set of striped pajamas behind a barbed wire fence

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne

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What kind of attitude does Shmuel have in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

Shmuel’s attitude in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is one of kindness and respect. Though he is incredibly sad to be in a concentration camp, he is kind to Bruno, the son of his enemy, and never says anything bad about Bruno's father.

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In chapter 12 of John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Shmuel describes his life before his life in the concentration camp. He tells Bruno how his people, the Jews, were treated before going to the camp and also how they are treated within it. Shmuel is more educated and aware of his circumstances than Bruno is. Shmuel is kind, though, and never tells Bruno how ignorant he is. For example, Shmuel describes having to wear armbands with the Star of David on his clothes every time he went outside. Bruno tells Shmuel that his dad wears a symbol on his clothes, too. Shmuel kindly says, without malice, "Yes, but they're different, aren't they?" (127). Shmuel doesn't come right out and tell Bruno that the symbols that his family had to wear represent something totally different than what Bruno's father wears on his uniform. Therefore, Shmuel is kind to Bruno, but he is sad about his predicament in life.

Throughout most of chapter 12 and the rest of the book, Shmuel is kind to Bruno not only because of the food he gets from Bruno, but because they are two boys caught in a very huge war and they are both powerless to do anything about it. Shmuel also likes to have a friend in Bruno. During the few times that Shmuel interacts with Bruno, he is always kind and never rude—even after he finds out that Bruno's father is the boss of the camp and is very mean and scary. Therefore, he is also respectful in his attitude with Bruno, but he is obviously sad about his circumstance.

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