In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, it is difficult to find textual evidence on the friendship between Bruno and Shmuel. Can you help me?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Bruno and Shmuel are two unlikely friends. They are separated by a fence and Bruno's father has told Bruno that "those" people are "not people at all" (chapter 5). Bruno finds Shmuel whilst exploring along the fence where he has been forbidden to go. Shmuel is "just waiting to be discovered" (much like America, Bruno concludes) (chapter 10).

Bruno introduces himself and the two boys are equally fascinated by each others' most unusual names. Ironically, the boys form a bond over those things that make them the same, such as their birthdays. The are exactly the same age, "twins," and this cements their friendship. Bruno is anxious to retain his new friend and, rather than disagree with him over details regarding where they are both from, he "agrees to disagree." This is further proof of their friendship as Bruno is compromising to safeguard their friendship. 

The boys also bond because they have both been forced to move from their homes. In chapter 12, when Shmuel tells Bruno how "everything changed" Bruno recognizes yet another similarity between them; neither of them is enjoying life at "Out-With." Bruno is fiercely protective of his new friendship even realizing that he should keep Shmuel a secret because his family may not understand and may try to keep them apart. Bruno even risks being ridiculed by Gretel when he accidentally mentions Shmuel that he tells her (in chapter 14) that he is his "imaginary friend." Furthermore, when Lieutenant Kotler finds the boys talking in Bruno's home when Shmuel has been brought there co-incidentally to clean the glasses for the upcoming party (chapter 15), Bruno denies knowing him. This may seem like a betrayal but it is the only way to keep their secret and is further proof of their friendship as is Bruno's dogged persistence in returning to the boys' meeting place until finally, after a week, Shmuel comes back. Shmuel forgives Bruno and the two boys "shook hands and smiled at each other," as Shmuel reaches under the fence.  

In chapter 16 the boys discuss their friendship, "the strangest friendship I've ever had," according to Bruno and, in chapter 17, when it is decided that Bruno, his mother and sister should return to Berlin, Bruno is not happy and "dreaded having to tell Shmuel the news." Finally, when Bruno does go across to Shmuel's side of the fence, he realizes that he and Shmuel are "best friends for life" (chapter 19). The two friends die, presumably and thankfully, without any concept of what is about to happen.

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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