set of striped pajamas behind a barbed wire fence

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne
Start Free Trial

How does Boyne highlight the traumatic impact of prejudice and discrimination in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

Boyne highlights the traumatic impact of prejudice and discrimination by showing us the appalling treatment meted out to Pavel. A former doctor, now a servant of Bruno and his family, he's brutally beaten to death by Lieutenant Kotler after accidentally dropping a bottle of wine onto his lap at dinner.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

There are numerous examples of the traumatic impact of prejudice and discrimination in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. But one of the most significant—and disturbing—comes in the shocking treatment meted out to Pavel.

Before being sent to Auschwitz, Pavel was a doctor. But now he works as a...

See
This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

There are numerous examples of the traumatic impact of prejudice and discrimination in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. But one of the most significant—and disturbing—comes in the shocking treatment meted out to Pavel.

Before being sent to Auschwitz, Pavel was a doctor. But now he works as a servant for Bruno and his family at the commandant's house. As a Pole, Pavel is regarded by the Nazis as racially inferior. As far as they're concerned, this gives them the right to treat him however they please.

A prime example of this attitude comes when Pavel accidentally empties a bottle of wine onto Lieutenant Kotler's lap at dinner. Pavel didn't mean to do it, but the consequences are the same as if he had. Though it is never explicitly spelled out in the story, it seems that Kotler savagely beats Pavel, probably to death.

Pavel had been kind to Bruno, tending to his injured knee when he fell off a swing. So Bruno cannot comprehend why someone as kind as Pavel should be subject to such savage treatment.

Whatever Kotler has done to Pavel, we can reasonably infer that it's not pleasant, that it involves violence, and that it has had a traumatizing effect on Bruno. Too young to understand the dangers of racial prejudice and discrimination—too young even to understand what they mean—Bruno can only respond to Kotler's brutality with tears.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on