What is the explained main problem/ dilemma in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

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

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I think that one of the main issues that is explored in the novel is how human beings act and should act in the face of unspeakable horror.  Essentially, the novel asks the question of what individuals do when there is suffering.  Bruno becomes our guide through this maze of ethical action.  When Bruno becomes aware of something that is not right or not in synchronicity with his moral sense of order, he acts or develops a sensitivity towards those who are victimized by a setting that lacks his own understanding.  The only instance where this wasn't evident was when Bruno was silent as Shmuel was demeaned.  He ended up apologizing for this and made amends for this silence.  The novel explores the dimensions of human action in the face of social pressure and the result of this exploration is a resounding affirmation of how human beings must seek to transcend their setting when contingencies do not act in accordance to universal values such as care, compassion, and understanding for the plight of another's suffering.  It is in this where the novel seeks to focus its attention on the problem of human suffering and individuals' reaction to it.

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