Describe the friendship between Bruno and Shmuel.

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The friendship between Bruno and Shmuel in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas demonstrates that the basic human need for companionship and understanding is even more fundamental than loyalty to individual culture. Until they find each other, both boys are extremely lonely in their current circumstance; Bruno in his isolated home, and Shmuel in the camp. Each setting is filled with adults, with adult reasoning and perspectives on war, culture, and loss. Bruno and Shmuel are each without a peer until they find one another. The boys fulfil the other’s need for companionship, and brave trouble to overcome their loneliness. Each boy finds understanding in the other that only a true peer can provide; they both view the world through the innocent eyes of an 8-year old. The two boys share so many personality traits [the boys are almost interchangeable, besides their heritage] that the unfairness of Shmuel’s captivity is highlighted.

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I think that the friendship between both boys can be described as real.  Their friendship is one that cuts through social distinctions, religious distinctions, and historical conditions.  Both boys fill a need for companionship in the other. It is for this reason that their friendship is real and valid.  In displaying a friendship that transcends existing conditions, one is reminded of what can be.  This is where the ultimately real quality of the boys' friendship exists.

In one respect, their friendship is real because both boys mirror one another.  This is seen in the most literal of senses when Bruno has to have his head shaven because of lice.  This can also be seen  when he accompanies Shmuel on their "adventure" as Bruno crosses the fence.   Symbolically, their friendship is real as they both confess to the other that neither of them "like" Auschwitz.  Bruno and Shmuel recognize at that moment that their friendship is the only thing sustaining them through the horror of Auschwitz.  When they are herded into the gas chamber together, the midst of terror is where their friendship achieves their greatest significance.  When Bruno tells Shmuel that he is his "best friend for life," when fear and terror grip both of them, it is a reminder as to how real their friendship actually is.  In the end, this becomes the word to describe their friendship.  Both boys actually die in one another's arms, with only the comfort of the other to offset the terror of death in the gas chamber.  Their friendship carries both boys beyond the fear of a lonely death in the Holocaust.  This indicates how real their friendship was.

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