How does the author sympathize Shmuel and Bruno in "Boy in the Striped Pajamas"?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

John Boyne creates sympathy for the characters Shmuel and Bruno throughout the novel by placing them in challenging situations and surrounding them with difficult people. Boyne chose to depict Shmuel as a sickly, skinny boy who is typically sad throughout the novel. The reader feels sympathy for Shmuel's difficult situation, and his physical appearance. Shmuel is often hungry and scared throughout the novel. He explains what it is like living with eleven people in one room, and recalls how his family was separated. Boyne also creates sympathy for Shmuel by putting him compromising situations, like when Lieutenant Kotler beats him for supposedly "stealing" food from Bruno's fridge. When Shmuel tells Bruno that he lost his father, the reader feels sympathy for his character because they can assume Shmuel's father is dead.

Boyne creates sympathy for Bruno throughout the novel by placing his character in an unfamiliar, dreary environment in the middle of nowhere. The reader feels sympathy for Bruno when he comments on how bad he hates his new house, and how he misses his friends at home. Bruno lives with his difficult sister and has to deal with Nazi guards who treat him with contempt, like Lieutenant Kotler. Bruno does not get his way throughout the novel, and is forced to keep his best friend a secret. The reader sympathizes with Bruno's difficult circumstances when he cannot play with his only friend. Boyne creates the utmost sympathy for both characters when they unknowingly are being led to the gas chambers. By juxtapositioning the innocence of childhood with the inhumane conditions of a WWII concentration camp, readers begin to sympathize with these helpless children stuck in a horrendous circumstance.

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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