The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Questions and Answers
by John Boyne

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The Boy In The Striped Pajamas Ending

In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, what actually happened to the boys at the end? Did Bruno die?

In the end to The Boy In the Striped Pajamas, both Bruno and Shmuel enter into a gas chamber in the concentration camp and are killed. This happens shortly after Bruno joins Shmuel in the camp, and the moment before the boys are gassed, Bruno tells Shmuel that he is his best friend. However, Shmuel does not have the chance to reply.

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne is historical in nature but is a fictional story which reminds readers of the disaster and tragedy of Nazi occupation. Bruno must move because of his father's profession which, in itself, is nothing unusual but he would thrive in a situation where he is allowed to develop and mature at his own pace. He is forbidden from exploring and making new friends is impossible. It is significant that it is Bruno's father's behavior which, in fact, directs Bruno's actions. The boys are thrust together by circumstance and this story indicates the tragedy and futility of war and also highlights the similarities between these innocent children, regardless of which side they are supposedly on. Bruno and Shmuel come from worlds so far removed from each other that an event of this nature should not be possible. However, John Boyne skillfully points out through Bruno's character, there are more things that unite Bruno and Shmuel than there are things that separate them. 

Bruno's father, a powerful Nazi Commandant, has convinced himself that "Those people...well, they're not people at all..." (chapter 5). This is ironic considering that Shmuel is Bruno's only friend with whom, if his father is correct, Bruno has "nothing in common." However, Bruno and Shmuel share an unexplained bond, which starts with them sharing a birthday. After a year of meeting and chatting, Bruno is due to return to Berlin and so he and Shmuel discuss the possibility of him going to Shmuel's side of the fence. Bruno's hair is short, having been shaved to avoid lice and, as Shmuel points out, he is a little "fatter," but, otherwise, in a "pair of striped pajamas" he would look essentially the same as Shmuel and they can go on a "final adventure" in the camp. Bruno is excited at the prospect of "exploring" and Shmuel is anxious that Bruno will help him look for "Papa," who has apparently gone missing. The boys sense that this will...

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