Compare The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and The Diary of Anne Frank.

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While there are many similarities between The Boy in Striped Pajamas and The Diary of Anne Frank, including that they are set in the same timeframe of World War II and the Holocaust and that the stories are told through the eyes of a young person, there are many important...

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While there are many similarities between The Boy in Striped Pajamas and The Diary of Anne Frank, including that they are set in the same timeframe of World War II and the Holocaust and that the stories are told through the eyes of a young person, there are many important differences between the two books.

One of the most obvious differences is in the writing style. The Diary of Anne Frank is an actual diary and a day-by-day, first-person account of Anne’s life, while The Boy in Striped Pajamas is told as the narrated fictional account of Bruno’s experiences at Auschwitz.

Another critical difference is that The Diary of Anne Frank is Anne’s story of her experience in hiding during the war because, as a Jew, her life was in danger. In fact, we know that she ultimately was found and did not survive the war. Conversely, in The Boy in Striped Pajamas, while Bruno lives at Auschwitz, he is the son of the camp’s highest ranking Nazi official and therefore, unlike Anne, is never in any danger until he decides to crawl under the fence and enter the prisoners’ side of the camp. The fear and danger that would be comparable to Anne’s is seen in Shmuel and Pavel, who are both prisoners at Auschwitz, and as Bruno relates his interaction with them.

Another difference is that Anne is older than Bruno. As a result, she is able to understand much more of what is transpiring. Anne understands why the families are in hiding. Bruno does not even understand why Shmuel wears the raggedly looking “striped pajamas.”

Another meaningful difference is that Anne’s diary can also be read as a coming-of-age story. Specifically, Anne is at the age when she is beginning to think about reaching adulthood and boys and is criticizing the actions of many of the adults around her. By comparison, Bruno views the situations and actions around him through a childish lens. For example, he does not understand his sister’s flirtatious behavior with some of the younger Nazi soldiers, although the reader does.

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The most obvious similarity between The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and The Diary of Anne Frank is that both books tell a story of the Holocaust from the perspective of a child. Both Anne and Bruno approach their situations as children struggling to comprehend how their world has been turned upside down. They both desperately yearn for a return to their previously normal lives. Anne, being older than Bruno, has an awareness of the dangers and risks that she and her family are facing. Bruno, being younger and intentionally sheltered from the horrors and atrocities taking place just a stone's throw away, has little idea of the dangers of the world he is in.

While both Anne and Bruno become victims of the Holocaust, their different backgrounds inform their different experiences of it. Anne and her family are persecuted Jews hiding in fear of their lives. They have very little agency, and there is little that they are free to do outside the confines of their hiding place. Bruno, on the other hand, is the privileged son of a high-ranking German military member. Bruno's father and mother do what they can to help him live a more normal childhood in their abnormal situation.

Of course, The Diary of Anne Frank is the actual diary (although somewhat edited by her father) of a young person living through the dangers and deprivations of her time. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a work of fiction. However, it still speaks to the dehumanizing truths that came along with the Holocaust. Ultimately, both works deal with the tragedy of the senseless loss of life and the potential of youth cut short.

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The most immediate similarity between both works is that they offer a glimpse of the Holocaust through the eyes of young people.  Anne is an adolescent and Bruno is a young boy.  Both of them view the world with authenticity and openness.  They follow their own code of moral right and wrong and use this to examine the world around them.  At the same time, it is through this lens of perception that both are able to make critical judgments about the world that envelops them.  Anne is able to raise questions and engage in reflection about a world in which something like the Holocaust would happen.  Bruno's questions are critical in their nature.  He might not intend for them to critically assess the world around him, but his inability to pronounce words and ask questions for which easy answers are not evident end up accomplishing this goal.

I would say that a fundamental difference between both works is the characterizations of each young person.  Anne is an active participant in understanding the world around her.  Yet, her role for action is limited.  Her action is constrained to a condition of thought and a sense of seeking to comprehend the world around her.  She is not able to really do much in her diary that exists outside of her own thoughts and questions about a world gone mad.  Bruno is able to take direct action in his aiding of Shmuel.  Bruno has an opportunity to undertake "a great adventure."  While there is fear, he overcomes this and actually supports his friend until the very end.  While Boyne's work is historical fiction and Frank's diary is nonfiction, this would represent a significant difference in their characterizations.

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