How does Bruno find humanity in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

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

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I had to pare down the original question.  Yet, I have to say that you should strongly consider submitting the parts removed because they make for some real interesting discussion about Boyne's work.  I think that Bruno finds humanity in the novel through being distinct from the world around him.  One of the most compelling elements about Boyne's characterization of Bruno is that he does not take the form of the world around him.  Bruno represents a force of dissent in a world of conformity.  He is a force that constantly questions why reality is constructed in the manner it is until the ending when he takes steps to make reality as it should be.  Bruno is not the leader of a resistance movement against the Naizs and he is not a political force seeking to destabilize Hitler.  He is a human being, a little boy who simply views human beings as ends in their own right as opposed to a means to an end.  It is here where Bruno finds humanity and does so for the other characters in the novel and even does so for the reader.  Bruno's actions represent this in the smallest and largest ways.  He stands up for the cleaning lady when Gretel rudely treats her.  He questions the move to Auschwitz, even though everyone else is in support of it.  He won't even pronounce the name right, to signify his own resistance of it.  He is open to Pavel's humanity, and closed to Kotler's smarmy ways.  He rejects Gretel's phoniness and even his mother's weakness in action through his own voice.  He notices the disconnect between his world and "the other," as evidenced in his constant musings about trains, fences, and "the other side."  His befriending of Shmuel represents this and standing up for a promise he made is demonstrative of his humanity, holding the hand of another in the gas chamber.  Bruno finds humanity in a setting where it was long gone.  Bruno's nobility as a little boy in a setting where childhood was robbed for so many reminds the reader and the characters in the novel that action can be taken and while it might not be the type of action that changes the world, it changes aspects of smaller worlds.  In doing so, Bruno discovers for others the humanity in needed in order to move change from smaller to larger worlds.

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