How is our response to Bruno developed throughout the course of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Boyne actually does a fairly neat trick with his characterization of Bruno throughout the novel.  In general, the Holocaust is a subject that reduces all  of us to the role of children.  The questions that are generated by its study are some of the most elemental, questions that a child would ask:  "How could this happen?"  "How could people do this to one another?"  "Is there any justice for those who were victimized?"  "What were children like during the Holocaust?"  "Why didn't anyone help?"  These questions are child- like in nature, but in the context of the Holocaust, they occupy central importance and bring the profound nature of the subject to light.  Since we, as children, are left with confusion and a great many questions, Boyne puts us as a child, and we, in a sense, are Bruno.  We wonder, as he does, about "Out- With" and "The Fury."  We recognize Nazis as bad, and so does he.  He struggles with moral ascendancy in a moment of crisis, and while it  might be easy to criticize him, we recognize that none of us can fully say what we would do in such a situation.  We recognize that his friendship with Shmuel is something that we would try to do, though, and the ending is something that we, reluctantly, recognize.  In experiencing the Holocaust through Bruno's eyes, Boyne takes our own sensibilities as children of the Holocaust and places us in Bruno's shoes with a remarkable convergence in both experiences to fully experience one of the most difficult times in human history.

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