Hi there! Over the summer, I was tasked with reading a nonfiction and fiction book, and to choose one of the many that I did read to write about. This post will be a little bit different than my normal book reviews, as during this I will be covering topics that include themes and Author’s Craft. While I will not be weighing the goods and the bads of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne, I would certainly recommend this book.
The fiction book I chose to read this summer was The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by John Boyne. The Boy in the Striped Pajamas takes place during World War 2, and follows a young boy named Bruno who travels away from his home so that his father could continue his high-ranking job in the Nazi Party. At his new home, Bruno finds something very interesting outside of his bedroom window- a tall, barbed wire fence that contained thousands of people who all seemed to be wearing the same outfit, a pair of striped pajamas.
Throughout reading The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, I came across several themes that I believed were not only important inside of the story, but also life lessons that can be used in the real world as well. The first theme centers around equality, and how no matter where a person came from, what religion they believe in, or what they look like, everyone should be treated with equal respect. In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, the Nazi party decided to do just the opposite. The Nazis decided that Jewish people were a danger to the German country, and that anyone who did not have German blood should be punished. Bruno discovered this when he met a new friend, Shmuel, who lived on the other side of the fence. Bruno learned about how Shmuel, among thousands, were harshly treated by soldiers, were starved, and were often taken away- never to be seen again. While Bruno did not understand the full concept of what was happening, he felt great sympathy for Shmuel, and often brought him leftovers from his own hearty lunch. Bruno even went to the extent of disguising himself with his own pair of striped pajamas to spend the day with Shmuel, even at Auschwitz. That same day, however, Bruno truly got to understand and experience what the Jewish people really felt like, as he and Shmuel were ushered into a death chamber that would end both of their lives.
During Bruno’s time on the opposite side of the fence, the fact that, during World War 2, not everyone was treated with equal respect, rang clear. In part, the theme became clear through the author’s use of techniques. Two author’s craft techniques really stood out to me: irony and the use of characterization. One part of the irony that I found was that while Bruno’s father wanted to keep Bruno safe, he was so willing to end the lives of thousands of Jewish people. Just because Bruno and Shmuel were standing on different sides of a fence, Shmuel was treated as if he was the enemy, and Bruno’s father was the hero for removing Jewish people from German territory. The author’s characterization of Shmuel gave me a clear idea of how Shmuel felt about these recent events, and how he lost his father. Shmuel explained how jews were treated just because they didn’t have german blood, how just because they were Jews, they deserved to be starved and put to death. This devastated me, but also enunciated the idea that everyone should be treated with equal respect.
Another theme that I found in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas focused around the importance of friendship, and how with the close bond of a friend you can get through any tough times. At the beginning of the story, Bruno was very unhappy about moving away from his good friends and family. But as he began to visit Shmuel at the fence, he began to like the new home, now that he had a new best friend, and why he dreaded going back home to his old home. The day before he would leave, though, the theme really presented itself. After entering the other side of the fence and being encountered by soldiers, Bruno and Shmuel entered the death chamber. While neither knew that they would be facing their death, Bruno was conscious that he was holding Shmuel’s hand, and that no matter what happened, everything would one day be okay. Had they lived through the event, both would have been best friends for the rest of their lives.
The main piece of author’s craft that the author used to present this theme were again characterization and the use of minor foreshadowing. The characterization of the way Bruno and Shmuel felt about their relationship between each other, and how nothing could ever break them apart, no matter what happened. This was extremely clear when, out of the character of Bruno, he grabbed hold of Shmuel’s hand. Even though neither Bruno nor Shmuel survived Auschwitz, the author used foreshadowing to show that the close ties Bruno had with Shmuel would help Shmuel out of the horrific situation that he was in, and how he would one day take Shmuel back to his home in Berlin and be able to really interact with Shmuel for the first time. At one point in life, through the support of each other, everything would have been alright.
I really enjoyed reading The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, and I loved how the author’s techniques and author’s craft, along with the use of important themes were able to positively contribute to the essence of the overall story.
Thanks for reading! My nonfiction response to The Boys in the Boat will be releasing soon.