The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a narrative novel written by John Boyne. This book was first published in 2006. This novel explores the adventures of Bruno, the son of a Nazi commandant, who meets a young Jewish boy called Shmuel at the concentration near his new house at Out-With. Nothing can stop the two becoming best friends, not even a barbed wire fence. The story is set in Germany during the Second World War. This essay explores how the themes (the effect of war on children and families, innocence of children and the cruelty and unfairness of discrimination) are conveyed through narrative techniques (setting, character and plot). The innocence of children is a theme that is frequently used throughout the novel. Character is a narrative technique utilised to convey this particular theme. Bruno and Shmuel are characters in the novel who convey the theme, the innocence of children. Bruno conveys this theme by not knowing the other side of the fence was a concentration camp, “An opportunity to see what was really on the other side of the fence before he went back to Berlin.” Bruno also believes venturing to the other side of the fence is a sensible plan and a good way to finish of his stay at Out-With, “All in all, it seemed like a very sensible plan and a great way to say goodbye.”
Shmuel also conveys this theme because he doesn’t realise his father has been killed by one of the Nazi’s, “Shmuel saw a chance to get someone to help him in the search for his papa.” Another example of this theme is when Bruno presumes there was a café and a shop at the concentration camp, “He had thought there would be a shop in the centre, and maybe a small café.” Bruno also thought the girls and boys living in the concentration camp played tennis, football, skipping and hopscotch, “He thought that all the boys and girls who lived here would be in different groups, playing tennis or football, skipping and drawing out squares for hopscotch on the ground.” Cruelty and unfairness of discrimination is a theme broadly used throughout the novel. The various settings in the book convey this theme. When Bruno looks around the concentration camp he saw two different types of people: unhappy, crying Jews in their striped pyjamas and happy, laughing, shouting soldiers in their uniforms, “In fact everywhere he look, all he could see was two different types of people: either happy, laughing, shouting soldiers in their uniforms or unhappy, crying people in their striped pyjamas.”
When Bruno and Gretel look out of Bruno’s window they saw a group of Jewish children emerge from a hut. These children were being order around and shouted at, “Emerging from a hut in the distance, a group of children huddled together and were being shouted at by a group of soldiers. The more they were shouted, the closer they huddled together.” The children were also unfairly mocked and jeered by the soldiers at the concentration camp, “One of the soldiers lunged towards them and they separated and seemed to do what he wanted them to do all along, which was to stand in a single line. When they did, the soldiers all started to laugh and applaud them.” The setting of Bruno’s house in Out-With conveys this theme. When Bruno wanted a tyre to build his swing he asks Lieutenant Kotler for one. Lieutenant Kotler impolitely orders Pavel (a Jewish waiter) to help Bruno find a tyre, “‘Hey, you!’ he shouted, then adding a word that Bruno did not understand. ‘Come over here, you-’ He said the word again, and something about the harsh sound of it made Bruno look away and feel ashamed to be part of this it all.
Pavel came towards them and Kotler spoke to him insolently.” The effect of war on children and families is a theme often used throughout the story. The plot and the key events of the novel help convey the multiple themes in the novel. The effect of war has rendered Bruno’s mother to discard her health and take more medicinal sherries. Also it makes Bruno’s mother to have more afternoon naps and to be quieter during the day, “Mother kept very quiet during the day and was having an awful lot more of her afternoon naps, some of them not even in the afternoon but before lunch, and Bruno was worried for her health because he’d never known anyone need quite so many medicinal sherries.” Gretel had been effected by the war and decided not to play with dolls. She instead had put up maps of Europe where she put little pins into them and moved them every day after consulting the newspaper, “ Gretel had decided that she didn’t like dolls anymore and had put them all into four large bags and thrown them away.
In their place she had hung up maps of Europe that father had given her, and every day she put little pins into them and moved the pins around constantly after consulting the daily newspaper.” In conclusion, the themes of the novel (the effect of war on children and families, the innocence of children and the cruelty and unfairness of discrimination) are conveyed through narrative techniques (character, plot and setting). The effect of war on children and families is conveyed through the plot, while the innocence of children is conveyed through the characters of the novel. Finally, the cruelty and unfairness of discrimination is conveyed through the various settings of the novel.
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