set of striped pajamas behind a barbed wire fence

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne
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What is the most important event in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

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In my mind, the most important event in the novel is the moment when both boys enter the gas chamber.  It is significance for a variety of moments.  The friendship between Bruno and Shmuel is at its apex at this moment.  It shows how important both are to one another.  At the same time, it is important as it shows how friendship can transcend the temporal conditions that might limit it.  Bruno and Shmuel are loyal to one another, even though their social order tells them opposite.  Bruno does not waver in his commitment to his friend, even though the society tells him otherwise.  It is also significant because his innocence and pure way of looking at the world is both murdered and martyred simultaneously.  The idea that Bruno dies with his friend is a moment of intense horror and intense beauty.  It is difficult to find one instant that captures both extremes, but I believe it is an important moment that speaks to the power of the book.  There are many important instants in the book that speak to what it means to be human, but I think that the moment when both boys enter the gas chamber is one of the most powerful.

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There could be many instances deemed as the most important events in the book.  For me, it would have to be when Bruno hops the fence to accompany Shmuel to find his father.  It is important because it represents the first time that both boys, in separate worlds, find themselves converged in the same one.  It is also significant because it is the first real instant where we see Bruno's heroism.  He is scared by what he sees and experiences, and yet does not acquiesce because of the promise he made to Shmuel. Naturally, it is because he crossed over the fence that his death is almost inevitable.  When they are rounded up into the gas chamber, Bruno holds Shmuel's hand and comforts him in the most painful of times.  For those who were herded into the gas chamber, the frights and insecurity must have been horrifying.  Yet, when Bruno woke up that morning, he had little idea that his day and his life would end in this manner.  It is for this reason that I would say that Bruno's crossing the fence is the single most important event in the book.

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