What is the importance of the setting in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The setting is incredibly important to the plot of the novel; young Bruno and his famiily move from their comfortable home in Berlin to a remote house in a place which Bruno mistakenly calls 'Out-with.'  'Out-with,' the reader realizes, is of course Auschwitz, and Bruno's father has been summoned to be the new commander in charge of the concentration camp.  Bruno's father warns him against exploring too far around his new home, but the boy's curiosity and boredom lead him to discover a delightful new playmate on the other side of a peculiar, long fence.  The author uses the setting and the reader's prior knowledge of Auschwitz and concentration camps to describe the horror of the camps from a completely different and naive perspective.  The father never tells his son the truth about his job and what those fences really mean, and Bruno's ignorance of the true purpose of the camp ultimately lead to his death.