What is the conflict and resolution in the The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne?

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vmoriarity | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Adjunct Educator

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The conflict in the novelThe Boy in the Striped Pajamasby John Boyne is that Bruno, the son of a Nazi commandant, must move from his beautiful home in Berlin with his family to a house that sits outside the barbed wire fences of Auschwitz.  Although the area behind the house is off limits to Bruno, he walks the fence line and eventually meets, Shmuel, a boy on the other side.  Their friendship grows as they talk to each other across the fence.  Both boys know they are not supposed to cross the fence, although Bruno really doesn't understand why.  Eventually, however, Bruno does sneak over to the other side when Shmuel's father is missing.  Because his head has been shaved due to a lice infestation, Bruno looks  like any of the other Jewish children once he has donned a pair of striped pajamas Shmuel brought to him.  As the boys search the camp for Shmuel's father, the guards force them and the other Jews into a group, march them into a room, and gas them along with many other Jewish prisoners. The irony of the situation is realized near the end of the story when his father locates the clothes that Bruno had shed at the fenceline for the gray striped pajamas.

This conflict is multi-layered.  First,  Bruno's conflict is that he doesn't want to move to "Out-With".  This sets up a much bigger conflict seen through the eyes of a boy - man vs. society.  The Nazi's scapegoated, imprisoned, and killed Jews and other "undesirables."   Because the boy was on the wrong side of the fence, he was killed without any remorse, a realization that crushes his father who is eventually removed from his post and taken away by soldiers.

 

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