How has John Boyne constructed The Boy in the Striped Pajamas as a sophisticated and meaningful novel?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that one way in which Boyne has been able to construct his novel in a sophisticated and meaningful manner is that he took a different approach to the standard telling of the Holocaust.  He did not dwell on Nazi cruelty, the mass of bodies, and the savage conditions of being during the Holocaust.  Rather, he focused on the perceptions of a boy, Bruno, as the lens through which reality was viewed and fundamentally critiqued.  Bruno's eyes are our eyes and in this sophisticated move, Boyne is able to develop a spirit of resistance to what is happening in the Holocaust.

Using Bruno as the narrator is a sophisticated and meaningful move in a couple of ways.  Initially, his predisposition towards the world is one with a child's sense of questioning.  This is sophisticated and meaningful because the entire period of the Holocaust is one in which we are left with only questions.  Bruno asks the questions that no one, except the reader, is willing to entertain. Closely related to this would be Bruno's inability to pronounce words like "Auschwitz" and "The Fuhrer."  The inability to pronounce such words is important because such language lies beyond the articulation of any human being.  Again, Bruno, as a character, is the reader in the historical condition.  Another reason why Bruno is a sophisticated and meaningful literary move is because he embodies what should be as opposed to what is.  His ability to see people as ends in of themselves, his pure recognition of right and wrong, as well as his sense of heroism helps to contribute towards a meaningful and powerful novel.  It is sophisticated because Boyne enables the reader to embrace a redemptive notion of the good without being preachy or didactic in the process.  The result is an authentic embrace of that which is right in a time setting where so much is wrong.  In such a move, Boyne has developed a novel that is sophisticated in its meaning.

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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