The Boy In the Striped Pajamas by John Boyle

December 15, 2010
By Michael1 BRONZE, Dutch Harbor, Alaska
Michael1 BRONZE, Dutch Harbor, Alaska
3 articles 0 photos 1 comment

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The Boy In the Striped Pajamas: Book Review

How would you feel about moving into a home that was built in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by people who looked identical to one another? For me, I would most likely be angry and depressed. If you were to ask Bruno this question, he would say, “Why aren’t all those kids on my side of the fence. I want to play too.” But what Bruno doesn’t understand is that those kids are prisoners of war.
The setting of the book is placed during the events of World War Two. It is about a nine-year old kid named Bruno who moves from his home in Berlin into a place called “Out-with” where his father works as a Commandant of the Nazi party. What Bruno has mistaken is the name of the area. Boyle uses this as a method in his writing to show how Bruno knows nothing of the actual event in the environment he is living in. The real name of the place is Auschwitz, a Nazi concentration camp.
As he explores his new surroundings, he discovers a long fence that separates his house from little huts. On the other side of the fence are people in striped “pajamas”. Bruno and Gretel have no idea that those are Jewish prisoners. Bruno sees them as neighbors, but isn’t use to having so many. Bruno and his sister Gretel wondered why there were so many people at the other end of the fence, and why there weren’t any girls there as well. It was a question that they could not answer, but Bruno wasn’t fond of finding the solution to that. Instead, he was jealous that there were so many kids on the other side of the fence. One day, he decides to walk along it, hoping to discover something. By surprise, he did find something, a person. Bruno introduces himself to the boy and finds out his name was Shmuel. They became good friends right at the start, and Bruno later uncovers new secrets of his new home.

If I were to rate this book out of ten, then I would give it an eight. I believe this book deserved this rating, but at times it can get you off track with its vague descriptions. Such as the passage on page 11, when Bruno and his family moved into their new home in Out With.”

“When he first saw their new house Bruno’s eyes opened wide, his mouth made the shape of an O and his arms stretched out at his sides once again. Everything about it seemed to be the exact opposite of their old home and he couldn’t believe that they were really going to live there.”-Chapter Two: The New House. I thought John Boyle could have used other words to describe Bruno’s reaction to his new home. He should have replaced the part when he said “…his mouth made the shape of an O…” because he used this line before in previous pages. Another reason why he should have changed this line is because it isn’t really descriptive. Even though it shows Bruno reactions to his new house, I still believe he could have used different words to indicate that. It would be much better if he said, “Bruno’s jaws dropped down once more, along with his arms being tucked on his side.” This gives the line more feeling of how much Bruno dislikes his new home. It also makes it seem more descriptive.

But what made this book interesting was the storyline and where it was placed. The Holocaust generation made the book quite exciting and suspenseful for me. For example, many Nazi soldiers would beat Jewish prisoners until they are permanently scarred and bruised. Even its hidden messages made it a big success, such as the section when Bruno and Shmuel were discussing about Bruno’s hair being shaven off.

“I look just like you now,” said Bruno sadly, as if this was a terrible thing to admit, “Only fatter,” admitted Shmuel.- Chapter 16: The Haircut. As my group and I were discussing this passage, I figured that Shmuel was insulting Bruno because of how he looked. But one of the members of my literature group pointed out that this passage was referring to the fact that Bruno can afford food and eat anytime. As for Shmuel, he is a Jew and is locked up in a campus where the soldiers give his kind limited amount of food. I thought this book had a great plot, and was a good idea to set the book during the time of the Holocaust.

What made book so unique and elegant is that the author used a German boy’s perspective of the event. Usually, other authors would use a Jewish person’s perspective to show what it was like for them, since they were the victims. But Boyle used a witness, and created Bruno as a boy who knows nothing of the event. This was a big advantage for John Boyle to catch many readers attention, especially those who do not know anything about the Holocaust. You would learn that many Jews were captured and put into campuses where they worked until they died. The reader would also learn that Jews were shaven bald, and had certain code numbers printed on their skin that was supposedly their “name.” At the end of the book, you’ll feel the same way I felt. The book had a great ending, which affected me emotionally. It made me think, why did Bruno want to cross the fence, and not stay on his side? But you can’t blame a kid’s curiosity of the world, especially Bruno’s. He knew nothing about the situation, no one did. After reading the Boy in the Striped Pajamas, I’ve received the same info of when I was in History class last year; many Jews were beaten and eventually killed from Hitler’s plot-genocide.

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