set of striped pajamas behind a barbed wire fence

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne
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Is ignorance really bliss? Explain and give examples of this question referring to the novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

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Ignorance is bliss because if you are unaware of what is happening around you then you are free to live your life peacefully. Things that you do not know about cannot hurt you.

This book is symbolic of the phrase "ignorance is bliss" because many German people did not know what was really going on in the concentration camps. This is what was claimed by many anyway. I think that they may have known on some level but refused to truly believe it because it was so horrifying and sad. Sometimes it is easier to turn your head than to face the truth.

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"Where ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise" - so says Thomas Gray. In reference to this novel, it means that the people that lived in the vicinity of the concentration camp claimed to not know what was going on in the camp, so they could be "blissfully ignorant" of the Holocaust happening around them. This means that they did not have to live with the guilt of knowing what was going on and not doing anything. That is why they would be called "blissful". The quote means that if we are ignorant of something, we don't have to deal with it and are therefore happy.

Remote African tribes, for example, are ignorant of the terrible wars going on elsewhere on their continent. So, they are happy. They are ignorant, and they are blissful. In the modern world, there are few places where this situation exists anymore, however. So, too, in World War II. We didn't have the Internet then, but there were other ways to find out what was going on in Nazi Germany.

Do you think it is feasible that the Germans did not know what was going on? Do you think they were "blissful" because they were ignorant of the situation? A lot of them tried to claim this after the war was over. "We didn't know!" Most people do not buy this. How could they not know? Come on! The stench of burning bodies was everywhere. Perhaps they PRETENDED not to know -- they were in denial -- and if this were the case, they were not ignorant, although they may still have been "blissful" pretending they did not know. In their hearts, though, how could there be bliss?

The ones that did know and did something about it (like Dietrich Bonhoeffer) were put in concentration camps themselves, so there was the element of fear involved to explain a lot of peoples' inaction.

There is a lot to think about with this and the degree of guilt over the Holocaust is still being debated. Who knew, when, how much did they know, why didn't they do anything, why didn't the U.S. do more, who was responsible? This was a blight on world history and we are all responsible. Claiming blissful ignorance is a cop-out, I think. There was plenty of information available, everywhere, to what was going on. People had been escaping from Nazi Germany for years, telling the story. Jewish groups in the U.S. were continually putting pressure on FDR and his administration to do more. If you do some research, you will discover this.

So, what do YOU think?

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