Introduction to The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, written by John Boyne and published in 2006, is a novel about the unlikeliest of friends: a Nazi commandant's son and a Jewish concentration camp inmate. The novel, set in Nazi Germany, begins when nine-year-old Bruno and his family must move from their lovely home in Berlin to a new house in an unfamiliar place he refers to as “Out-With.” Tempted to explore his new environment, Bruno is told that there are certain places that are out of bounds. Unable to resist his adventurous impulses, however, Bruno sets forth into the unknown one afternoon. He meets and quickly befriends a shoeless boy wearing striped pajamas named Shmuel. As he grows closer to Shmuel, Bruno encounters more of the horror of his new home, which is not “Out-With” but in fact Auschwitz.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas explores the beauty and tragedy of a child’s innocence in a time of war, the human desire for friendship, and the fences—both literal and figurative—that we must all navigate and choose whether or not to break down.

A Brief Biography of John Boyne

John Boyne (born 1971) is an Irish novelist. He is best known for his 2006 novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, a work of Holocaust literature that explores the unlikely friendship between the son of a Nazi commander and a young Jewish boy in a concentration camp. Although the story is primarily fictional and often departs from historical fact, it has been praised for its themes surrounding friendship, innocence, and human nature. Boyne studied the history of the Holocaust for years prior to writing the novel, but he reportedly wrote the work itself in around three days, as is typical of his writing process. As partial inspiration for the novel’s themes of prejudice and friendship, he drew on his own experiences of being a gay man growing up in primarily Catholic Ireland. Boyne’s other novels, targeted towards both adults and children, have explored queer identity in relation to modern society. The culture and history of Ireland are also major inspirations for Boyne’s works.

Frequently Asked Questions about The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is not based on a true story. It is often referred to as a "fable" because of its many historical inaccuracies. There is no account of a Nazi officer's son ever...

Latest answer posted September 14, 2020, 12:29 pm (UTC)

4 educator answers

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The plot of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is about Bruno, the son of a high-ranking Nazi official, who befriends and ultimately gives up his life for a Jewish boy in a concentration camp. Bruno,...

Latest answer posted September 15, 2020, 11:43 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a post-modern, historical fiction, and children's novel written by Irish novelist John Boyne, originally published in 2006. Set in Nazi Germany during the...

Latest answer posted September 15, 2020, 11:34 am (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas relates to history because it is a novel set around true historical events. The story is set against the backdrop of World War II, the Holocaust, and Auschwitz...

Latest answer posted September 15, 2020, 11:35 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

In John Boyne's novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Bruno and his family move to Auschwitz, where his father is the Commandment in charge of the concentration camp. Bruno is too young and naive...

Latest answer posted September 15, 2020, 12:18 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

In chapter 10, Bruno explores his surroundings and walks along the massive fence for an extended period of time. Eventually, Bruno spots a boy wearing striped pajamas sitting on the opposite side...

Latest answer posted September 15, 2020, 1:05 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Though no one individual is entirely responsible for Bruno's death, it's fair to say that his father should take the lion's share of the blame for this tragic, and entirely unavoidable, event. Had...

Latest answer posted September 14, 2020, 11:32 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

After Bruno disappears, his father, the Commandant of Out-With (Auschwitz), commands his men to search for him, but they cannot find him. Bruno's mother and sister Gretel return to Berlin, thinking...

Latest answer posted September 14, 2020, 11:35 am (UTC)

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Sadly, both Bruno and Shmuel die at the end of this heart-rending novel. Having earlier proven himself to be a bad friend, Bruno, who was the young son of a Nazi officer and should not have been...

Latest answer posted September 14, 2020, 11:07 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

There can be no doubt that, overall, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a very sad story. Despite occasional moments of joy, hope, and even humor, it's a very sad story because it deals with the...

Latest answer posted September 14, 2020, 11:21 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The concentration camp at which this story is set was Auschwitz, in Poland. To Bruno, who wasn't able to pronounce the name, it was called "Out-With." Auschwitz has the macabre reputation of being...

Latest answer posted September 14, 2020, 11:18 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Twelve-year-old Gretel is Adolf Hitler's idea of the perfect child. Not only is she the daughter of a Nazi commandant, but she actively espouses Nazi ideology, having been successfully brainwashed,...

Latest answer posted September 14, 2020, 11:37 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The title of the book The Boy in the Striped Pajamas comes from how Bruno sees prisoner uniforms at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Bruno's still too young and too naive to know what goes on...

Latest answer posted September 14, 2020, 11:44 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a wonderful book. It's incredibly sad, but it is no less wonderful because of the way that it teaches readers about a horrible piece of history. The story takes...

Latest answer posted September 14, 2020, 12:26 pm (UTC)

2 educator answers

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

The two main characters in this poignant story are Bruno and Shmuel. Bruno is the son of a Nazi commandant who moves with his family onto a property sharing a border with Auschwitz. Bruno loved the...

Latest answer posted September 14, 2020, 1:36 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

There is not much discussion about religion for Bruno in terms of his home, his family and his beliefs. We can assume that Bruno’s family, like the families of most high ranking German officials...

Latest answer posted September 14, 2020, 1:54 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

In the story, Bruno is a nine-year-old German boy whose father gets promoted to Commandant of the Auschwitz concentration camp. As a young boy, Bruno is extremely naive and does not fully...

Latest answer posted September 14, 2020, 2:07 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

In John Boyne's celebrated novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Bruno's father is promoted to the esteemed position of Commandant and transferred to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Bruno and his...

Latest answer posted September 14, 2020, 2:23 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

In chapter 18, Shmuel arrives at their typical meeting place looking "even more unhappy than usual," and Bruno can tell that something is wrong. Shmuel then explains to Bruno that his father went...

Latest answer posted September 14, 2020, 2:42 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Pavel works as a kitchen helper and server at Bruno's house. The text describes Pavel as an old man. To Bruno, Pavel looks to be older than his father (the...

Latest answer posted September 14, 2020, 2:56 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer
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Summary