set of striped pajamas behind a barbed wire fence

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne

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What are some internal and external conflicts in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

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External conflicts in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas include World War II and the Holocaust. Internal conflicts in the novel could connect to Bruno’s feelings about moving and certain aspects of his relationship with Shmuel.

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To identify external and internal conflicts in John Boyne’s novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, one will have to identify altercations that are happening outside of Bruno and beyond his control, as well as confrontations that are happening within him and that he has some power over.

Two major altercations that are happening in the outer world are World War II and the Holocaust. In addition to conquering Europe, the Nazis put in place a system to exterminate so-called “undesirable” people, including Jewish people. As Bruno’s dad is a rising officer in the Germany army, the external events of World War II and the Holocaust impact Bruno personally and contribute to his inner conflicts.

After Bruno’s dad is put in charge of the Auschwitz concentration camp, Bruno and his family must move from their Berlin home and into a home near Auschwitz. Bruno doesn’t like their new home. Their new house lacks the size, mystery, and enchantment of their Berlin home. Instead of being surrounded by people, shops, and other forms of big-city excitement, Bruno is an “empty, desolate” place.

While the external conflict of World War II and the genocide of European Jews caused Bruno’s move, the external conflict produces an internal conflict: Bruno's opposition towards moving. Now Bruno has to deal with his own feelings and emotions about the move. He has to figure out from himself how to cope with this new setting.

Bruno’s internal conflict abut the change seems to lead to his friendship with Shmuel. This relationship can be described as a mix of internal and external conflicts. There are elements that Bruno and Shmuel can’t control, and there are parts about their friendship that they can, to some degree, control.

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In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas there are many internal and external conflicts. Bruno as a young boy is not privy to what it is that his father's new job is. Bruno struggles with the reality that is his life. 

The biggest external conflict is the what is happening to the Jewish people. Bruno's father is a commander in the German army and is in charge of the concentration camp. This position has caused Bruno's father to move the entire family out of Berlin. Bruno's mother and Maria, the maid, are unhappy there. The father is only concerned with advancing his career. Bruno is miserable that he had to leave his best friends and hates the new house. Bruno's feelings of being restless in the new place will lead to the biggest internal conflict of all.

Bruno had a pain inside him, something that when it worked its way up from the lowest depths inside him to the outside would either make him shout and scream that the whole thing was wrong and unfair and a big mistake for which somebody would pay one these days, or just make him burst into tears instead. He couldn't understand how this had all come about. One day he was perfectly content, playing at home, having three best friends, sliding down banisters, trying to stand on his tiptoes to see right across Berlin, and now he was stuck here in this cold, nasty house with three whispering maids and a waiter who was both unhappy and angry, where no one looked as if they could ever be cheerful again.

When Bruno befriends Shmuel, this is the point in the story, in my opinion, that the real internal conflict occurs. Shmuel and Bruno forge a friendship, although it is not heard of. Bruno defies everything that he has been taught and that is expected of him to become friends with a Jewish boy. When Bruno and Shmuel go "exploring" in the camp, everyone involved faces their biggest internal conflict ever. 

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Internal and external conflicts always exist in literature. The internal conflict usually revolves around the concept of Man versus himself meaning that there is inner confusion and often a difficult choice to be made. It may be an emotional or ethical choice which is driven by feelings and perceptions. External conflicts are recognizable as the struggle of Man versus Man, Man versus Nature, Man versus fate or Destiny, Man versus society and Man versus machine. In The Boy in The Striped Pajamas, Bruno experiences inner and external conflict as he struggles to accept his father's decisions although he knows that his father holds the ultimate position of authority in the household which Bruno cannot question. Bruno decides to defy his parents wishes and go exploring along the fence (inner conflict). He makes a conscious decision to challenge that authority by going exploring even though he knows what is expected of him. 

Bruno suffers another inner conflict when he denies Shmuel after Kotler catches Shmuel eating the cake which Bruno has given him. This has painful consequences for both boys and Bruno's promise that he will never let his friend down again is put to the test and resolves the conflict when he joins Shmuel on his side of the fence, only to meet his death in the gas chamber. 

External conflicts include the only time Bruno stands up to his father in chapter 5 and is told that "those people...well they're not people at all." This conflict will be resolved when Bruno meets Shmuel for the first time and discovers that the boys share a birthday so are apparently not so different after all. This conflict could be both Man versus Man and Man versus society as Bruno reveals the similarities and not the differences between the Jews and the Nazis.  

In the conflict of Man versus Destiny, Bruno's mother desperately wants to free herself from any part in the Nazi solution. Her inner conflict as she tries to be loyal and to justify her part is outweighed by her external conflict as she fights the inevitable. 

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What are examples of the conflicts (character vs. character, character vs. society, character vs. self) in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

An example of character vs. character in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is Bruno vs. Lieutenant Kotler. Bruno represents innocence and kindness whereas Kotler is a mean bully who abuses his power as a soldier by being rude or threatening. Bruno doesn't like Kotler specifically because of a few of the following reasons:

"There was the fact that he never smiled and always looked as if he was trying to find somebody to cut out of his will . . . Once when Bruno was watching the camp from his bedroom window he saw a dog approach the fence and start barking loudly, and when Lieutenant Kotler heard it he marched right over to the dog and shot it" (162).

Bruno wishes that he were older, taller, and stronger so he could confront Lieutenant Kotler. Unfortunately, Bruno is only ten and can only be sarcastic or verbally resistant when Kotler is around. 

Next, an example of character vs. society is exemplified in the story surrounding Pavel, the waiter. Bruno learns that Pavel once practiced medicine. Bruno doesn't understand the reason Pavel is now his family's waiter. However, it can be inferred from historical facts that since Pavel is a Jew, Nazis forced him to stop practicing medicine. Since society's acceptance of Jews changed when Hitler came to power, Pavel must now wrestle against prejudiced people every day. The worst part about Pavel' life is that he is a victim of society because he can't live the life he once had. It doesn't matter that he is an educated or experienced doctor. All that matters to society now is that he is a Jew and should be treated as less than human.

Finally, a conflict that demonstrates character vs. self is when Lieutenant Kotler asks Bruno if Shmuel is his friend. The battle fought between a character against himself happens inside, and it becomes evident in the character's mind. For example, the internal question that Bruno must answer is whether or not he will tell the truth about his friendship with Shmuel and risk getting in trouble. Bruno debates over what to do as follows:

"Bruno's mouth dropped open as he tried to remember the way you used your mouth if you wanted to say the word 'yes'. . . but then he realized that he couldn't; because he was feeling just as terrified himself . . . Bruno wished he could run away. He hated Lieutenant Kotler, but he was advancing on him now and all Bruno could think of was the afternoon when he had seen him shooting a dog . . ." (172).

The above passage shows Bruno struggling within himself to do the right thing, but he's terrified. Sadly, he doesn't claim Shmuel as his friend at this moment and must apologize later. 

 

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What is the conflict in The Boy In The Striped Pajamas?

Despite being a relatively short novel, conflicts abound throughout The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. The story contains a solid mixture of both internal and external conflicts. One external and internal conflict that can be seen early on in the novel is the conflict that exists between Bruno and his father. What is amazing about this entire conflict is that Bruno's father is a relatively minor character. Bruno and his family have had to move to Auschwitz because his father is fairly high up in the Nazi political and military hierarchy. Bruno is forced to move away from a home he liked with friends he liked to a place that Bruno believes is a step down. Bruno struggles internally with honoring and supporting his father while at the same time harboring resentment toward him. Bruno's dad isn't ignorant of Bruno's feelings either, and the two characters have their moments of strife. One such moment occurs in chapter 5 when Bruno's father flatly states why he did what he did and heavily hints that Bruno should act similarly:

Do you think that I would have made such a success of my life if I hadn't learned when to argue and when to keep my mouth shut and follow orders? Well, Bruno? Do you?

Another good conflict to focus on that is mainly an internal conflict is the conflict that surrounds the friendship of Bruno and Shmuel. The two characters are indeed good friends that get along quite nicely, but as with any friendship, there are rough patches. Bruno is quite naive about what Shmuel is going through, and that puts some tension on the friendship; however, Bruno learns to recognize that being a good friend means standing up for each other. This is something that Bruno will fail to do when Kotler catches the two boys in the kitchen. Bruno is very quick to protect himself and abandon Shmuel, and Bruno feels horrible about it. He struggles to come to terms with his actions, and there is a definite sense of guilt about Bruno. Fortunately, Shmuel is quick to forgive, and the boys end up with an even stronger bond.

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What is the conflict in The Boy In The Striped Pajamas?

In the novel, the conflict is majorly brought out by the protagonist, Bruno. The first instance of conflict is introduced in the first chapter. Bruno is distraught by the news of their sudden relocation plans from Berlin, due to his father’s new role in Auschwitz. Bruno does not want to leave his home; he likes it there, because the house is spacious and he can explore. He had also made friends there and his grandparents, of whom he was fond, resided there. The conflict is heightened when they arrive at their new residence in Auschwitz. The house is not only in poor condition, with cobwebs and chipping paint, but is also small and isolated.   

The main conflict is encountered after Bruno meets Shmuel, who is in the concentration camp adjacent to Bruno’s new home. The two, oblivious of the social order dictating how the Nazis and Jews should interact, establish a close friendship. Bruno sympathizes with Shmuel and often brings him food. He decides to help Shmuel find his father, who had disappeared for a few days, and it is at this point that the two meet their demise in a gas chamber within the concentration camp.

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What is the conflict in The Boy In The Striped Pajamas?

The main conflict throughout the novel involves Bruno's inability to maintain a typical friendship with Shmuel because of their different backgrounds and situations. Bruno is a naive young boy whose father is a leading Nazi officer in charge of the Auschwitz concentration camp. In contrast, Shmuel is an imprisoned Jewish boy living inside the concentration camp. Despite the large fence separating them and their drastically different lifestyles, Bruno and Shmuel get along and enjoy routinely talking to each other. Their conflict can be viewed as individual preference versus society's expectations. Although Bruno and Shmuel are of different ethnicities, and Bruno is forbidden from speaking to Shmuel, the two boys become close friends. As the novel progresses, Bruno continues to disobey his father's orders by meeting up with Shmuel on the fence. Eventually, Bruno sneaks under the Auschwitz fence and attempts to help Shmuel find his father. Unfortunately, both boys lose their lives but die holding hands in an expression of their love for each other.

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What is the conflict in The Boy In The Striped Pajamas?

Many different conflicts emerge from Boyne's work.  Most of them start with Bruno.  The exposition details how Bruno is in conflict in with the world around him.  He does not want to leave Berlin and does not want to do what his family, especially his father, wants to do.  In this demonstration, an initial conflict is evident.  Conscious or not, Bruno finds himself in conflict with the changing attitudes around him.  Bruno is in opposition to the Nazi lifestyle that advances one group of people at the cost of another.  At the train depot where Bruno notices different modes of reality in the same instant, it becomes clear that Bruno is in conflict, or at least, not in synchronicity with the world around him.  

Over the course of the narrative, Bruno continues to be in conflict with life at "Out- With."  He is not able to accept the propaganda lifestyle that Gretel does and cannot abide by his father's demands.  His friendship with Shmuel causes some of the greatest conflict in terms of forcing Bruno to stand up for what is right and for what he believes.  This involves Bruno feeling bad when Kotler beats up Shmuel and promising him that he will never abandon him.  Naturally, Bruno feels conflict when he has to embark on their "great adventure" and actually see what life on the other side of the fence is actually like.  Yet, Bruno does not cave into his fears.  Rather, he overcomes this conflict by bravely walking with Shmuel to their deaths in the name of what is right and honorable.

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What is the conflict in The Boy In The Striped Pajamas?

The Conflict in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas centers around Bruno's feelings.  At first, he is content to pass the time by interacting with Schmuel despite believing him to be inferior. He doesn't feel badly about eating in front of him because the way that Jews are viewed is the way it has always been in his mind.  His father, he believes, is doing an important job in running the camp.  However, as he spends more time with Schmuel across the fence, he begins to see the boy beyond the label, and it is here that the conflict really begins to unfold.  Bruno begins to question why Schmuel can't come out from behind the fence, why his head is shaved, why he can only wear the "striped pajamas," and, on a deeper level, why he and Shmuel are any different at all.  At first, he is so conflicted within himself that his actions lead to a beating for Schmuel when he denies having told him that he could eat in the main house, but as the novel develops, he develops a feeling of kinship and likeness to Schmuel - their friendship has developed despite Bruno's upbringing and the environment.  Schmuel is just his friend, another boy who is more like him than different from him.  It is this resolution of the conflict within himself that leads to the fateful decision to help Schmuel at the end of the novel.  In the context of larger society, the book begs the question:  Is hatred taught - the conflict of nature vs. nurture with regard to prejudice and intolerance.

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What was the main conflict in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

Although it is hard to choose one conflict in this story--there are so many--I would say the main conflict is one of freedom vs. confinement. It would be very simple to say, "Yes, Bruno, as a young German boy, is free, and Shmuel, as a young Jewish boy, is not," yet that is oversimplistic. We can certainly understand how it is that Bruno is free: he lives in a big house, is free to come and go as he likes, he can eat whatever and whenever he needs to, he can wear whatever clothes he chooses, and he has friends with whom he is free to play. And it's easy to see how Shmuel is confined, having been first taken from his home and confined to a single room, then taken from that room and locked up in a train, then taken to the camp and forced into striped pajamas that are his only covering (and that look like prison bars), and then imprisoned, literally, in Auschwitz. Yet Bruno is not as free as he appears, and in this, he lives a loose parallel with Shmuel. Bruno is forced to move to a place he does not want to go, where he has no friends, and from which he cannot leave. He cannot leave to return to his previous home or his friends, and neither can he leave the grounds of the new house. In another loose parallel to Shmuel's confinement, Bruno has a Nazi soldier charged with making sure he does not. 

We can see the freedom vs. confinement conflict play out in another scene when Shmuel is part of a work detail brought to Bruno's home to clean glassware for an upcoming party. While Bruno is free to roam the house, Shmuel is not. But more than that, at this point, Bruno and Shmuel have forged a friendship, in which they both have found a freedom from their loneliness and isolation. In the freedom of this friendship, Bruno offers his hungry friend a piece of chicken and Shmuel accepts. When Kotler shows up accusing Shmuel of stealing it, Shmuel, feeling free in his friendship with Bruno, says that Bruno is his friend and gave it to him. But Bruno, faced with Kotler's anger, is not free to answer that truthfully and denies it, which leads to Shmuel's beating. So although their friendship has provided some freedom from their loneliness, both are confined by their roles in it.

The end of the novel brings one last significant clash between freedom and confinement when Bruno, whose own father has been 'missing' on a trip to Berlin, sheds his clothes to don a borrowed pair of striped pajamas and wriggles under the fence into Auschwitz to help Shmuel look for his missing father. Here we see a literal move from freedom to confinement for Bruno, and as he realizes just how bad things are for Shmuel, he longs to go home. Yet he becomes a prisoner to his sense of loyalty, to the friendship that has brought him some small measure of freedom from his loneliness, and his confinement is fully realized when the running boys are surrounded by armed soldiers and marched into the gas chamber. Although their innocence in a sense momentarily frees them from the reality of their situation, they are both about to die as prisoners. In a fitting end, Bruno's father is forced to give up his freedom when the Allied soldiers arrive at the camp.

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What was the main conflict in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

The main conflict in the novel is one of friendship.  Particularly, the conflict resides in how friendship can transcend the conditions of circumstances and contingency.  The loyalty shared by Bruno and Shmuel is a transcendent one.  It is one based on the ethos of care, compassion, and expansion of moral imagination to fully grasp the plight of another.  It is this very essence that is challenged by the circumstances of the Nazis and the Holocaust.  The conflict present is what happens to values that represent permanence in a condition that emphasized contingency and impermanence.  This conflict is what plays out between the two boys, enabling Bruno to understand the plight of his friend, change into "pajamas" in helping his friend find his father, and ultimately allows them to walk hand in hand into a situation where transcendence might have been wounded, but certainly not wounded.

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What was the conflict in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

While there are a number of conflicts one could discuss in terms of this novel, the most significant one as far as I am concerned is the difficulty of the friendship that blossoms between Bruno and Shmuel. Their friendship occurs quite naturally due to their proximity, and because both boys are lonely in similar yet different ways; but is fraught with difficulty because of Shmuel's status as a prisoner, and Bruno's status as the son of a Nazi officer. As Bruno slowly begins to realize there are things about their friendship that give him more freedom and autonomy than his friend, he still wants to remain on an equal footing with Shmuel, possibility out of pity, but more likely a kind of kinship and empathy.

Bruno does not yet understand all of the implications of the situation, and so his pity towards Shmuel does not encompass his persecution as a Jew, but merely that of a boy who is imprisoned against his will (which is serious in its own right of course). The empathy between the two boys leads to the novel's horrific climax, in which both boys decide to switch clothing (in a possible homage to Mark Twain's "The Prince and the Pauper") and take showers together; readers understand this means they will go to their deaths.

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What was the conflict in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

The conflict in the book, The Boy with the Striped Pajamas, is that the boy's father, the Nazi officer, has placed his family in a position that caused his actions to ruin his entire family and actually gets his own son killed, along with the prisoners of war that he was in charge of.

The irony of this is inescapable. The father was punished severely for his actions towards the prisoners of war, in that his own child ended up getting executed.

His child had done nothing to deserve being executed, just as the prisoners and their children in the death camp had done nothing to deserve being executed.

The father, and the entire rest of the family, had to suffer the loss of their precious child because of the father's actions.

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Write a topic sentence about internal and external conflicts in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

One topic sentence about internal and external conflicts in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas could pertain to the start of the story. Bruno and his family have to move from Berlin to the countryside. The relocation upsets Bruno. He likes his big house in Berlin and the excitement of the city. The smaller house and the uneventful countryside displease him. Of course, the move is motivated by outside events. Bruno’s internal conflict over his living situation is created by the external conflict of World War II and the Holocaust. Bruno is mostly unaware of these conflicts. His biggest problem is not global war or genocide but the family's move. A topic sentence that aligns with this issue might read as follows:

Bruno’s dislike of his new home demonstrates how historical events can personally impact people in ways that seem relatively minor.

A second topic sentence could touch on Bruno’s loneliness. Amidst the devastation of World War II and the Holocaust, Bruno, in “Out-With,” struggles to find someone to hang out with. Eventually, he meets Shmuel, and the two of them become friends. Such a relationship isn’t supposed to happen in Nazi Europe. A topic sentence that addresses the gap between their relationship and what’s taking place in the world might read as follows:

Through the friendship of Bruno and Shmuel, John Boyne shows how internal conflicts can push one to deviate from the norms stipulated by external conflicts.

For additional topic sentences that spotlight internal and external conflicts, think about how the internal conflict between Bruno’s dad and grandma depends on the external conflict of Nazism, or consider how the death of Bruno can be seen as an internal conflict (it personally impacts Bruno’s family) and an external conflict (it's a result of the genocidal policies of the Nazis).

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How does John Boyne present to the reader the notion that conflict can be both internal and external in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

To answer this question, we first need to establish the difference between internal and external conflicts. An internal conflict is also known as a “character versus self” conflict, which explains that this is a battle that takes place within a character. He or she may have two opposing beliefs or needs that need to be somehow reconciled. At least in part, they are in control of the conflict. External conflict, on the other hand, is a conflict that exists between two or more different characters or between one character and an external event or force. Boyne presents the notion of conflict being both internal and external by providing examples of both.

Internal conflicts rage within Bruno after the announcement that his family is leaving Berlin and moving to “Out-With.” While he knows he must go with his family, he doesn’t want to leave his luxurious home or his close friends. Once they arrive at the new house and before Bruno befriends Shmuel, this internal conflict reaches a crescendo in which he feels like he wants to “scream that the whole thing was wrong and unfair” or “burst into tears.”

Major internal conflicts are also fought in both of Bruno’s parents. His mother is torn between her loyalty to her husband and her growing knowledge that “Out-With” is no place to raise Bruno and his sister. The depth of the internal conflict that Bruno’s father suffers in the aftermath of Bruno’s death is seen in the fact that when soldiers came to Out-With and order him to go with them, he does so passively, no longer caring what happens to him.

In terms of external conflicts, the obvious ones in this novel are World War II and the Holocaust, which were causing Jews like Shmuel and his family, as well as other groups labelled by Hitler as “undesirable,” to be shepherded into concentration camps and, often, into death chambers. There are a few examples of lesser external conflicts, such as the conversation between Bruno and his mother when she explains that they are leaving Berlin. There is another external conflict between Bruno and his mother when they arrive at the new house and Bruno resists helping Maria unpack his things. External conflict also exists between Bruno and his sister, Gretel, who fights with Bruno when he enters her new room without knocking and questions her choice to bring all her dolls.

In a nutshell, the complexities of internal and external conflicts are presented by Boyne with the inclusion of several examples of both.

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