The Boy in the Striped Pajamas as a fable, a story that bears a moral lesson. This is a fitting category for the novel as it imparts many lessons. Among these valuable lessons, perhaps the most significant is the final sentence which suggests that "nothing like that could ever happen again. Not in this day and age." It forces readers to confront the grim reality that hatred, discrimination, and intolerance remain potent forces in the world. Readers consequently consider their own prejudices and actions, perhaps wondering if they have been guilty of mistreating others. Additionally, some may even consider what their role might have been in the Holocaust: bystander, resister, perpetrator, or victim.
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas has received much acclaim. The novel won two prestigious awards in Boyne's native Ireland: Children's Book of the Year and People's Choice Book of the Year. In addition, the book was short-listed for numerous awards, including the Ottakar's Children's Book Prize, the British Book Award, the Paolo Ungari Prize, and the Border's Original Voices Award. Additionally, the novel spent 80 weeks at number one in Ireland and topped the New York Times best-seller list. The film adaptation, released by Miramax in 2008, received many independent film awards and much critical praise.