How has the writer used the viewpoint of the child to sustain the reader's interest in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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John Boyne is able to use the children's viewpoint quite effectively in his work.  Part of the reason why this stylistic technique works is because, like the children, the reader struggles to understand this world.  The construction of Auschwitz and the Holocaust, in general, baffles the imagination.  Boyne takes the traditional idea of "Why is this happening" and examines it from a child's point of view.  In doing so, he allows the reader to retreat into a childhood state, and this increases the effectiveness of the novel.  We understand Bruno and see the world through Bruno.  In experiencing his own connections with Shmuel and others, Boyne allows us to experience what is happening without dwelling on the historical context, which we know is there, but are able to forgo that by following Bruno, who is unaware of what is happening.  The real effective element here is, of course, the ending.  When Bruno burrows to the other side and becomes, for all practical purposes, "a prisoner," the reader is forced to recognize two elements.  The first is the absolute horror of the Holocaust.  The second is how there can be beauty in the midst of such terror.  The transcendental quality of friendship, something that permeates, the horrific reality of Auschwitz is something that creates a dual experience in the reader, sustaining interest and increasing empathy simultaneously.  This experience is only heightened at the end, seeing the boys walk into the gas chamber hand in hand.  At this point, Boyne has been able to merge the narrative and the history in one stunningly powerful moment.

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