set of striped pajamas behind a barbed wire fence

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne

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How does friendship relate to authority in Boyne's "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas"?

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I think that Bruno demonstrates how obedience to authority can be secondary to transcendent notions of the good such as friendship.  Boyne suggests that much of the obedience to authority that is present in the time period is contingent on the temporal condition.  For example, Gretel is so enamored with Lieutenant Kotler and the Nazis in general because they represent "popularity" and hold the status of the "insider."  This type of love and respect for authority is shown to be dependent on circumstance, reflective of the contingency of the time period.  In Bruno, one sees a reverence for the transcendent qualities of friendship and loyalty that demonstrate themselves to move beyond the contingent respect for authority.  It is for this reason that Bruno recognizes the need to live up to his word to Shmuel and cross over to help him find his family.  It is also for this reason that he holds Shmuel's hand and comforts him while in the gas chamber.  In this demonstration of friendship and showing it to an extent that is transcendent of what is, Bruno shows how disobedience against an unjust authority is universal and something that is timeless in the face of contingency and irony.

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