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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: Real Friends?

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: Real Friends?

Everyone is a friend, until they prove otherwise. Friendship in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, a fable by John Boyne, is not just a book about the Holocaust seen through eyes of a German Officer's family but it is a fable of friendship or actually the lack of friendship that one would expect in the time of tragedy. Regardless of how many trips Bruno made to the so-called farm to visit Shmuel at the fence line they never really became friends, not even at their darkest moment.

The sense of belonging to a family, group, or organization may enrich a person's identity but while building relationships the very thing you belong to can be the very thing that separates two people from ever becoming friends. Nevertheless these two innocent young boys; one from the group of a Jewish community and the other the son of a German Officer believed a friendship could be kindled in the flames of the Holocaust while on opposite sides of the fence. The true identities of these unknowing boys emerged through the forbidden ground separated by a literal and hypothetical fence that kept these two even more apart than they believed. Bruno and Shmuel both tried to accept and understand each other's family backgrounds during each of their visits although they never truly become friends.

The character of Bruno has been introduced by John Boyne to allow the reader to identify with and build a figure of a young unaware eight-year-old boy that through his innocence and parent's protection was facing a multitude of different approaches towards belonging in his family and the world they belonged to. Bruno has been torn from the home he both knew and loved in Berlin where he not only felt secure he had developed a strong association towards it. With his sense of connection in being mainly due to his "having three best friends for life" (Boyne, 15) and both of his loving grandparents living nearby. Bruno's life changed drastically as he left his familiar neighborhood where he had grown up, moving to "Out-With" (Boyne, 24), a house in the middle of nowhere, that was small, cold, and unlike his old home. Boyne compares the two homes very well "The house in Berlin had stood on a quiet street and alongside it were a handful of other big houses like his own, and it was always nice to look at them because they were almost the same as his house but not quite, and other boys lived in them who he played with (if they were friends) or steered clear of (if they were trouble). The new house, however, stood all on its own in an empty, desolate place and there were no other houses anywhere to be seen, which meant there would be no other families around and no other boys to play with, neither friends nor trouble." (Boyne, 11) Bruno thought it was all a mistake to leave a bigger home where he had friends to come to a place such as this that had nothing, "Coming to a place like this. Don't you think we've made a big mistake?" (Boyne, 17)

Bruno often states that he wants to go home. He resents the move to this new place and is longing to return to Berlin. With his sense of alienation towards Out-with, although his family is around him, he is unable or at least unwilling to attach himself with a sense of belonging towards the house as he did so in Berlin. Even with his strong desire to go home to Berlin, Bruno finally accepts the change and seems to believe that home is where his family is. He then learns how to adapt to his new home by exploring what areas were not "Out Of Bounds At All Times And No Exceptions" (Boyne, 12). The term Out-With as Bruno hears it is one of many misheard terms that Boyne created to show the boy's lack of world knowledge and his surroundings. Bruno also refers often to a person called the Fury, who once came to dinner. Most people's basic high school history class lessons let them know that Out-With was actually Auschwitz and was a Nazi death camp and that Hitler, who was called the Fuehrer not the Fury, will be able to be aware of Bruno's mistakes. It should also be noted that there is something about these mistakes that makes little to no sense since Bruno's natural language is apparently German, in which the significant play on words would make no sense. If spoken in English instead they clearly would come off as clever puns, yet the amusement of the wording would have been lost in German.

So the child had a speech impediment, maybe he was a special needs student before kids were labeled as such. But from what I have read about the times of World War II and the fact that Bruno had attended school in Berlin and he was also privately tutored at Out-With by a man, Herr Liszt, that placed great effort on history. Even then the boy never even learned what the phrase Heil Hitler meant or who the Fuhrer was. Also consider that Hitler's picture was most likely in every single classroom of every single school, yet little Bruno was not sure who the man was although he had been to his Berlin home and everyone stated for his father " The Fury has big things in mind for him because he's such a good soldier" (Boyne, 140). It also seemed strange to me that the son of a German officer was not a member of the Hitler Youth, although most membership started at ten years old and Bruno was smaller than all his age related friends. Although his sister, Gretel, was twelve and even with a protective mother she should have been well aware of where they had moved to and what her father did for a living.

During the time that Bruno is adjusting to the move to Out-With and starting to explore he discovers a place outside his bedroom window past their home's garden and fence that he could see and what his sister Gretel described as "This must be the countryside" (Boyne, 33) Bruno could see all sorts of people, from young to old, but who they were he and his sister did not understand yet Bruno knew there were children. Boys he might be able to get to know and then he would not be alone here in Out-with any longer. Bruno distinguished the people on the other side of the fence, as strange "And one final thought came into her brother's head as he watched the hundreds of people in the distance going about their business, and that was the fact that all of them - the small boys, the big boys, the fathers, the grandfathers, the uncle, the people who lived on their own on everybody's road but didn't seem to have any relatives at all - were wearing the same clothes as each other: a pair of grey striped pajamas with a grey striped cap on their heads." (Boyne, 38) This seemed even more odd to Bruno than why there were no girls and mothers there too. The image of the



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