set of striped pajamas behind a barbed wire fence

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne

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How does Bruno perceive the war in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

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Bruno is not very affected by the war.  It does not enter into his frame of reference.  Bruno's childhood innocence is one that precludes a view of the war.  He sees the reality of the war more as a reflection of how it impacts him.  For example, he does not see father's promotion as anything other than the inconvenience it causes to him.  Unlike Gretel who becomes infatuated with Nazism claims to power because it reflects a desire to be an "insider," Bruno sees this in a refreshingly immature light.  For example, Bruno does not see Hitler as the embodiment of power and control, but rather as rude and unfair in how he treats Eva Braun when they come over for dinner.  Bruno does not see the "people in the striped pajamas" as enemies of the state, as reflective of how he fails to accept the historical teachings of Herr Liszt.  In these examples, Bruno does not see the war in any other light as how it impacts his world.

This lack of an embrace of the dominant world view that emphasize praising the war is part of Bruno's identity.  It is refreshing and helps to motivate how he sees people apart from the war.  In embracing Shmuel as a lifelong friend, even in the war's darkest moment, it shows that Bruno is not affected by the war.  A conflict that sought to shape the individual values of the world is something that did not impact Bruno.  He understood his loyalty to Bruno as well as treating people as ends in of themselves and not means to ends as vitally important in defining consciousness.  To this end, the war did not impact Bruno in how he saw the world, representing a source of strength in a time period where there was so little valiant honor.

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