What is the conflict in The Boy In The Striped Pajamas?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Many different conflicts emerge from Boyne's work.  Most of them start with Bruno.  The exposition details how Bruno is in conflict in with the world around him.  He does not want to leave Berlin and does not want to do what his family, especially his father, wants to do.  In this demonstration, an initial conflict is evident.  Conscious or not, Bruno finds himself in conflict with the changing attitudes around him.  Bruno is in opposition to the Nazi lifestyle that advances one group of people at the cost of another.  At the train depot where Bruno notices different modes of reality in the same instant, it becomes clear that Bruno is in conflict, or at least, not in synchronicity with the world around him.  

Over the course of the narrative, Bruno continues to be in conflict with life at "Out- With."  He is not able to accept the propaganda lifestyle that Gretel does and cannot abide by his father's demands.  His friendship with Shmuel causes some of the greatest conflict in terms of forcing Bruno to stand up for what is right and for what he believes.  This involves Bruno feeling bad when Kotler beats up Shmuel and promising him that he will never abandon him.  Naturally, Bruno feels conflict when he has to embark on their "great adventure" and actually see what life on the other side of the fence is actually like.  Yet, Bruno does not cave into his fears.  Rather, he overcomes this conflict by bravely walking with Shmuel to their deaths in the name of what is right and honorable.

gmuss25 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The main conflict throughout the novel involves Bruno's inability to maintain a typical friendship with Shmuel because of their different backgrounds and situations. Bruno is a naive young boy whose father is a leading Nazi officer in charge of the Auschwitz concentration camp. In contrast, Shmuel is an imprisoned Jewish boy living inside the concentration camp. Despite the large fence separating them and their drastically different lifestyles, Bruno and Shmuel get along and enjoy routinely talking to each other. Their conflict can be viewed as individual preference versus society's expectations. Although Bruno and Shmuel are of different ethnicities, and Bruno is forbidden from speaking to Shmuel, the two boys become close friends. As the novel progresses, Bruno continues to disobey his father's orders by meeting up with Shmuel on the fence. Eventually, Bruno sneaks under the Auschwitz fence and attempts to help Shmuel find his father. Unfortunately, both boys lose their lives but die holding hands in an expression of their love for each other.

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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