The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Questions and Answers
by John Boyne

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

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Gretchen Mussey eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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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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Pauline Sheehan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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"The Boy in the Striped Pajamas" is a story...

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