How does Boyne explore the theme of tolerance throughout his novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

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gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of the predominant themes throughout the novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas concerns the idea of tolerance and the benefits of being tolerant towards others. Bruno, the novel's protagonist, displays tolerance towards others, despite being raised in the home of a Nazi Commandant. His childhood innocence allows him to view people without prejudice or malice. Bruno is tolerant of Maria, Pavel, and Shmuel throughout the novel, despite the fact that everyone around him, including his family and the Nazi soldiers, treats them with contempt. Bruno shares a close relationship with Maria, has a positive experience with Pavel, and develops a healthy friendship with Shmuel because of his tolerant disposition. While almost all of the people in Bruno's life seem to struggle, Bruno thrives at his home at Auschwitz. Bruno's kind heart and tolerant attitude allow him to overcome the hate and prejudice surrounding him.

Boyne also suggests that intolerance, prejudice, and hate are destructive forces that not only harm others but also negatively affect the individuals who harbor those feelings. Bruno's father, Lieutenant Kotler, and Gretel are all intolerant, malevolent people who view non-Germans with contempt. Bruno's father is in charge of the systematic slaughter of Jews at Auschwitz; Lieutenant Kotler mercilessly beats the prisoners; Gretel views Jews with disgust and looks down upon them. All three characters experience heartache and tragedy by the end of the novel. Lieutenant Kotler loses his position and everything he has ever earned professionally, Gretel's life is full of grief, and the Commandant loses his mind. Essentially, Boyne is suggesting that a tolerant, gracious attitude towards others results in a fulfilled, joyful life while an intolerant, hateful attitude results in a tragic existence.

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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