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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’ continues a literary tradition of the evil of the Holocaust through the eyes of a child. In this book it contrasts the differences of man’s inhumanity to man with man’s capacity to care and love. The main theme however, is the portrayal of the innocence of children. It shows that no matter what the circumstance is, a child will always see another child as the same. They do not see race, color, or any other of the prejudices that adults tend to have.
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. 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 have lived through it. It gives a voice to the victims, especially the millions of innocent children who were 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 cruelty, it instead focuses on individual relationships and gives viewers an outlook of two innocent boys looking for the same ideal friendship. 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.
However, Boyne classifies the ‘Boy in the Striped Pajamas’ as a fable, a story that bears a moral lesson. This movie falls in the category 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 watchers to confront the sorrow reality that hatred, discrimination, and intolerance remain powerful forces in the world. Viewers 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, either bystander, perpetrator, or victim.
For such a young boy, Bruno has an impressively strong sense of morality and ethics in ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’. I don’t think it comes from his father, who is a Nazi, although we can only assume he gets it from the female figures in his life, which are his mother and grandmother. Bruno, unlike many Nazis, does not view anyone else in his life as less or subhuman. Bruno is more interested in bonds than differences, and looks for loyalty, trust, and kindness in people, qualities found in any good human being, no matter their race or class.
When Bruno is forced to leave Berlin, one of his main complaints is that he also has to leave his three best friends. To make matters worse, when he gets to the new house in Auschwitz, there are no other families or children around. Despite their many differences, these two form a bond that transcends race, and even fences, that when asked if he still wants to go back to Berlin, Bruno confidently says no. In a world governed by hatred, Bruno and Shmuel show that friendship can thrive even in darkness. 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 imaginable indicator, Shmuel sees everything a little differently than Bruno. Nevertheless, he remains the same boy who still needs training, upbringing, and care.
Freedom and confinement apply to Shmuel and Bruno. Both are in places they were forced to go to, and also the both of them can’t leave. The barbed wire fence in the book obviously is a separation from the two characters, but it also represents other types of separation. The idea of ‘boundaries’, this idea occurs throughout the movie for example: the fence, the idea of Bruno having boundaries on who he can befriend or act. There is also a huge difference in the living conditions of the people on opposite sides of the fence. Of course the huge difference between the boys is that Shmuel is in a concentration camp and Bruno is in a house. Shmuel is drastically confined first to his house, then to a shared room, then a train, and eventually in Auschwitz, the biggest concentration camp in the Holocaust. Bruno, however, has the freedom to walk out of his house when he wants and does not fear for his life. In their confinement, though, both boys struggle with loneliness. And in the unlikely friendship they form, they both find a bit of freedom from their isolation.
While warfare isn’t particularly visible on Bruno’s side of the fence, on Shmuel’s side, it’s a totally different story. Shmuel’s mother’s ‘taken away,’ his grandfather ‘disappears,’ and then one day, his father doesn’t come back from work. When your entire people are systematically under attack, then it’s safe to say that war is being waged against you, which is exactly the case for Shmuel and the other prisoners held in Auschwitz.
The wood is symbolism in ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas’. It represents the line between the ‘good’, which were the Nazis and the ‘bad’, which were the Jews. As the boy discovers the concentration camp, he has to cross the line each time he visits. When he makes the decision to go into the camp disguised as a Jew in the end, he forces his whole family to cross the line and realise how this is wrong. They believe that Jews are the enemy and if a Nazi’s son can be mistaken as a Jew, it forces them to realise that Jews and Nazis are the same.
To sum up everything, 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 within 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. The novel’s devastating conclusion is not only beyond children’s ability to comprehend but also in defiance of their worldview.
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