What is the significance of having a plaque on the bench near Bruno's house?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The significance of the plaque on the bench near Bruno's house is to commemorate the building of the Auschwitz camp.  Bruno is at a phase of his experience where exploration becomes important to his identity. In exploring the plaque, there is a channeling of the lessons in which Bruno sees himself as a modern day Columbus or Vespucci:  "...men with such adventurous stories and interesting lives that it only confirmed in Bruno's mind that he wanted to be like them when he grew up." With this, Bruno focuses his energy into exploring the world around him.

Even though Bruno has been warned by his mother and father that going past such borders is expressly forbidden, Bruno's spirit of exploration guides him.  Prior to his exploration, he encounters the bench and studies the plaque that is on it:  "'Presented on the occasion of the opening of...' He hesitated. ''Out-With Camp,' he continued, stumbling over the name as usual. 'June nineteen forty."  The touching of the plaque fills him with such coldness, a reflection of the literal and symbolic experience of recognizing something that is commemorated with so much in way of death and human misery.  The plaque itself is significant because it indicates that people such as Bruno's father view "Out- With" as a marvel of efficiency. Bruno recognizes this plaque as marking a border of sorts.  This border has been one that has been denied to him, something that he is not permitted to explore.  In touching the plaque, Bruno makes clear that he takes his first steps in disobeying his parents, forging his own destiny and sense of exploration that goes with it.  In this, the plaque on the bench by Bruno's house acquires significance and meaning in terms of what it means for Bruno and the world around him.

Read the study guide:
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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