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The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne is a story that tells of the holocaust through the eyes of a child, Bruno, a boy who discovers a peculiar friend that lives a strange existence on the other side of the adjoining wire fence. The important ideas presented in the novel are cruelty, discrimination, and abusive power, the holocaust from a child’s perspective and the misinterpretations from a child who gradually discovers the world to be not as enjoyable as he thought.
Using some of these ideas listed above the storyline of the book gradually becomes more evident and keeps you interested in the book to finding that the story is of the holocaust and how the Jews were once treated, last century. Cruelty and racism is the most important idea being expressed in the book. The Nazi’s were cruel to the Jews by keeping them in concentration camps where they were beaten, starved, threatened, gassed, burned and forced to work day in and day out, it impossible for them to earn a living.
The way they treated the Jewish race was all because making the Nazi people purely didn’t like them, which is racist because they had no other reason for their murderous behaviour toward them. One example of cruelty recognised is on page 208, in the last few pages of the book where the meaning behind the whole story begins to be more obvious. “In fact everywhere he looked, all he could see was two different types of people: either happy, laughing, shouting soldiers in their uniform or unhappy, crying people in their striped pyjamas, most of whom seemed to be staring into space as if they were actually asleep.
‘I don’t think I like it here,’ said Bruno. ” This part in the book clearly states that Bruno is beginning to feel uneasy with where he is, and recognise that the Jewish people aren’t actually having fun on the other side of the fence but for some reason are unhappy, due to what we work out ourselves, the cruel and inhumane way that they were being treated. Abusive power is another significant issue presented in the book.
Many characters in the story have abused their power, three being Lieutenant Kotler, when he physically abuses Pavel on page 148, a Jew who clumsily makes a small fault and knocks over a wine bottle in front on lieutenant Kotler, and the soldier takes him into the other room and beats him. “What happened then was both unexpected and extremely unpleasant. Lieutenant Kotler grew very angry with Pavel and no one – not Bruno, not Gretel, not Mother and not even Father – stepped in to stop him doing what her did next, even though none of them could watch. Even though it made Bruno cry and Gretel grow pale.
” The fact that Pavel was being beaten made Bruno feel uncomfortable to even be in the room, making it obvious that lieutenant Kotler had abused his power. The second one is Gretel, Bruno’s older sister; she did this several times in the book by constantly criticizing him because of his age and height, which really lowered Bruno’s self esteem. The last and third example is that of Bruno’s parents, as they did not allow Bruno to have a say or choice in moving homes.
All Bruno knows is that he was being moved from his comfortable home in Berlin to a home in a desolate area where there is nothing to do and no one to play with. The Holocaust is expressed through many different techniques in the story. The main technique being used is ‘through the eyes of a child’ which allows us to read the novel and get the entire perspective from Bruno, a young boy. The point of this is so that the book isn’t disturbing for us to read because a child has a much more innocent view of the world.
“Bruno was oblivious to the appalling cruelties being inflicted on the people of Europe in his country. ” This sentence is on the blurb on the back of the book and reinforces that Bruno doesn’t know for almost the whole book what is happening on the other side of the fence, we just catch glimpses of what is really happening when he describes how unhappy the Jewish people were. Capitalisation is another expression used when describing something.
Capitalising words or phrases changes the effect of how you read it in a book. For example, if you were reading something in lowercase it would simply be read in a normal low tone voice calmly if it is capitalised, even if we do not recognise it, we pick up our pace when reading over that section and read it in a more angry tone to express the aggressiveness in the sentence etc. Misinterpretations and mispronunciations are the next two strategies used in the book.
Misinterpretations are evident on page 210 where it explains that Bruno misconceives what is happening and that he doesn’t understand, “He didn’t know what everyone looked so frightened about – after all, marching wasn’t such a terrible thing – and he wanted to whisper to them that everything was all right, that Father was the Commandant, and if this was the kind of thing that he wanted the people to do then it must all be right. ”
Following this he says, “’I have to go home. ” But just as he said this, his feet brought him up a set of steps, and as he marched on he found there was no more rain coming down anymore because they were all piling into a long room that was surprisingly warm and must have been very securely built because no rain was getting in anywhere. In fact it felt completely airtight. ‘Well, that’s something’ he said, glad to be out of the storm for a few minutes at least.
‘I expect we’ll have to wait here til it eases off and then ill get to go home’” Bruno thought that the soldiers were keeping them in this large room out of the rain to be warm, but what was actually about to occur was much worse then that. The last idea I’m going to discuss is discrimination which relates majorly to the first argument but I wanted to state this again because it is racial inequity and this is what the whole book is about, how unjustly the Jewish race were treated.
The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas is a very meaningful book and not only can we learn of the holocaust history but still be interested and relate to the story because it is from a child’s perspective and this can be recognised by us. From all the techniques and ideas expressed in the story, the book has an emotional impact on us and makes it almost effortless to read as its puts us directly into Bruno’s world view. The way John Boyne has written the story allows us to sympathise for the Jews. The fact that it is based on a historical event really makes it reliable in showing us how the Jews were treated during the holocaust.
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