Why might the author have chosen the title of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

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One of the main topics of this novel is Bruno's relationship with his new friend Shmuel, who happens to be a Jewish prisoner at Auschwitz. Since Bruno is young and naive, he does not realize that the striped pajamas that Shmuel wears are actually an Auschwitz prison uniform. The striped pajamas differentiate the Jewish prisoners from their Nazi guards and signify their oppression. The fact that Bruno refers to them as striped pajamas highlights his innocence, which plays a significant role in the novel and impacts how the story is told. Towards the end of the novel, Shmuel asks Bruno to help him find his father. In order for Bruno to search for Shmuel's father on the other side of the fence without being caught, he is forced to wear the Auschwitz prison uniform. Unfortunately, Bruno is mistaken for a Jewish prisoner and dies alongside his friend in a gas chamber while wearing the "striped pajamas."

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The title, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, is reflective of the naïveté of the main character, Bruno. This title befits the limited third person narration which also reflects Bruno's lack of awareness of many of the realities of his life. 

Author John Boyne has stated that he felt that the only way to present the Holocaust respectfully was through the eyes of a child. While this approach to a narrative about the heinous concentration camp of Auschwitz in Boyne's novel has been decried by Jewish authorities, Kathryn Hughes, a British historian, biographer and journalist, who concurs with others that the plot is implausible, also observes,

"Bruno's innocence comes to stand for the willful refusal of all adult Germans to see what was going on under their noses."

So, in order to express this willful naïveté of many of the German people, and treat the time period respectfully, Boyne has Bruno not comprehend who the "Fury" is, what exactly it is that his father and Lieutenant Kotler do, or why Shmuel and the others are kept behind a fence wearing some type of pajamas. In addition, another message is contained in this presentation of naïveté:  There is a price to pay for keeping one's knowledge of historical changes hidden. 

 

 Hughes, Kathryn (20 January 2006). "Educating Bruno". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 March 2015

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