The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas Study

Introduction:

This book follows the story of a young German boy, and his friendship with a polish Jew. A heartbreaking tale about the innocence and the naivety of a young friendship in a broken world, this book is a definite must read.

Reviews:

"A small wonder of a book... A particular historical moment, one that cannot be told too often." - Guardian

"An extraordinary tale of friendship and the horrors of war... Raw literary talent at its best." - Irish Independent

"One thing is clear: this book will not go gently into any good night." - Observer

About the author:

John Boyne is an Irish novelist, who was born in Dublin. John Boyne is the author of ten adult books as well as five books for younger people. His books have been published in over 50 languages. In 2015, he was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of East Anglia. He chaired the jury for the 2015 Scotiabank Giller Prize.

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Activities:

Discuss important themes that are in this book.

Choose a character and write an extra chapter from their perspective

Choose a character and discuss how you would react in their situation

Draw a character from the book and discuss their facial features

Describe Bruno's family, and their relationships with one another

Personal Questions:

What would you do if you suddenly moved from your house to a new unknown location?

How do you feel about the ending?

Did you enjoy the book? Why, why not?

What emotions did you feel while reading this book?

How can you personally learn from this book.

Comprehension Questions:

How is it clear that Bruno's family is rich?

What emotions does Bruno's mother feel, when they are moving house?

WW2:

No one actually knows when WW2 started. It could have started in 1992 when Japan and China became enemies. Or when Mussolini became the ruler of Italy. What sparked it was when the Nazi's attacked Poland and other countries took notice. Hitler had a big role in WW2, he wanted to expand Germany so that his fellow Germans could have more space to live. But when the Nazi tried to invade their first target England and France jumped in the fight to prevent Germany from expanding. Soon other countries were fighting as well. Later the Nazi's made death and concentration camps, most of these were made for jews, homosexuals and other people against the Nazi's will. The concentration camp from The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas is Auschwitz. This camp is located in Poland and is now a ruin. Auschwitz was the largest concentration camp and also one of the cruelest, prisoners were exposed to poisonous gases and sometimes they were used as guinea pigs for inhumane experiments. Over 1 million people died in Auschwitz, though not all deaths were recorded so it's impossible to count all the people who were at this camp. In January 1945 the Soviet army was approaching Auschwitz. Nazi officials ordered the camp to be abandoned, and 60,000 prisoners marched to train stations and were sent to other camps. When the Soviets arrived at the abandoned camp they found a lot of weak people and piles of corpses left behind, the Soviets were shocked at all the brutal things they found.

Plot Summary:

During World War II, Bruno an eight year old boy and his family move to Auschwitz because of his father's new job. Their new house is right next to a concentration camp, but Gretel and Bruno don't know this. One day Bruno remembers that he likes exploring, and he walks to the fence. There he meets Shmuel, a Jewish boy who was born on exactly the same day as him. They soon become friends and Bruno goes out almost everyday to meet him. Bruno doesn't realize that Shmuel is a prisoner in the concentration camp and talks to him about his life and how he doesn't like life in Auschwitz. Bruno's mother is very unhappy after Lieutenant Kotler leaves, and talks to his father about moving back to Berlin. Bruno, Gretel and their mother decide to move back to Berlin. Before they leave Bruno decides to pay Shmuel a last visit. He sneaks into the concentration camp, and accidentally enters a gas chamber and dies. His family looks for him but can't find him, Bruno's father forms a theory about what happened. In the end Mother and Gretel move back to Berlin, but father stays back in Auschwitz to continue his job.

Chapter Summary:

Chapter 1: Bruno gets home finding Maria packing his clothes. He later finds out that he and his family are moving to Auschwitz because of his father's job, and is rather upset about moving. Bruno overhears his parents arguing in his dad's office. Bruno is never allowed in his father's office as it’s a no-kids zone.

Chapter 2: Bruno and his family arrive at his new house in Out-With, and Bruno is not very impressed by the house. Bruno tries to convince his mother to go back to Berlin but she says they'll be in Out-With for the foreseeable future. Bruno asks what Maria thinks about the new house but she doesn't answer. Bruno sees a blond soldier walking out of his father's office. The chapter ends with Bruno heading towards the window.

Chapter 3: Bruno thinks that it would have made a lot of sense to leave

Gretel in Berlin to look after the house. We learn more about Gretel the hopeless case, and her nasty habits. Bruno and Gretel talk about leaving Out-With in the foreseeable future. Bruno says the other children don't look friendly, and Gretel gets confused. They then look out of the window and see something .

Chapter 4: Bruno and Gretel see boys and men out of the window standing behind the fence. Gretel thinks that they are in the countryside, but Bruno disagrees because there are no crops or animals and Gretel agrees that he's right. They see a group of children surrounded by soldiers, and Gretel thinks it's a rehearsal. Gretel leaves to arrange her dolls, and Bruno looks out of the window again and discovers that they are all wearing striped pajamas.

Chapter 5: Bruno decides to talk to his father. There's a flashback in which Bruno, Gretel, Maria and his mother are getting ready to leave to Out-With. Mother says they should have never let the Fury come to dinner. An official car with flags takes them to the train station. Back to the present Bruno goes to his father's office and overhears him talking to some men. Bruno enters his father's office and complains about the house and Out-With. His father tells him to deal with it, and Bruno leaves his office.

Chapter 6: Bruno and Maria talk about Auschwitz, they hear a gunshot but realise it’s just Gretel slamming the door. Maria says that Bruno's father knows what's best for them. Gretel tells Maria to run her a bath, and Bruno thinks she should do it herself. Gretel leaves the room and Maria follows her. Bruno keeps his thoughts to himself as he doesn’t want to get into trouble.

Chapter 7: Bruno needs something to do, he walks outside and sees Gretel and Lieutenant Kotler together and Gretel is laughing at all of his joke. Bruno decides to make a tire swing with the assistance of Pavel ( the Jewish potato peeler), but he falls off and scrapes his knee. Pavel cleans Bruno's wounds and reveals that he's a doctor. Mother tells Pavel to leave and Bruno overhears her saying that he shouldn't tell the commandant that he cleaned Bruno's wound.

Chapter 8: Flashback to last Christmas. Everybody congratulates father on his new uniform and job, except for his grandmother who is ashamed of what he does. Father tells the children to go upstairs, and they hear a lot of shouting. Back in the present Bruno writes a letter to his grandmother about how terrible life is in Auschwitz, and what he saw out of the window.

Chapter 9: Bruno's father get a tutor for him and Gretel, named Herr Listz. He teaches them geography and history, which Bruno doesn't like, he likes art amd reading but Listz doesn’t so he doesn’t tutor them with those subjects. Later Bruno goes and reads the plaque on the bench, and starts exploring.

Chapter 10: Bruno had been walking along the fence for a long time until he came across a boy sitting on the floor behind the fence. He wore striped pyjamas and had a very grey face. Bruno sat down to talk to him, his name was Shmuel. He and Shmuel had the same birthday on April 15th 1934. They were arguing about whose hometown was better until Bruno asked why Shmuel was on the other side of the fence.

Chapter 11: Flashback to when the Fury and his beautiful girlfriend came over for dinner. The house needs to be very clean, and Bruno and Gretel have to wear their nicest clothes. The fury and his girlfriend arrive and briefly talk to the children, before eating dinner. A few days later Bruno overhears his parents say something about moving to Auschwitz.

Chapter 12: Shmuel talks about how he used to live above a watch store in an apartment and how one day he moved to a different part of Cracow and was stuffed with family (his mother was taken away) in a train. When Bruno goes back home he decides that he should keep his and Shmuel’s secret.

Chapter 13: Bruno asks Maria is Pavel really was a doctor, she says that he used to be, and whatever she tells him must not be shared. That evening Pavel serves the family and Lieutenant Kotler dinner. Bruno's father asks Lieutenant Kotler about his father, and Lieutenant Kotler says that he doesn't know what his father is doing. Pavel accidentally spills wine on to Lieutenant Kotler’s lap. Lieutenant Kotler does something bad to Pavel, which makes Bruno cry.

Chapter 14: one day Bruno goes back to Shmuel finding him with a blue eye, Bruno assumes it was a bully ( though it could be he Nazi’s ). Bruno asked Shmuel why everyone behind the fence wore striped pyjamas, Shmuel explained that the soldiers had taken their own clothes away. One rainy day Bruno tells Gretel everything about Shmuel, but quickly realises what he had just said and told her he’s just an imaginary friend.

Chapter 15: the rain continues for weeks and Bruno notices that Shmuel is becoming thinner and thinner. Bruno’s parents make a party for the officers, on that day Bruno was sent to the kitchen. At the table he sees Shmuel, he explains that Kotler brought him to polish the glasses. Bruno takes some chicken out of the fridge and hands it to Shmuel, he refuses to eat it it as he’s scared he could get into trouble, though Bruno insists him to eat it. Kotler comes in and starts yelling at Shmuel. Scared, Shmuel said that Bruno is his friend and offered it to him, but Bruno says he doesn’t know him at all. Later Bruno apologises, he pulls the fence up and hey shake hands.

Chapter 11: Flashback to when the Fury and his beautiful girlfriend came over for dinner. The house needs to be very clean, and Bruno and Gretel have to wear their nicest clothes. The fury and his girlfriend arrive and briefly talk to the children, before eating dinner. A few days later Bruno overhears his parents say something about moving to Auschwitz.

Chapter 12: Shmuel talks about how he used to live above a watch store in an apartment and how one day he moved to a different part of Cracow and was stuffed with family (his mother was taken away) in a train. When Bruno goes back home he decides that he should keep his and Shmuel’s secret.

Chapter 13: Bruno asks Maria is Pavel really was a doctor, she says that he used to be, and whatever she tells him must not be shared. That evening Pavel serves the family and Lieutenant Kotler dinner. Bruno's father asks Lieutenant Kotler about his father, and Lieutenant Kotler says that he doesn't know what his father is doing. Pavel accidentally spills wine on to Lieutenant Kotler’s lap. Lieutenant Kotler does something bad to Pavel, which makes Bruno cry.

Chapter 14: one day Bruno goes back to Shmuel finding him with a blue eye, Bruno assumes it was a bully ( though it could be he Nazi’s ). Bruno asked Shmuel why everyone behind the fence wore striped pyjamas, Shmuel explained that the soldiers had taken their own clothes away. One rainy day Bruno tells Gretel everything about Shmuel, but quickly realises what he had just said and told her he’s just an imaginary friend.

Chapter 15: the rain continues for weeks and Bruno notices that Shmuel is becoming thinner and thinner. Bruno’s parents make a party for the officers, on that day Bruno was sent to the kitchen. At the table he sees Shmuel, he explains that Kotler brought him to polish the glasses. Bruno takes some chicken out of the fridge and hands it to Shmuel, he refuses to eat it it as he’s scared he could get into trouble, though Bruno insists him to eat it. Kotler comes in and starts yelling at Shmuel. Scared, Shmuel said that Bruno is his friend and offered it to him, but Bruno says he doesn’t know him at all. Later Bruno apologises, he pulls the fence up and hey shake hands.

Chapter 16: After a year of living in Poland, Bruno returns to Berlin because his grandmother has died.

Bruno doesn't know why there is a fence in between him and Shmuel so he asks Gretel. She says that it is to separate the jews from them. Gretel and Bruno both have lice. Bruno’s father shaves his hair and Bruno realizes how much he looks like Shmuel.

Chapter 17: Bruno's mother wants to return to Berlin, but his father is afraid that people will question his commitment. Not much changes in the next week Bruno still meets Shmuel every day. One day Bruno's father asks him and Gretel if they want to move back to Berlin. Gretel says yes, and Bruno says he just wants to

Chapter 18: Bruno returns to the fence and finds Shmuel particularly sad. Shmuel says that he has lost his father. Both of them decide that they should look for his father together. And because it is Bruno’s last day, they decide that he should see what life's like for Shmuel. Shmuel brings an extra pair of striped pyjamas for Bruno. Bruno then gets dressed and crawls under the barbed wire.

Chapter 19: Because Bruno is leaving and it is the last time that Shmuel and Bruno will see each other, they decide that Bruno should visit the other side of the fence. To make sure that they don’t notice him, Shmuel gives Bruno a spare pair of ‘Striped pyjamas’.

They look for Shmuel’s father in vain. And Bruno notices that the camp looks nothing like he had imagined.

Bruno is about to return home when he and Shmuel are trapped. They find themselves in the centre of a march. They enter an gas chamber and are gassed.

Chapter 20: Bruno is nowhere to be found so his father orders soldiers to look for him. Bruno’s family (everyone apart from his father) return to Berlin as they expect to find him there. He is not in Berlin. His father retraces Bruno’s steps and forms a theory. Bruno’s father is ordered to go to Auschwitz.

Character Analysis:

Bruno:

Bruno is the main protagonist of the book. At the time he is nine years old and lives with his Father, Mother, and sister, Gretel.

Bruno has a childlike innocence that is shown consistently throughout the novel, even at times being very important. Such times where this innocence shows up are moments such as when he doesn't understand the horrors of Auschwitz once even saying, "'It's so unfair. I don't see why I have to be stuck over here on this side of the fence where there's no one to talk to and no one to play with and you get to have dozens of friends and are probably playing for hours every day.'" (Bruno to Shmuel, page 111) where he implies that Shmuel has a better life than him, although it is clear to the reader that this is not the case. Another notable example is at the very end where he enters the gas chambers with Shmuel, the book stating "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 be all right" showing the innocence he has, believing that just because his father wanted it, it must be okay. The reader quickly realises that this is not the case as he is entering a gas chamber. This innocence that he portrays helps him make a friend, but it is also the same innocence that eventually ends his life.

Another trait that Bruno shows is caring a lot for other people, especially people that he feels he relates too. This trait is important to how the story progresses and plays a major role in his eventual death. Some examples of Bruno being like this are when he apologises to his friend for not being there for him, and he states, "' I'm very sorry, Shmuel...I can't believe I didn't tell him the truth. I've never let a friend down like that before. Shmuel, I'm ashamed of myself.'" (Bruno to Shmuel, page 175) Just before this had happened, Lieutenant Kotler had caused physical pain to Shmuel, when Bruno denied claims of knowing him. After this happens though, Bruno says sorry to Shmuel in a very sincere comment, showing that he really cares for his friend.

Another moment is just before Bruno dies when he is standing in the crowded gas chamber along with his friend immediately holds onto Shmuel, which shows how much he cares for his friend and he states "'You're my best friend, Shmuel,'...' My best friend for life.'" (Bruno to Shmuel. Page 213) and a little while later, when everybody in the gas chamber is freaking out and Bruno is just holding on to his friends hand and the book states, " Despite the chaos that followed, Bruno found that he was still holding Shmuel's hand in his own and nothing in the world would have persuaded him to let go". (Page 213) These two quotes show how much Shmuels friendship means to Bruno, and it shows how much he really cares for his friend.

Bruno's mother:

Bruno's mother is a minor character in the book. She is the mother to Bruno and Gretel, and is married to Ralph.

In the books she tends to not have many influential decisions and she has no say in decisions that could influence her. She is shown to be quite obedient. This is shown with the quote "'We don't have the luxury of thinking'" (Page 13, said by the mother to Bruno). This quote occurs after the family is moved from Berlin to Poland, without getting any say in the matter. This shows how her and the family did not have the luxury to be making the decisions for themselves. This also shows how she is very obedient because she had to change her entire lifestyle, but she did not show a word of complaint.

In the book it is also implied that she is quite fickle with her ideas and her loyalty to her husband. For instance she tells Bruno that his father is a good man and says that the reason that they are moving to Poland is because "It's a very important job […]. A job that needs a very special man to do it" taking about fathers job, but when she thinks that Bruno is not listening she states "... as if it's the most natural thing in the world and it's not, it's just not..." (page 125) talking about fathers job. This shows that although she tells Bruno that his father is great when she is with other people she changes her views very quickly.

It is also implied that Bruno's mother isn't very loyal to her husband, as it is hinted at that she is having an affair with lieutenant Kotler. Bruno notices this by saying, "Mother [laughs] at his jokes more than she [laughs] at Father's" (162). Also she refers to Kotler as "precious".

These three traits can show that mother was deeply unhappy about the situation she was in, and she was unsatisfied with her husband. At one point she goes as far as to say "It's horrible […]. Just horrible. I can't stand it any more".

Shmuel:

Shmuel is a secondary protagonist. He is a Jewish prisoner at Auschwitz camp. He met Bruno when Bruno was walking by the fence and came across Shmuel while walking, they have the same birthday and soon became friends.

Shmuel is patient and waits for long times a day waiting for Bruno.

Shmuel is also forgiving, once Bruno gave Shmuel chicken and Shmuel got in trouble but Bruno said that he didn't know him and said he stole the chicken. Later Shmuel forgived Bruno as shown in these two quotes: ""It's all right," Looking up at him now. There were a lot of bruises on his face and Bruno grimaced, and for a moment he forgot about his apology." and "Shmuel smiled and nodded and Bruno knew that he was forgiven."

Gretel:

Gretel is a minor character in the book, "The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas" she is the sister of Bruno and isn't very Important to the story. Bruno refers to her as a hopeless case, and the two do not have very high opinions of each other. Throughout the book, Gretel matures slightly from playing with dolls, to becoming obsessed with the war, however she still acts childishly, becoming "inconsolable" when lieutenant Kotler leaves.

Gretel is shown to be quite stuck up and thinks very highly of herself. This is evident In the few instances that she appears in the book. One of these times is when she says, '"I'm thirteen years old, for heaven's sake! I can't afford to act like a child even if you can."' (Page 159) when Bruno asks her whether she had an imaginary friend as well, however later Bruno overhears her talking to her dolls, " Bruno could hear her talking to her dolls in the room across the hall, and scolding them for getting themselves into such a mess..." which shows that although she puts on a display of maturity she still is slightly childish.

Another trait she has is pride. Gretel believes that she knows lots of things but is just as oblivious as her little brother. However because she is too proud to admit that she doesn't know something, she acts as though she is sure about what is happening and therefore can come off as dumb. One case of this is when she mispronounces the word Auschwitz as Out-With. When Bruno is confused about why it is called that Gretel doesn't bother to find out, instead trying to show off how knowledgeable she is, so she states that is means '“Out with the people who lived here before us, I expect,” said Gretel." Also when Bruno asks her why they should not likes Jews, Gretel does not know the answer, but does not want to seem ignorant so she answers in the most basic way possible ""Because they're Jews"' (pg 183) and another case when Bruno asks her even more questions, "“I’m asking you, if we’re not Jews, what were we instead?” “We’re the opposite,” said Gretel, answering quickly and sounding a lot more satisfied with this answer. “Yes, that’s it. We’re the opposite.”" Showing that when she is unsure she gives vague answers or merely parrots what she has heard before.

Overall these two traits make Gretel an irritating character, and she is not often viewed kindly in either the readers -or Brunos- eyes

Bruno's Father:

Bruno's father is a minor character in the story. His real name is Ralf and he is an SS officer. In the book his father decides to move to 'Out-With', Poland.

Ralf is quite demanding and always wants his family to listen to him. Bruno's father didn't often give hugs and wasn't too friendly of a person: "Father was not usually the type of man to give anyone a hug, unlike Mother and Grandmother, who gave them a little too often for comfort." (5.232). Ralf and Elsa often agree with each other, somtimes though they seem to be arguing: "Your father's job, you know how important it is, don't you?" (1.16) and "He heard her speaking loudly to him until Father spoke louder than mother could and that put a stop to their conversation." (1.10)

Lieutenant Kotler

Lieutenant Kotler is a 19 year old soldier at aushwitz, his name is Kurt kotler. He has stunning blonde hair, he is always well dressed and wears too much cologne. Kotler seems like the perfect Nazi. He is sent away from Auchwitz after Ralf (Bruno's father) learns that the young lieutenant's father fled Germany before the war probably because he disagreed with the government.

While Kurt was still at Auschwitz, Gretel developed a crush on him making her behave childishly when he was around. Bruno's mother started a friendship with Kotler which possibly led to an affair. On the other hand Bruno despised the lieutenant because Kotler taunted Bruno by calling him "little man" which Bruno absolutely hated.

Kotler was also very violent towards the Jews and creatures, anything that was not a German human, you could see this by how Kotler did unspeakable things to Pavel when he spilt wine at dinner, "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 to stop him doing what he did next,...(Boyne, 148)", and when Kotler shot the dog and Bruno was watching.

Glossary:

" others with lettuce and green beans, courgettes and parsnips." - page 12

Courgette

The immature fruit of a vegetable marrow, in particular one of a variety developed for harvesting and eating at an early stage of growth.

" Ergo, this must be our home.'" - page 47

Ergo

Therefore

"He asked in as polite a tone as he could muster" - page 1

Muster

To collect or assemble

"He reapeated, incredulous" - page 64

Incredulous

Unwilling or unable to believe something

", this is our home for the foreseeable future..." - page 15

Foreseeable

Able to be foreseen or predicted

"'Heil Hitler,' he said," - page 54

Heil

German for Hail

"... came from downstairs and reverberated through the house..." - page 62

Reverberated

To be repeated several times as an echo

"...where the Fury had been to dinner..." - page 2

Fury

Fury, the Führer is what Germans referred to Hitler as.

Adolf Hitler was a German politician who was the leader of the Nazi Party.

"... always wore a white smock and a tartan apron," - page 4

Smock and Tartan apron

A smock is a dress or top for a woman or girl

A tartan apron is an apron with a pattern of criss-crossed lines in multiple colours

"I heard Father say that whoever lived here at Out-With before us..." - page 24

Out-With

Out-With was misunderstood for Auschwitz, which is a powerful concentration camp in Poland

"...with typewriters that he had to keep his mucky hands off..." - page 4

Mucky

Covered with dirt or filth

"others with lettuce and green beans, courgettes and parsnips. " - page 12

Parsnip

A long tapering cream-coloured root vegetable with a sweet flavour.

" ... when he had related the story of his latest escapade." - page 68

Escapade

An act or incident involving excitement, daring, or adventure

", the dispute would get out of hand and..."

Dispute

A disagreement or argument

"... creating a new diversion for himself."

Diversion

Something created to distract attention from something

"..., like a field that had just been tilled."

Tilled

Prepare and cultivate (land) for crops

"...and - quite appallingly - ruffling his hand through Bruno's hair,..."

Appallingly

Very bad, horrific, auful or causing shock

"... and Kotler spoke to him insolently,"

Insolently

A rude or arrogant lack of respect

"... she laughed hysterically and twirled her hair ..."

Hysterically

Uncontrollable or wild emotion

Thank you for reading our study guide

By: Sofía Fons, Elena Molinari, Chloé Stevens, Nina Quadt and Matea Antolic

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