Please explain the conflict in John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

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tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Bruno is Boyne's protagonist in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Because he is a young boy of ten, Bruno finds himself isolated from adults' understanding of the world. His young mind cannot comprehend everything that is going on in his parents' lives, often because they are not forthcoming with vital information. For example, when the family moves from Berlin to Auschwitz, Bruno does not understand the complexity of the situation. All he knows is that his father moves his family from their comfortable home in the city to a strange location where there are no young friends for Bruno to play with. This makes him very upset. Furthermore, everyone in his life seems to be too busy to notice him and how lonely he feels in the new home. The maid, Maria, tells Bruno to find a way to do his school work and stay out of his father's way because this will make things easier for everyone. Bruno doesn't like that answer. As a result, there is conflict between him and his parents simply because he has no control over the choices they make for his life.

Since Bruno has no power to change his parents' minds to move back to Berlin, the second major conflict can be seen between Bruno and himself when he makes secret decisions to satisfy his loneliness. Bruno demonstrates his internal conflict whenever he makes a decision that he thinks his parents won't like. For instance, in chapter twelve, Bruno wants to tell his parents about his new friend Shmuel; however, he reasons within himself the following:

". . . the closer he got to his own house, the more he started to think that that might not be a good idea. After all, he reasoned, they might not want me to be friends with him any more and if that happens they might stop me coming out here at all" (133).

The above passage shows a conflict between Bruno and his parents and family, which would be person vs. society; however, this excerpt also shows that Bruno consciously examines his decisions by weighing his options, which is an internal struggle.

Another example of Bruno struggling within himself to make a decision that his parents would not like is at the end of the novel when Shmuel asks him to help find his father inside the concentration camp. At first, Bruno says, "I don't think I'd be allowed," after which Shmuel argues, "Well, you're probably not allowed to come here and talk to me every day either . . . But you still do it, don't you?" (197-198). Thus, for acting against his parents' will, the conflict is Bruno vs. his parents; but, whenever Bruno considers options when deciding whether or not to do something against his parents' will, he consciously debates the issue internally, which creates the conflict of Bruno vs. himself.

sboeman's profile pic

sboeman | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is obviously fiction, but could probably be more specifically considered dramatic fiction.

The setting, of course, is during World War II in Nazi-ruled Germany.  In the beginning, Bruno and his family live in Berlin, but then must move to Auschwitz, or "Out With", as Bruno misinterprets it.

The conflicts in the story could possibly be character vs. character for one, since the Jews vs. Nazis provide the "backdrop" of the story.  Bruno, however, is quite naive and ignorant of what is truly going on, so it doesn't seem like he faces much conflict, aside from the frustration of having to live at such a boring new home.  He doesn't realize what is happening to the Jewish population and what his country's plans are.

Other characters face conflicts, however, such as the mother's disapproval of what her husband, Bruno's father, is actually doing; likewise, it could be argued that the father is facing an internal conflict since he is basically forced to follow orders, even though his own mother cannot stand what he does.

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