set of striped pajamas behind a barbed wire fence

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne

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The friendship between Bruno and Shmuel in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Summary:

The friendship between Bruno and Shmuel in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas highlights innocence and humanity amidst the horrors of the Holocaust. Despite the fence that separates them and the vastly different worlds they come from, their bond grows through shared conversations and mutual understanding, ultimately demonstrating the power of friendship in overcoming prejudice and hatred.

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How does befriending Shmuel assist Bruno in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

The wording of the question is an interesting one.  I am not entirely sure that Bruno has any agenda that requires "support" or "assistance."  It is this purity that makes his befriending of Shmuel so transparent and so transcendental in a world that is far from it.  He simply follows the end of a fence and then finds Shmuel there.  After talking, both of them recognize how "boring" Auschwitz is.  Their friendship arises out of a general need for companionship.  When Shmuel is abused by the guard in the kitchen of the house, Bruno does not say anything.  Perhaps, this is motivation for him assisting Shmuel to find his family in the camp, causing him to burrow under the fence.  Yet, I think that his overall friendship with Shmuel is not driven by a need for support or assistance in terms of some specific agenda or end.  Rather, I simply think that the two boys struck up the purest of friendship in a setting where purity was lacking in many.

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Describe the friendship between Bruno and Shmuel in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

The friendship between Bruno and Shmuel in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas demonstrates that the basic human need for companionship and understanding is even more fundamental than loyalty to individual culture. Until they find each other, both boys are extremely lonely in their current circumstance; Bruno in his isolated home, and Shmuel in the camp. Each setting is filled with adults, with adult reasoning and perspectives on war, culture, and loss. Bruno and Shmuel are each without a peer until they find one another. The boys fulfil the other’s need for companionship, and brave trouble to overcome their loneliness. Each boy finds understanding in the other that only a true peer can provide; they both view the world through the innocent eyes of an 8-year old. The two boys share so many personality traits [the boys are almost interchangeable, besides their heritage] that the unfairness of Shmuel’s captivity is highlighted.

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Describe the friendship between Bruno and Shmuel in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

I think that the friendship between both boys can be described as real.  Their friendship is one that cuts through social distinctions, religious distinctions, and historical conditions.  Both boys fill a need for companionship in the other. It is for this reason that their friendship is real and valid.  In displaying a friendship that transcends existing conditions, one is reminded of what can be.  This is where the ultimately real quality of the boys' friendship exists.

In one respect, their friendship is real because both boys mirror one another.  This is seen in the most literal of senses when Bruno has to have his head shaven because of lice.  This can also be seen  when he accompanies Shmuel on their "adventure" as Bruno crosses the fence.   Symbolically, their friendship is real as they both confess to the other that neither of them "like" Auschwitz.  Bruno and Shmuel recognize at that moment that their friendship is the only thing sustaining them through the horror of Auschwitz.  When they are herded into the gas chamber together, the midst of terror is where their friendship achieves their greatest significance.  When Bruno tells Shmuel that he is his "best friend for life," when fear and terror grip both of them, it is a reminder as to how real their friendship actually is.  In the end, this becomes the word to describe their friendship.  Both boys actually die in one another's arms, with only the comfort of the other to offset the terror of death in the gas chamber.  Their friendship carries both boys beyond the fear of a lonely death in the Holocaust.  This indicates how real their friendship was.

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How you explain Bruno and Shmuel's innocent friendship in the story?

I think that the innocence that both boys share is representative of some significant elements in the story.  On one hand, both of their innocence in the face of abject horror is testament to the power of their friendship.  Both boys recognize the commonality between them.  They both recognize the need for friendship in a setting where it is not present.  Bruno finds a companion, something that makes living in "Out- With" more bearable.  Shmuel finds a respite from the daily pain and horror in which he lives.  Both of them are unable to articulate it, but their friendship becomes one of the few things that make living worth living.  It is this friendship that underscores their innocence.  At the same time, I think that Bruno and Shmuel possess innocence because their friendship is apart from the social order that both inhabit.  Bruno's friendship with Shmuel is one in which loyalty is present.  At the moment where Bruno betrays him out of convenience, he feels saddened at his actions, promising never to do it again and affirming the innocence shared between them.  Both of them possess an innocence between one another because their friendship transcends the cynical and cruel world that envelops them.

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Describe the friendship between Bruno and Shmuel in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

Bruno's family has moved to a new place (which we find out is the Auschwitz concentration camp, where his father is Nazi official who oversees the running of the place).  Bruno is lonely and bored in his new home.  One day he comes across a small, skinny boy wearing pajamas (which are actually the uniform for all the Jews who are imprisoned in the camp).  Bruno and the boy, Shmuel, talk and discover that they share a birthday.  Then they part ways, agreeing to meet again.  The friends continue to meet and become closer.  One day Bruno enters the kitchen at his house.  He finds Shmuel in the kitchen, working.  Bruno has noticed that his friend is skinnier than when they first met, so he offers him food.  Lieutenant Kotler, a man who works with Bruno's father, catches Shmuel with the food and becomes angry.  Cowardice takes over Bruno, and he denies knowing Shmuel.  Bruno does feel conviction and later apologizes.  

Bruno finds out that his mother is taking him and his sister to Berlin soon.  He decides to cross the fence and dress in the same uniform that Shmuel wears.  They spend time together and look for Shmuel's father, who is missing.  Soon they are rounded up by soldiers and led into a room.  The door is closed and the boys hold hands.  It is a gas chamber and the two boys are killed.

At first, Bruno wants Shmuel to be his friend because he is bored.  He does not value their friendship much, as we see when Bruno denies him in front of Kotler.  Later, Bruno comes to care more deeply for his friend.  In the end, they comfort each other before they die.

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How do Bruno and Shmuel maintain their friendship in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas despite their circumstances?

Bruno and Shmuel are both naïve, innocent young boys who do not grasp the gravity of their situations or truly understand the nature of the Auschwitz environment. Instead of viewing each other's differences as negative aspects that divide and separate them, Bruno and Shmuel embrace their friendship and continue to meet up on opposite sides of the fence simply because they enjoy each other's company. Without Shmuel, Bruno's life would be extremely boring and lonely. Similarly, the time Shmuel spends engaging in pleasant conversations with Bruno offers him a much-needed respite from the horrific conditions inside Auschwitz.

Neither boy despises the other for their ethnicity or religion, which allows their friendship to flourish. Even though the boys desperately wish to play together without the dividing fence separating them, their conversation and company mean everything to the boys. Bruno even begins sneaking food to Shmuel and looks forward to their meetings throughout the week. Both boys are able to meet up at a distant part of the camp away from the prisoners and guards, which allows them the necessary privacy to develop a friendship. In the end, Bruno finally crawls underneath the fence to the other side, where they tragically die in a gas chamber looking for Shmuel's father.

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In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, how can I find textual evidence on the friendship between Bruno and Shmuel?

In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Bruno and Shmuel are two unlikely friends. They are separated by a fence and Bruno's father has told Bruno that "those" people are "not people at all" (chapter 5). Bruno finds Shmuel whilst exploring along the fence where he has been forbidden to go. Shmuel is "just waiting to be discovered" (much like America, Bruno concludes) (chapter 10).

Bruno introduces himself and the two boys are equally fascinated by each others' most unusual names. Ironically, the boys form a bond over those things that make them the same, such as their birthdays. The are exactly the same age, "twins," and this cements their friendship. Bruno is anxious to retain his new friend and, rather than disagree with him over details regarding where they are both from, he "agrees to disagree." This is further proof of their friendship as Bruno is compromising to safeguard their friendship. 

The boys also bond because they have both been forced to move from their homes. In chapter 12, when Shmuel tells Bruno how "everything changed" Bruno recognizes yet another similarity between them; neither of them is enjoying life at "Out-With." Bruno is fiercely protective of his new friendship even realizing that he should keep Shmuel a secret because his family may not understand and may try to keep them apart. Bruno even risks being ridiculed by Gretel when he accidentally mentions Shmuel that he tells her (in chapter 14) that he is his "imaginary friend." Furthermore, when Lieutenant Kotler finds the boys talking in Bruno's home when Shmuel has been brought there co-incidentally to clean the glasses for the upcoming party (chapter 15), Bruno denies knowing him. This may seem like a betrayal but it is the only way to keep their secret and is further proof of their friendship as is Bruno's dogged persistence in returning to the boys' meeting place until finally, after a week, Shmuel comes back. Shmuel forgives Bruno and the two boys "shook hands and smiled at each other," as Shmuel reaches under the fence.  

In chapter 16 the boys discuss their friendship, "the strangest friendship I've ever had," according to Bruno and, in chapter 17, when it is decided that Bruno, his mother and sister should return to Berlin, Bruno is not happy and "dreaded having to tell Shmuel the news." Finally, when Bruno does go across to Shmuel's side of the fence, he realizes that he and Shmuel are "best friends for life" (chapter 19). The two friends die, presumably and thankfully, without any concept of what is about to happen.

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How does John Boyne describe the relationship between Bruno and Shmuel throughout the whole story, The Boy in The Striped Pajamas?

The Boy in The Striped Pajamas tells the tragic story of two boys, one German and the other Jewish, caught up in the Holocaust, and the effects of their lives in, or close to "Out-With" as Bruno calls it. The boys meet in chapter 10 when Bruno decides to explore, despite having been forbidden from doing so, with "No Exceptions!" The boys connect immediately, despite being separated by "the fence" and Bruno is excited because "We're like twins," discovering that they share a birthday. Shmuel is less convinced- "a little bit." Shmuel is far more aware of their differences.

Bruno does most of the talking and asking questions and it is obvious to the reader that he has been indoctrinated when he talks about how "Germany is the greatest of all countries." Ironically, Bruno thinks that Shmuel is lucky in so many ways, never realizing the extent of the abuse. He is disappointed when he eventually goes under the fence and he does not see the happy families picnicking and enjoying themselves such as he expected but still his expectations remain positive. On the other hand, Shmuel has long since accepted his situation and does try to tell Bruno, warning him and wondering "why you're so anxious to come across here anyway... It's not very nice."  Shmuel seems to realise that Bruno will not really understand and "blinked and opened his mouth to say something but then thought better of it."

John Boyne retains this distinction between the boys to intensify the tragedy of the historical reality but Bruno does notice "Our hands... 'They're so different." Shmuel's hands are almost skeleton-like. The boy's relationship begins to change as, under the fence, they "shook hands and smiled at each other." After Bruno has his hair shaved, when Gretel, his sister, finds lice in her hair, the irony of the situation intensifies as now Bruno looks even more like his friend "only fatter."Ultimately, the boys differences will become immaterial, their allegiances will be unnoticed and their innocence absolute. Their relationship will also change at this point as Bruno, forever questioning, just reassures Shmuel by squeezing his hand, recognizing his fear and comforting him in his own way - "My best friend for life." 

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In the novel The Boy In The Striped Pajamas, how can you define the friendship between Bruno and Shmuel?

The relationship between the two boys is the heart and soul of Boyne's novel, set in Nazi Germany. 

Bruno is nine-years-old. He has just moved from is home in Berlin to a new, unfamiliar place called "Out-With" (Auschwitz). Although he longs to explore his new environment, Bruno has been warned, sternly and repeatedly, that certain areas around his home are forbidden. Despite these admonitions, however, one day Bruno's curiosity gets the best of him and he sets off to investigate. 

As he wanders, Bruno comes upon a fence. On the other side of the fence is a boy who seems to be about Bruno's age. This boy, of course, is Shmuel. Shmuel wears what appear to be striped pajamas. He sports a cloth cap. Bruno notices that the boy is barefoot. The boys strike up a conversation. They discover they share the same birthday, April 15th, 1934. Bruno observes that there are many other people on Shmuel's side of the fence but he does not know what they are doing there. 

Bruno continues to sneak out and meet Shmuel at the fence. Bruno has learned, although he is mystified why, that he and Shmuel are supposed to be enemies. He tells Shmuel as much: 

"We're not supposed to be friends, you and me. We're meant to be enemies. Did you know that? ”

The boys, innocent of the political machinations of their elders, do not care about "not supposed to be." They are friends. As they continue to meet and talk, their bond becomes stronger and stronger. Shmuel expresses his fear about his missing father; Bruno promises to see if he can find anything out. 

Shmuel is happy to accept Bruno's offer of help. He tells his friend that he will acquire another set of striped pajamas so that Bruno can blend in and look for Shmuel's father with less risk of being stopped and questioned. 

The ruse works too well. The prisoners are unexpectedly herded into a gas chamber, Bruno among them. The friends die, holding hands. Bruno's earlier words were completely true: "You're my best friend, Shmuel," he said. "My best friend for life.” Sadly, both of their lives are horrifically short. 

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In the novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, how is "friendship" presented?

Friendship is presented as being unexpected, gratifying, and helpful throughout the novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Bruno and Shmuel first meet unexpectedly while Bruno is walking parallel to the concentration camp fence. The reader also does not expect German and Jewish boys living during WWII to become friends because of the deep seeded hatred amongst the two ethnicities. Both boys take pleasure in their friendship and Bruno soon forgets about how bad he hates his new house at Out-With. Shmuel is also delighted to talk with someone who listens and does not bully him. Bruno and Shmuel also mutually benefit from their friendship. Bruno is simply glad to have a friend, and Shmuel not only has someone to talk to, but Bruno also gives him food and helps Shmuel attempt to find his father.

Friendship is also presented as a positive force that can withstand and overcome social differences and traumatic environments. Despite Germany's nationalist views and their contempt for Jews, Bruno and Shmuel's friendship thrives. Their different ethnic backgrounds and situations do not impede their friendship. A friendship develops in a hopeless place and is depicted as an overwhelmingly positive force throughout the novel.

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Why does Bruno enter Shmuel's camp in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

Bruno agrees to enter the concentration camp in order to help Shmuel find his father, who has recently disappeared. Bruno takes pride in his exploration abilities and has become extremely close friends with Shmuel.

On the day before Bruno leaves for Berlin, he offers his help finding Shmuel's father by climbing underneath the fence and wearing a prison uniform to blend in and avoid detection. Since Bruno has recently contracted lice and shaved his head, he looks similar to the Jewish prisoner wearing the same "striped pajamas."

Inside the concentration camp, Bruno and Shmuel look for evidence of his missing father but cannot find him. Tragically, Bruno and Shmuel are herded towards the gas chambers by several Nazi soldiers. Inside the gas chambers, Bruno and Shmuel hold onto each other as they are poisoned to death.

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How did Bruno's friendship benefit Shmuel in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

Shmuel benefited greatly from his friendship with Bruno throughout the novel. Shmuel mentions to Bruno that the majority of the children in the concentration camp are unhappy, and not friendly. Bruno's friendship provides Shmuel emotional relief which allows Shmuel an opportunity to engage in friendly conversation and vent his frustrations while imprisoned at Auschwitz. Shmuel suffers from malnutrition and is constantly hungry. Bruno, who has access to plenty of food, brings Shmuel bread and cheese to eat when he visits him. The food that Bruno brings has a nutritional value which benefits Shmuel. Also, towards the end of the novel Shmuel asks Bruno if he can help him find his father. Bruno offers to help Shmuel search for his father, which is a risky task on Bruno's part. Bruno provides support for his friend by sneaking under the fence and helping Shmuel look for his father. Although the boys do not find Shmuel's father, their close friendship provides both boys with a sense of belonging and gratification to an otherwise bleak situation.

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Describe the friendship between Bruno and Shmuel in chapter 16 of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

The friendship that is shared between Bruno and Shmuel is one in which their differences are not relevant, as their common finding of their association is all that matters.  Their pasts are irrelevant.  The only element that matters is that they have found one another.  This friendship is one that lives in the eternal present.  It is one in which there is complete forgetting of the conditions in which they live, and a complete submersion in their own friendship.  I think that this is the reason why Bruno feels that it is "the best thing."  It is a statement on how friendship's transcendent qualities can cause people to lose the frustration they experience in their lives and immerse themselves in a shared association with another.  For Bruno, it is an opportunity to forget the tension with his sister and his missing his friends in Berlin.  For Shmuel, it is a reminder of normalcy in a condition that is devoid of it.  I think that this is where Bruno and Shmuel consider their friendship "the best thing."  When Bruno's head has to be shaved for lice, he sees it as another way in which he can forge his relationship with Shmuel, reflective of how their friendship is "the best thing" in that they both even resemble one another.

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