The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Questions and Answers
by John Boyne

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas book cover
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Describe the friendship between Bruno and Shmuel.

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mindcandy eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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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elzbaker | Student

Their relationship is inevitable. It's strong, and its true. They, despite the circumstances of inequalities, had kept together. They met at the fence each day, like it was a commitment. Shmuel had forgiven Bruno for lying (at one stage of the book), and Bruno went to such a dangerous place to help his friend find his papa.

All these examples are evidence that no matter what happens, they will continue to be friends. Best friends. Even while in fear, at the end of the Novel, Bruno held onto Shmuel for comfort.

Their bond is definitely strong - Because while they had a limited time together, they had one of the strongest connections.

ssandhu05 | Student

It was definitely a relationship that did not even take into account what their ancestral heritage was, from beginning to end. It was also a relationship what had the purest of innocence within it, as seen with their lack of knowledge of what the reality around them really is. The bond between is seen as a strong one, even though they did not know each other for that long.

melissa1106 | Student

There is a true friendship between Bruno and Shmuel in the boy in the striped pajamas. They are both innocent, naive boys that do not care for the cultural differences between one another and just appreciate what they have in common. Bruno is always there to keep Shmuel company and to play games together. They stay loyal to each and help each other even when it leads them to their demise.