The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
|The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas|
|Genre(s)||Historical / post modern|
|Publisher||David Fickling Books|
|Publication date||5 January 2006|
|Media type||Print (hard cover & paper back)|
|Dewey Decimal||823.914 22|
|LC Classification||MLCS 2006/45764|
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a 2006 novel from the point of view of a young boy, written by Irish novelist John Boyne. Unlike the months of planning Boyne devoted to his other books, he said that he wrote the entire first draft of The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas in two and a half days, barely sleeping until he got to the end. As of March 2010, the novel had sold more than five million copies around the world. It was published as The Boy in the Striped Pajamas in the United States to go along with the traditional American spelling of the word. In both 2007 and 2008, it was the best selling book of the year in Spain. It has also reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list, as well as in the UK, Ireland, and Australia.[not verified in body]
Bruno is a 9-year-old boy growing up during World War II in Berlin. He lives in a huge house with his loving parents, his twelve-year-old sister Gretel (whom he refers to as a Hopeless Case), and maidservants. His father is a high-ranking SS officer who, after a visit from Adolf Hitler (referred to in the novel as "The Fury", Bruno's misrecognition of the word "Führer") and Eva Braun, is promoted to Commandant, and to Bruno's dismay, the family has to move away to a place called "Out-With" (which turns out to be Auschwitz).
When Bruno gets there, he feels a surge of homesickness after leaving behind his grandparents and his three best friends. Unhappy with his new home, Bruno becomes lonely and has no one to talk to or play with. One day, Bruno notices a group of people all wearing the same striped pyjamas and striped hats or bald heads. He asks who these people are and his father tells him that these people are not real people at all, as they are Jews. Gretel has changed from a normal young girl into a strong Nazi supporter with the help of her tutor (Herr Liszt), but Bruno does not seem to take the same stance as his sister. At one point, she seems unsure what to tell him when he asks her about the Jews.
Bruno finds out he is not allowed to explore the back of the house or its surroundings. Due to curiosity and boredom, he decides to explore anyway. He spots a boy on the other side of the fence. Excited that there might be a boy his age, Bruno introduces himself and finds out the Jewish boy's name is Shmuel. Shmuel and his family were brought here, broken apart from each other and forced to work in Auschwitz. Almost every day, the two boys meet at the same spot. Soon, they become best friends, so similar, they are basically the same person in different circumstances, one a Polish Jew, the other a German. Over the course of the book, Bruno shows a great deal of naïvety whilst Shmuel seems to have more knowledge, as he has felt the suffering first-hand.
Bruno's mother persuades his father to take them back to Berlin, after what is presumed to be a romance between a young soldier called Lieutenant Kotler and Bruno's Mother (Gretel does try to impress him and act romantically, though the action is but only harmless flirting that is broken up by the father) after a year at their new home, while the father stays at Auschwitz. With Bruno about to go back to Berlin with his mother and sister, as a final adventure, he agrees to dress in a set of striped pyjamas and cap to go under the fence to help Shmuel find his father, who went missing in the camp. The boys are unable to find him, and they are mixed up in a group of people going on a march. Neither boy knows where this march will lead. However, they are soon crowded into a gas chamber, which Bruno assumes is a place to keep them dry from the rain until it stops. The author leaves the story with Bruno pondering, yet unafraid, in the dark holding hands with Shmuel: "...Despite the chaos that followed, Bruno found that he was still holding Shmuel's hand in his own and nothing in the world would have ever persuaded him to let it go."
In an epilogue, the book states that Bruno's family spent several months at their home trying to find Bruno, before his mother and Gretel return to Berlin, only to discover he is not there as they had expected. A year afterwards, his father returns to the spot that the soldiers found Bruno's clothes (almost the same spot Bruno spent the last year of his life) and, after a brief inspection, discovers that the fence is not properly attached at the base and can form a gap big enough for a boy of Bruno's size to fit through. Using this information, his father eventually pieces together that they gassed Bruno to death. Bruno's father then realizes what he was really doing and thinks about his job as Commandant. Losing Bruno makes him greatly depressed, and he stops caring about his job. Several months later, the Red Army arrives to liberate the camp and orders Bruno's father to go with them. He goes without complaint, because "he didn't really mind what they did to him anymore".
Rabbi Benjamin Blech described the book as "not just a lie and not just a fairytale, but a ". Despite the book's intentions, he argues, the plot is highly improbable and gives credence to the defence that people did not, and could not, know what was happening within the death camps. Students who read it, he warns, may believe the camps "weren't that bad" if a boy could conduct a clandestine friendship with a Jewish captive of the same age, unaware of "the constant presence of death".
However, Kathryn Hughes, whilst agreeing that about the implausibility of the plot, argues that "Bruno's innocence comes to stand for the willful refusal of all adult Germans to see what was going on under their noses".
- "Interview with Children’s Author John Boyne (2006)". Archived from the original on 2011-07-21. Retrieved 2007-02-23.
- Hughes, Kathryn (21 January 2006). "Educating Bruno". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 8 February 2012. Retrieved 8 February 2012.
- Rabbi Benjamin Blech (October 23, 2008). "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas". aish.com. Retrieved February 11, 2013.