set of striped pajamas behind a barbed wire fence

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne

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What are the conflict and resolution in John Boyne's "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas"?

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The conflict in the novelThe Boy in the Striped Pajamasby John Boyne is that Bruno, the son of a Nazi commandant, must move from his beautiful home in Berlin with his family to a house that sits outside the barbed wire fences of Auschwitz.  Although the area behind the house is...

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off limits to Bruno, he walks the fence line and eventually meets, Shmuel, a boy on the other side.  Their friendship grows as they talk to each other across the fence.  Both boys know they are not supposed to cross the fence, although Bruno really doesn't understand why.  Eventually, however, Bruno does sneak over to the other side when Shmuel's father is missing.  Because his head has been shaved due to a lice infestation, Bruno looks  like any of the other Jewish children once he has donned a pair of striped pajamas Shmuel brought to him.  As the boys search the camp for Shmuel's father, the guards force them and the other Jews into a group, march them into a room, and gas them along with many other Jewish prisoners. Theirony of the situation is realized near the end of the story when his father locates the clothes that Bruno had shed at the fenceline for the gray striped pajamas.

This conflict is multi-layered.  First,  Bruno's conflict is that he doesn't want to move to "Out-With".  This sets up a much bigger conflict seen through the eyes of a boy - man vs. society.  The Nazi's scapegoated, imprisoned, and killed Jews and other "undesirables."   Because the boy was on the wrong side of the fence, he was killed without any remorse, a realization that crushes his father who is eventually removed from his post and taken away by soldiers.

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Speak to the major conflict(s) that take place in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne.

A conflict exists when there are two opposing forces.

There are minor conflicts in Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Bruno has to move when his father relocates to Auschwitz, a town where one of the most notorious death camps in World War II is located. This causes him a great deal of unhappiness, as he has to leave his friends behind. Bruno has some conflict with his sister, Gretel, that he believes is a "Hopeless Case." She is bossy—being several years older than he is. Bruno's parents fight a great deal—and it is life in their new home at the root of their problems.

However, the conflict that is at the center of the book is something of which Bruno is unaware. It is man vs. society—the Jew, the gypsy, the disabled person being murdered by the Nazis—and it is this aspect of the novel—this central conflict—that the reader understands better than Bruno does.

Bruno and Grete get their first hint that something is not as it should be when, looking out their window, they see a group of males gathered together behind the fence. They are of all ages: fathers, sons and grandfathers. The youngsters are not sure why the men are there, but Grete asks another puzzling and disturbing question (at least to the reader):

'And where are all the girls?' she asked. "And the mothers? And the grandmothers?'

Grete also notes that the view here is not the same as it is from other parts of their new house.

This could well represent the view of life in Germany (and other countries) at that time: life was very different depending upon which side of the fence one lived on!

The fence was very high...and there were wooden posts...dotting along it, holding it up. At the top of the fence enormous bales of barbed wire were tangled in spirals, and Gretel felt an unexpected pain inside her as she looked at the spikes sticking out all the way round it.

There wasn't any grass after the fence...

Grete seems to at least suspect something is not right; Bruno is too young, and he doesn't understand what is happening—Germany's ultimate extermination of over six million souls.

Bruno meets Shmuel who lives on the other side of a fence in a wooded area near his home. Bruno has been expressly warned by his father not to go there. Bruno refers to it as "Out Of Bounds At All Times And No Exceptions." Shmuel is one of the detainees at the camp, and his clothing looks to Bruno like pajamas with stripes on them. Bruno does not understand why Shmuel is imprisoned within the fence; he also does not realize that a visitor (whom he calls "The Fury") is actually Adolf Hitler, the leader of Germany and the man responsible for the military's systematic extermination of those Hitler believes are impure. 

With the innocence of children, Bruno and Shmuel become fast friends. However, the reality of their situation will creep into their lives—in a terrible way.

One day Shmuel is brought to the house to clean glass. Bruno offers the other boy food, and Shmuel fearfully accepts it. When Lieutenant Kotler accuses Shmuel of stealing, the child says Bruno gave it to him. Out of fear, Bruno denies knowing Shmuel, and is overcome with guilt. How could he do such a thing...

...how [could] a boy who thought he was a good person...act in such a cowardly way...

Bruno tries to be a better friend, but the cost is horrific. Bruno joins his friend in the camp for a last adventure. The conflict between people like Bruno's father and the prisoners brings about Bruno's death.  

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Explain the conflict in John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

Bruno is Boyne's protagonist in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Because he is a young boy of ten, Bruno finds himself isolated from adults' understanding of the world. His young mind cannot comprehend everything that is going on in his parents' lives, often because they are not forthcoming with vital information. For example, when the family moves from Berlin to Auschwitz, Bruno does not understand the complexity of the situation. All he knows is that his father moves his family from their comfortable home in the city to a strange location where there are no young friends for Bruno to play with. This makes him very upset. Furthermore, everyone in his life seems to be too busy to notice him and how lonely he feels in the new home. The maid, Maria, tells Bruno to find a way to do his school work and stay out of his father's way because this will make things easier for everyone. Bruno doesn't like that answer. As a result, there is conflict between him and his parents simply because he has no control over the choices they make for his life.

Since Bruno has no power to change his parents' minds to move back to Berlin, the second major conflict can be seen between Bruno and himself when he makes secret decisions to satisfy his loneliness. Bruno demonstrates his internal conflict whenever he makes a decision that he thinks his parents won't like. For instance, in chapter twelve, Bruno wants to tell his parents about his new friend Shmuel; however, he reasons within himself the following:

". . . the closer he got to his own house, the more he started to think that that might not be a good idea. After all, he reasoned, they might not want me to be friends with him any more and if that happens they might stop me coming out here at all" (133).

The above passage shows a conflict between Bruno and his parents and family, which would be person vs. society; however, this excerpt also shows that Bruno consciously examines his decisions by weighing his options, which is an internal struggle.

Another example of Bruno struggling within himself to make a decision that his parents would not like is at the end of the novel when Shmuel asks him to help find his father inside the concentration camp. At first, Bruno says, "I don't think I'd be allowed," after which Shmuel argues, "Well, you're probably not allowed to come here and talk to me every day either . . . But you still do it, don't you?" (197-198). Thus, for acting against his parents' will, the conflict is Bruno vs. his parents; but, whenever Bruno considers options when deciding whether or not to do something against his parents' will, he consciously debates the issue internally, which creates the conflict of Bruno vs. himself.

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Explain the conflict in John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is obviously fiction, but could probably be more specifically considered dramatic fiction.

The setting, of course, is during World War II in Nazi-ruled Germany.  In the beginning, Bruno and his family live in Berlin, but then must move to Auschwitz, or "Out With", as Bruno misinterprets it.

The conflicts in the story could possibly be character vs. character for one, since the Jews vs. Nazis provide the "backdrop" of the story.  Bruno, however, is quite naive and ignorant of what is truly going on, so it doesn't seem like he faces much conflict, aside from the frustration of having to live at such a boring new home.  He doesn't realize what is happening to the Jewish population and what his country's plans are.

Other characters face conflicts, however, such as the mother's disapproval of what her husband, Bruno's father, is actually doing; likewise, it could be argued that the father is facing an internal conflict since he is basically forced to follow orders, even though his own mother cannot stand what he does.

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Describe the main characters John Boyne's young adult novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.

The little boys whose innocent friendship forms the central plot of the story are named Bruno and Shmuel.  Bruno is the nine year old child of a Nazi commandant, and Shmuel is a young Jewish inmate in one of Hitler's death camps, Auschwitz, or as Bruno's young ears hears it, "Out-with".  Visiting at the fence one day, the boys discover that they share the same birthday and have other things in common.  Although Bruno can't comprehend exactly what is happening in his family's home, he knows enough to know that he doesn't like the man called "the Fury" (the Fuhrer) who comes to dinner one evening.  Bruno spends most of his time exploring the woods around his family's quarters, and meeting to converse with his friend.  The two are annoyed that they can't play games together because of the prison fence. 

Their lack of awareness of the reasons they shouldn't play together leads them to hatch a plan so that they might; Shmuel smuggles a pair of striped pajamas through the fence to his buddy, who puts them on, and heads into the camp through the fence. 

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