What is the tone of the novel? What evidence from the story indicates this general feeling or mood?

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne is written from the point of view of Bruno, a small child who does not understand what is going on around him at Auschwitz. He is the son of the prison commandant, and he does not realize that the people on...

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne is written from the point of view of Bruno, a small child who does not understand what is going on around him at Auschwitz. He is the son of the prison commandant, and he does not realize that the people on the other side of the fence are prisoners. Thus, the tone of the novel is one of innocent bewilderment on the part of the narrator. However, for the reader—who understands the events being described by a naïve child—the story takes on sinister implications.

There is a lot of evidence from the story that indicates that the general feeling or mood is of a young child’s bewilderment, as noted. For instance, when Bruno and Shmuel discover that they were born on the same day, Bruno exclaims gleefully, “We're like twins.” The reader understands the irony here. The boys are nothing like twins. One is the son of the prison’s highest Nazi official. The other is a prisoner of war who is being treated like a sub-human. Moreover, after deciding that they are like twins, the author notes:

Bruno felt very happy all of a sudden. A picture came into his head of Karl and Daniel and Martin, his three best friends for life, and he remembered how much fun they used to have together back in Berlin and he realized how lonely he had been at Out-With.

Bruno believes that he has found a new best friend to replace his friends back in Berlin. The naiveté in Bruno’s thinking is apparent to the reader, as is the irony of his thinking. In addition, in an offhand way, Bruno repeats some of the things he has heard at home about Germany, telling Shmuel that Poland is not as good as Germany and “We're superior.” Again, this is irony delivered by a young child who does not understand the actual meaning behind the words.

Bruno accepts many of the things about Shmuel unquestioningly. For instance, one day Shmuel shows up for their meeting and he has a black eye. Bruno thinks to himself that it was a bully who gave him the black eye and marvels that there are also bullies at Auschwitz, not just in Berlin.

Similarly, when Bruno’s mother says that she does not want his father to learn that the prisoner Pavel tended to Bruno’s scraped knee, Bruno wonders why his mother is being so selfish. He asks himself why she would want to claim the credit for taking care of Bruno herself without giving Pavel credit. This is another example of Bruno’s childish naiveté.

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