What is the moral or message of "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?"

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One could argue that the moral message in Boyne's story The Boy in the Striped Pajamas concerns the significance of exercising perspective and developing an understanding that we are more alike than we are different. In the story, Boyne illustrates how a young, naive German boy named Bruno befriends a...

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One could argue that the moral message in Boyne's story The Boy in the Striped Pajamas concerns the significance of exercising perspective and developing an understanding that we are more alike than we are different. In the story, Boyne illustrates how a young, naive German boy named Bruno befriends a Jewish prisoner named Shmuel, who lives inside the horrific Auschwitz concentration camp, where he witnesses atrocities on a daily basis and must endure the difficult conditions inside the fence. Despite their different backgrounds, ethnicities, religious beliefs, and drastically different circumstances, Bruno and Shmuel become close friends. While Bruno initially struggles to understand Shmuel's situation, he gradually develops perspective and sympathizes with him. The fence that separates the two boys metaphorically represents the numerous social and political boundaries and obstacles that divide humans across the globe.

Despite the massive fence and the dangerous environment of the concentration camp, the two boys develop an innocent friendship. The fact that Bruno and Shmuel's friendship flourishes in the midst of such a horrific setting emphasizes Boyne’s message that all humans are more alike than we are different. Rather than accept the divisive, hateful atmosphere around them, Bruno and Shmuel recognize each other's positive qualities, sympathize with each other, and become close friends. Bruno's act of wearing the striped pajamas and entering the concentration camp highlights the message that we as humans are much more similar than we are different. This concept stands in stark contrast to the racial and ethnic superiority message propagated by the Nazis.

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"The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" is a story that has an impact on anyone who reads it. Although it is in danger of reducing a very devastating and real life tragedy to a fictional story, it is also capable of exposing many people, especially children who otherwise cannot relate to the real events of the Holocaust except as outsiders, to this terrible occurrence in history. The reader connects with Bruno and Shmuel and children reading this story can have a better understanding, even though it is far from the real thing, because they too have "friends for life" whom they could not bare to be separated from. Only by introducing even a small part of the real pain can the reader start to appreciate his or her own good fortune and contribute to making the world a better place.

The "fence" that separates Bruno and Shmuel is representative of the many things that separate people of different cultures, races, ethnic backgrounds and so on and the young reader can hopefully see the futility of such defined differences. Even though Bruno and Shmuel have different lives and different perspectives of the world, once Bruno puts on the pajamas, he effectively breaks through not only the real fence but also that imaginary fence  that separates the friends, to the point that it is "quite extraordinary." The differences still exist because Bruno is "nowhere near as skinny....and not quite so pale" but the differences are immaterial and Bruno blends in to his new surroundings.

The moral of the story could then be that every person has the capacity to make a difference, even if it seems insignificant. Never underestimate the power of a single kind word or action, and most importantly, in terms of Bruno wearing the pajamas, do not judge others by their appearances. 

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