Is there any evidence from The Boy In Striped Pajamas to show the extent of Bruno's innocence?  To what extent has Bruno been shielded from the horrors of the Holocaust?

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

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Both questions strike at Bruno's sense of idealism and innocence in a world that lack both.  There is evidence to suggest that Bruno's innocence is an intense part of his characterization.  From his pronunciation of "The Fury" and "Out- With," Bruno shows his sense of innocence, unable to effectively pronounce words that lie beyond the grasp of language in communicating their horror.  At the same time, Bruno openly questions what would be seen as commonly held assertions.  Bruno questions Herr Liszt in his teachings, and also questions why socially temporal values are so readily accepted as universal truth.  When Gretel becomes infatuated with Lt. Kotler and the Nazi cause, Bruno does not understand her change.  Bruno does not understand the arbitrary divisions between Germans and those who are Jewish.  This becomes evident in his discussions with Shmuel, reflecting an innocence and a lack of gravity about the situation in which he is immersed.  When it is suggested that he could "come over" for a visit with Shmuel, Bruno thinks that he “could come over on a visit and no one would be any the wiser."  There is innocence in this, a condition that does not acknowledge the reality of the concentration camp. Even when Bruno crosses over to the other side of the fence and recognizes that something unsettling exists in the world of Auschwitz, he expresses this reticence in an innocent manner.  Shmuel reminds him of his "promise to help him find his father," something that impacts Bruno on an intestinal level.  For Bruno, honoring his promise to his friend is the most important element.  This is reflective of an innocent state of mind.  Finally, when Bruno clutches Shmuel's hand and reminds him that they are "best friends" in the midst of the gas chamber, it is a transformative moment.  It is powerfully transformative because Bruno is shown to be so innocent.  Even at the moment where human horror and terror is embodied, Bruno clings to friendship as the defining element to one's being in the world.  These examples represent textual evidence to show the extent of Bruno's innocence.

Bruno's innocence has resonated, despite the fact that he has not been excessively shielded from the horrors of the Holocaust.  The family has moved to Auschwitz, a world in which death is fairly difficult to ignore.  Bruno's mother desperately seeks to shield her children from the reality that surrounds them. However, it is clear that she is unable to fully prevent the world from entering into her children's perception.  Bruno sees Lt. Kotler demonstrate abuse and cruelty to Pavel and, of course, Shmuel.  Bruno's father tells him that Jewish people are "not really people."  While he seeks to control the flow of information to his family about what exactly he does in Auschwitz, he does not fully shield them from the relationship between a family like his and Jewish people.  Indeed, no one tells Bruno of the exact nature of savagery at Auschwitz.  Yet, the realities of the outside world are not entirely kept at bay for Bruno.

Perhaps, this is what makes his innocence all the more profound.  Bruno understands that the world is not a "nice place."  Yet, he does not take the form of the world around him.  Bruno's innocence becomes a statement of resistance.  It is an act of courage in a world where cowardice and fear dominated over everyone.  Bruno's innocence in all of its forms acquires even more significance when it is considered that he might not have been entirely sheltered or shielded from the horrors of the Holocaust.  If this is the case and the outside world's reality did creep into his consciousness, it makes his innocence all the more noble.  It becomes a point of reference and a reminder of what all human beings should strive for in the midst of terror and horror.   

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