An Examination Of How Naivety Is Created To Convey Innocence And Explore Complex Issues In The Boy And In Striped Pyjamas

Essay by tom_the_bombJunior High, 9th grade June 2008

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The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas is an entirely unique book. It follows its main character, Bruno, as he undergoes a big change in his personality and understanding of his environment. In the beginning when he moves to Out-With, he starts off an innocent 9 year old boy, completely oblivious to all the horrors going on just behind his back. Upon seeing the Jews and the huts on the other side of the fence, he concludes that it’s an ordinary town full of ordinary people. When he sees a soldier terrorising a group of Jews, he assumes it must be a rehearsal for some kind of play.

For a large part of the book Bruno takes this unsuspecting view on almost everything he encounters; and through this approach, John Boyne is able to implicitly confront a lot of issues. He addresses how Jewish families were taken and separated, the soldiers’ appalling treatment of the Jews, Gretel’s indoctrination, Mother’s affair with Lieutenant Kotler, the labour and extermination of the Jews and more.

And since these are hard things for any child to grasp, there could not be a better way to present them than the way this book does.

And the way this book presents them is describing what Bruno sees, but either interpreting it differently or not interpreting it at all. However, subtle hints about the truth are added here and there, some of which could easily go unnoticed by the casual reader. For example, when Bruno asks his father who the people on the other side of the fence are, his father replies that, “they’re not people at all, Bruno”. This serves only to confuse Bruno as he has not been introduced to Nazism yet. In another part of the book, Grandmother has outburst of rage and shame at...