In chapter 12, Bruno and Shmuel has different perspectives of the train they boarded to arrive at their destination. How are the perspectives different and how is it significant?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Shmuel recounts his journey on the train, he describes a horrible situation, which was completely different from Bruno's experience on his train ride. Shmuel tells Bruno that the cars were overcrowded to the point that passengers could not breathe. In contrast, Bruno recalls that there were two trains at the station when he left Berlin and naively believes that Shmuel boarded the wrong train. Even though Shmuel tries to explain to Bruno that the train he boarded had no doors, Bruno contradicts Shmuel and does not understand why Shmuel had such a negative experience on the train. Bruno and Shmuel's different perspectives are significant because they depict the contrast between those in authority (Nazis) and those in subjugation (Jews). Since Bruno is a German Nazi, he is treated with respect and enjoys a relatively comfortable train ride. In contrast, the Jewish prisoners, like Shmuel, were subjected to the horrible conditions of the tightly packed cattle cars that took them to concentration camps. Their differing perspectives further illuminates the difference in their backgrounds and situations. Despite Bruno and Shmuel's drastically different circumstances, the two boys become close friends.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The significance of the different perspectives that Bruno and Shmuel have are reflective of the different realities for those in the position of power in Nazi Germany and those who are under its heel.  Bruno's train is nearly empty and quite luxurious.  The other train is cramped with people. Bruno notices that there is a fundamental difference between both worlds featured in each train.  One world, the world in which he inhabits, is fundamentally better than the other one.  The world of the crowded train, the one in which Shmuel lives, is a darker world, more fearful, and representative of more human suffering.  Bruno and Shmuel are able to identity the differences between both worlds because they are living separate lives.  Shmuel's articulation of his train as one with an "airless, stinking boxcar" is reflective of how life is different for those who are not in the position of Nazi power.  The differences in their descriptions of the train ride to Auschwitz reflects the divergent lives they lead.  This external reality is eventually overcome in their friendship where similarities and connection overwhelms that which is different.

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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