Speak to the major conflict(s) that take place in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne.

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booboosmoosh | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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A conflict exists when there are two opposing forces.

There are minor conflicts in Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Bruno has to move when his father relocates to Auschwitz, a town where one of the most notorious death camps in World War II is located. This causes him a great deal of unhappiness, as he has to leave his friends behind. Bruno has some conflict with his sister, Gretel, that he believes is a "Hopeless Case." She is bossy—being several years older than he is. Bruno's parents fight a great deal—and it is life in their new home at the root of their problems.

However, the conflict that is at the center of the book is something of which Bruno is unaware. It is man vs. society—the Jew, the gypsy, the disabled person being murdered by the Nazis—and it is this aspect of the novel—this central conflict—that the reader understands better than Bruno does.

Bruno and Grete get their first hint that something is not as it should be when, looking out their window, they see a group of males gathered together behind the fence. They are of all ages: fathers, sons and grandfathers. The youngsters are not sure why the men are there, but Grete asks another puzzling and disturbing question (at least to the reader):

'And where are all the girls?' she asked. "And the mothers? And the grandmothers?'

Grete also notes that the view here is not the same as it is from other parts of their new house.

This could well represent the view of life in Germany (and other countries) at that time: life was very different depending upon which side of the fence one lived on!

The fence was very high...and there were wooden posts...dotting along it, holding it up. At the top of the fence enormous bales of barbed wire were tangled in spirals, and Gretel felt an unexpected pain inside her as she looked at the spikes sticking out all the way round it.

There wasn't any grass after the fence...

Grete seems to at least suspect something is not right; Bruno is too young, and he doesn't understand what is happening—Germany's ultimate extermination of over six million souls.

Bruno meets Shmuel who lives on the other side of a fence in a wooded area near his home. Bruno has been expressly warned by his father not to go there. Bruno refers to it as "Out Of Bounds At All Times And No Exceptions." Shmuel is one of the detainees at the camp, and his clothing looks to Bruno like pajamas with stripes on them. Bruno does not understand why Shmuel is imprisoned within the fence; he also does not realize that a visitor (whom he calls "The Fury") is actually Adolf Hitler, the leader of Germany and the man responsible for the military's systematic extermination of those Hitler believes are impure. 

With the innocence of children, Bruno and Shmuel become fast friends. However, the reality of their situation will creep into their lives—in a terrible way.

One day Shmuel is brought to the house to clean glass. Bruno offers the other boy food, and Shmuel fearfully accepts it. When Lieutenant Kotler accuses Shmuel of stealing, the child says Bruno gave it to him. Out of fear, Bruno denies knowing Shmuel, and is overcome with guilt. How could he do such a thing...

...how [could] a boy who thought he was a good person...act in such a cowardly way...

Bruno tries to be a better friend, but the cost is horrific. Bruno joins his friend in the camp for a last adventure. The conflict between people like Bruno's father and the prisoners brings about Bruno's death.  


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