The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

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Did Bruno lose his innocence?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Interestingly enough, I don't see Bruno as having lost his innocence.  Normally, with stories associated with the Holocaust and the death intrinsic to it, the loss of innocence is something to be expected.  Bruno stands for the innocent values of friendship and honor throughout the work.  His commitment to Shmuel and living up to his promises are the reasons for his own death.  Even when he and Shmuel are being herded into the gas chambers, he does not lose sight of this.  In holding his friend's hand, reassuring him that everything will be fine, there is a clear innocence that Bruno possesses.  The world in which Nazism has negotiated people's values, caused them to abdicate responsibility towards others, and created a condition in which temporary notions of the good become accepted as permanent valus is a world that Bruno transcends.  His innocent belief about the goodness of people and about the nature of honor prevent him from succumbing to a world with which people like his sister have become enamored.  It is here where I think that one can see that Bruno does not lose his innocence in the novel.  Rather, he becomes a transcendent figure because of it.

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thetall eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Bruno does not lose his innocence. As a young boy in a new isolated environment, he misses his friends with whom he played with back home. Bruno deeply yearns for friendship and is glad when he stumbles upon Shmuel, who he quickly makes a connection with. However, Bruno is too naïve to realize that Shmuel, just like the rest of the misery-stricken folk across the fence, are Jewish prisoners. Instead, he is saddened by their appearance and ponders why and how they live that way. In fact, Bruno is too innocent to realize that he has on several occasions shared a dinner table with Hitler, the man responsible for Shmuel’s misery, in his own home.

The two boys’ bond grows, and Bruno even sneaks food for malnourished Shmuel. After he learns that they would be returning to Berlin, he feels guilty about leaving Shmuel behind and offers to assist him to find his father. It is this innocent decision that leads to his death, alongside his friend in the gas chamber.

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