How does John Boyne use the character of Shmuel to show the suffering of Jewish people under the Nazis?

There are many quotes in the book ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ that show how the Jews were treated under Nazi control, through Bruno’s friend from the other side of the fence. However, the author does this in a clever and unique way; through his clothes. An example of this is found on page one hundred and six in chapter ten, where Shmuel “wore the same striped pyjamas that all the other people on that side of the fence wore, and a striped clothed cap on his head.

” This tells the reader that he is not seen as an individual at the concentration camp, but as part of a group with no personal identity as he is identical to everyone else. John Boyne then goes on to say “He wasn’t wearing any shoes or socks and his feet were rather dirty. On his arm he wore an armband with a star on it. ”, hinting that Shmuel is spending this period of his life in poor conditions due to the fact that he is a Jew.

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The reader isn’t only informed of his religion from the concentration camp, but also because he is wearing the Star of David, which identifies himfromotherfaiths.

In chapter nineteen on page two hundred and five, Bruno planned to join his friend on the other side of the fence before going home to Berlin. However, before he had a chance to crawl under the fence, Shmuel “pointed at Bruno’s feet and the heavy boots he had taken from the house.

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“You’ll have to leave them behind too,” he said. ” Although at first this simply reveals that Shmuel isn’t allowed to wear any footwear, it also shows that the Jews have no choice in what to wear, which leads the reader to believe they have no choice in anything they do at all and they are under control.

This also creates an aspect of sympathy as the reader wishes to help the innocent mistreated victims when all that separates them and Bruno, who has a wonderful life, is a fence. The final most important thing that we learn about the Jews in the novel from the moment we meet Schmuel is how much their lives have changed due to their faith and how it affects them. This is shown on page one hundred and twenty seven where Bruno is told by his friend that every time him, his family and his Mother “left the house, she told us we had to wear one of these armbands.

” The reader can see how big of a deal being Jewish was at the time, even before he arrived at the camp, and how the people of the religion couldn’t live a normal life like everyone else. It shows how he was forced to show who he was and wasn’t able to be seen in public without labelling himself for everyone to see, as if being different was something to be ashamed of. It also tells the story of why he has been taken to the concentration camp as we know what the armband was for, whereas Shmuel does not.

When Bruno first saw Shmuel he was looking down into the dirt in total solitude and Bruno even states that he ‘had never seen a skinnier or sadder boy in his life. ’ You can also tell that he is a very ill, the quote ‘ his skin was almost the colour of grey’ tells us that the Jews receive little food from the camp explaining his needs for food later on in the book and that he may have been kept in dark,crowded areas. Grey is also known to be associated with near-death or depression adding to his negative appearance.

We also learn that he is a very scared indiviual as thoughout the book he shows fear towards the soilders especially Lieutenant Kolter from quotes such as ‘there aren’t any good soliders’ and ‘if they catch me I’ll be in trouble’ showing that the Jews must be treated terribly by the soldiers even resulting in some of the bruises recived by Schmuel mentioned in the book. The one quote that I liked was the hope that Shmuel had of getting out one day. This was on page 179,chapter 16 after Bruno had said about playing or exploring, and he’s never had a friend that he hasn’t played with before.

Shmuel then said “maybe someday we will, if they ever let us out” which I thought brought a sense of pity on Shmuel from a reader’s point of view, as he and the rest of the Jews, are still hoping that one day they will let him out or they’ll be able to get out. At the time this must have been really difficult to keep thinking, because of the way they treated all the people on that side of the fence. But that was maybe one of the things that helped them pass the time, thinking about being let out, and living with their family again and seeing some old friends.

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How does John Boyne use the character of Shmuel to show the suffering of Jewish people under the Nazis?. (2016, Jul 22). Retrieved from

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