What is the protagonist’s stage of identity development throughout the story. Beginning  middle end

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

At the beginning of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Bruno gives little thought to his privileged life in Berlin. He has a loving family, good friends, many places to visit, and enjoyable days and nights. When his father becomes the commandant of Auschwitz ("Out-With") in Poland, Bruno asks in disbelief, "You don't mean we're leaving Berlin?" Life in the city of impressive architecture, beautiful art, music, and in which where there are always places to go and cultural events to attend, as well as grandparents and friends close by, is suddenly lost to Bruno.

After arriving at the new house, Bruno is quickly struck by the desolate surroundings of "Out-With" and the inferiority of the uninviting building into which they have moved.

When he closed his eyes, everything around him just felt empty and cold, as if he was in the loneliest place in the world. (Ch.2)

When he looks around inside the family's new house, Bruno notices a blonde soldier coming out of his father's office; he is a young officer who strikes Bruno with instant dislike. Not long after this, Bruno looks out the window and sees something that sends a chill throughout his body. In the distance, there are hundreds of people wearing clothing that is all alike; the clothing is made with horizontal stripes, and on one arm there is a yellow band.

Having no companions with whom he can interact and having no place to go, Bruno finds life at his new home disappointing and dissatisfying. One day, he decides that he must be creative and generate some activity on his own. Having seen a tree that has a branch which can hold a swing, Bruno asks Lieutenant Kotler if there are any old tires around with which he can make a swing. The lieutenant then orders Pavel, a Jewish prisoner who works in the family's kitchen, to find a tire in the storage shed. Unfortunately, Bruno's enjoyment of his new swing reaches its end quickly because he falls out of the tire. Pavel comes to his rescue, and he cleans and treats Bruno's wound with expertise because, as he confides to a worried Bruno, he was a doctor before coming to the camp. Bruno doubts the veracity of Pavel's claim since he cannot understand why a physician would work in a kitchen.

It is not long before Bruno begins to become very homesick, and he especially misses his grandmother. He decides to write to her, recalling her singing and the theatrics of Christmas at their former home. When he nostalgically tells his teacher, Herr Liszt, about these activities, Herr Liszt derogates such frivolity, advising Bruno that he should be learning history and stop wasting time.

Little by little, Bruno becomes more inquisitive about his environment:

[T]he one thing Bruno tried not to think about was that he had been told on countless occasions...that he was not allowed to walk in this direction (toward the concentration camp), that he was not allowed anywhere near the fence or the camp, and most particularly that exploration was banned at Out-With. With No Exceptions.

Nevertheless, Bruno decides to explore on his own one day. As he does so, Bruno comes upon a lonely boy sitting on the ground by the fence of the strange camp. When he converses with this boy, Bruno learns that they share the same birth date. The boy, a Polish Jew, informs Bruno that the camp (and Bruno's house) is not in Germany, but in Poland. 

Since both boys are lonely and share a birthday, they begin a friendship, although it is an unlikely one. The impediment to this friendship is, of course, the fact that Bruno is the son of the commandant of the concentration camp in which Shmuel is an imprisoned Jew. Because he feels that he must be secretive about this friendship lest he get into trouble with his father, Bruno betrays Shmuel one day as this small boy works with Pavel in the kitchen of Bruno's house. When Lieutenant Kotler discovers that Shmuel has eaten some of the chicken, Shmuel tells the officer that Bruno gave it to him, explaining that they are friends. However, a frightened Bruno does not come to Shmuel's defense by admitting that he knows Shmuel, or by admitting that he has given the meat to the boy. This cowardly act of Bruno's causes poor Shmuel to receive a severe punishment from the sadistic Kotler.

Still, Bruno and Shmuel continue to meet at the fence line. When Shmuel tells Bruno about his family being made to move and live in a ghetto, a situation in which they were crowded into a single room with other Jewish families before he and his father were brought to "Out-With," Bruno does not accept such a reality. Perhaps at this point in his "fable," Boyne has Bruno represent those Germans who "closed their eyes" to the heinous acts of the Nazis. 

One fateful day, though, Bruno, who has been told that he must not cross the line made by the foreboding fence between him and Shmuel, decides to sneak under the fence and wear "the striped pajamas" to help his emaciated and anxious friend find his father. Tragically, his fraternal love for the little Jewish boy ties Bruno and Shmuel to a cruel fate.

mlsldy3 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The character of Bruno is such an amazing one. His identity is shaped on his own, not by what others think it should be.

At the beginning of the novel, Bruno is living in Berlin and very happy. He has three best friends Karl, Martin and Daniel, and they swear to be best friends for life. When Bruno has to move to Poland, he eventually forgets his friends and their names. We see at the beginning, that Bruno is a strong willed boy and wants thins his way. He doesn't want to leave his friends and family. He is angry that he has to leave. 

In the middle of the story, we see that Bruno is a very active boy. He longs for adventure. He is told that he can not go to far from his house. Being an adventurous boy, this just fuels his fire for adventure. He becomes friends with a "farmer boy" on the other side of the fence. He doesn't know that this a concentration camp. The two boys become friends, and Bruno sneaks his new friend food when he can. We see that Bruno has a big heart and is very kind. He is also very friendly. He still misses Berlin, but is slowly starting to feel like this new place is home. He doesn't agree with the Nazi way of thinking, and thinks for himself. He is becoming more mature.

By the end of the novel, we see that Bruno is a boy with his own mind. He doesn't think of the consequences that this will lead to. He still very much loves adventure. He and Shmuel are the best of friends. Shmuel's father has gone missing and Bruno offers to come in the fence and help his friend. He puts on a pair of striped pajamas and enters the camp. He thinks this is nothing more than an adventure to help his friend. He doesn't yet realize that this will be his last adventure. 

The identity of Bruno is pretty steady throughout the story. We see him become more of his own person. He thinks the way he wants to think and it doesn't matter what the others think. He longs for great adventure and finds it. He is a kind and gentle boy. Bruno's character has come to symbolize light in a time when there was just darkness.

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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