Diversify Yourself: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Maddie Booton

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John Boyne’s novel “The Boy in Striped Pyjamas”, originally released in 2006, covers the events of the Holocaust from nine-year-old and Nazi commander’s son Bruno’s point of view. With the book only being 216 pages and the story being so captivating, it is a great weekend read or read for someone with a busy schedule.

The characters introduced initially are mostly Bruno’s immediate family. Bruno’s dad is a Nazi commander and rules his household with a heavy hand in an attempt to look like the ideal German family. Bruno’s family is made up of his mother, father, older sister Gretel, and several butlers and maids. Meanwhile, other characters are introduced throughout the text, like Bruno’s grandparents, the people in striped pyjamas, and Lieutenant Kotler. All of the characters are deliberately picked and explained. No character is just a background character; every single one mentioned has a greater purpose and a lesson to be taught or a story to be told.

The story begins with Bruno coming home to his room in disarray, with the maid, “Maria,” packing up all of his things. Bruno is told that he and his family are moving from Berlin to a new house that is very far away. While Bruno is very upset about this change and tries to change his parents’ minds, they still move to their new home in what Bruno knows as “Out-With”. Quickly a combination of boredom and curiosity get the better of him and he begins to explore the grounds on which his new house is located. When Bruno finds a boy on the other side of the tall fence Bruno was told to stay away from, he is confused by the boy’s unusual attire of striped pajamas displaying the star of David. Bruno continues to find himself missing the days of play with other kids that he had in Berlin. However, the two get to know each other and Bruno finds out that he shares a birthday with the other boy, Shmuel. Through growth and reflection on the past, the story and characters develop to be haunting, yet beautiful.

Boyne’s use of Bruno’s innocence is smart and tragic. Bruno’s misunderstandings of the world, like calling Jewish prisoners “the people in striped pajamas”, shows how easy it is to be naive and oblivious to your surroundings as a child. The writing is captivating and brings you in for more and more. The language forces you to step into the shoes of a confused nine-year-old and solve the puzzle of what is really going on. “The Boy in Striped Pyjamas” offers a different perspective to a Holocaust story and reveals the true nature of the horrific time. It is a must-read for anyone who wants a short, yet meaningful, book to read.