set of striped pajamas behind a barbed wire fence

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne
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How does John Boyne present to the reader the notion that conflict can be both internal and external in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

John Boyne presents to the reader the notion that conflict can be both internal and external by providing various examples of both types of conflict. For example, Bruno's father experiences a major internal conflict after his son's death. The backdrop of the war raging in Europe and the Holocaust are examples of external conflicts impacting the lives of the protagonist and his family.

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To answer this question, we first need to establish the difference between internal and external conflicts. An internal conflict is also known as a “character versus self” conflict, which explains that this is a battle that takes place within a character. He or she may have two opposing beliefs or...

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To answer this question, we first need to establish the difference between internal and external conflicts. An internal conflict is also known as a “character versus self” conflict, which explains that this is a battle that takes place within a character. He or she may have two opposing beliefs or needs that need to be somehow reconciled. At least in part, they are in control of the conflict. External conflict, on the other hand, is a conflict that exists between two or more different characters or between one character and an external event or force. Boyne presents the notion of conflict being both internal and external by providing examples of both.

Internal conflicts rage within Bruno after the announcement that his family is leaving Berlin and moving to “Out-With.” While he knows he must go with his family, he doesn’t want to leave his luxurious home or his close friends. Once they arrive at the new house and before Bruno befriends Shmuel, this internal conflict reaches a crescendo in which he feels like he wants to “scream that the whole thing was wrong and unfair” or “burst into tears.”

Major internal conflicts are also fought in both of Bruno’s parents. His mother is torn between her loyalty to her husband and her growing knowledge that “Out-With” is no place to raise Bruno and his sister. The depth of the internal conflict that Bruno’s father suffers in the aftermath of Bruno’s death is seen in the fact that when soldiers came to Out-With and order him to go with them, he does so passively, no longer caring what happens to him.

In terms of external conflicts, the obvious ones in this novel are World War II and the Holocaust, which were causing Jews like Shmuel and his family, as well as other groups labelled by Hitler as “undesirable,” to be shepherded into concentration camps and, often, into death chambers. There are a few examples of lesser external conflicts, such as the conversation between Bruno and his mother when she explains that they are leaving Berlin. There is another external conflict between Bruno and his mother when they arrive at the new house and Bruno resists helping Maria unpack his things. External conflict also exists between Bruno and his sister, Gretel, who fights with Bruno when he enters her new room without knocking and questions her choice to bring all her dolls.

In a nutshell, the complexities of internal and external conflicts are presented by Boyne with the inclusion of several examples of both.

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