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Themes about Friendship and Loyalty in 'The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas': Critical Essay

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The author of a novel must carefully consider their P.O.V. when selecting an audience for their narrative. The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas written by John Boyne is a poignant tale written in a third-person limited point of view. Boyne tells the story through the innocence of the naïve, 9yr old central character, Bruno. This novel has a readership, yet is clearly it is aimed at younger readers. Boyne states it is a fable- a morale-driven didactic narrative. By using a child’s perspective the author engages his audience and uses the text to teach about significant themes such as friendship, innocence and ignorance, race, and man’s inhumanity to man.

One of the significant themes John Boyne explored in this text was friendship and loyalty. John Boyne makes one essential point about friendship, that is enduring friendship is reliant on sacrifice. Bruno and Shmuel were both brought up in completely different worlds but share a mutual desire for companionship during a difficult and lonely time. In defiance of their remarkably different upbringings, Bruno and Shmuel create a very meaningful and strong friendship. As their friendship develops, it is tested on many occasions as the boys navigate their individual realities, “I won’t have anyone to talk to anymore”, Shmuel's reaction here to Bruno leaving Auschwitz is super sad. Bruno's one of the best things Shmuel has going in his life at this point. Bruno’s loyalty was tested many times throughout the text, Bruno’s home was initially in Berlin, and when she gets removed he extremely forgets his childhood friends. This is apparent as he can’t recall their names. Ultimately, the boys unknowingly march to their death hand in hand with no one in the world but each other.

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Innocence and ignorance are other of the many themes John Boyne explores throughout the novel. Bruno and Shmuel share an almost common childlike innocence. Innocence is shown through two of the characters Bruno and Shmuel, since they both have their own understanding of Auschwitz and Germany, the reality is that Shmuel is a Jewish prisoner and has certainly seen horrific sights. On the other hand, Bruno is the son of a commander of the SS and is fiercely protected by his parents who don’t want him to see the reality of the Holocaust, and they go to great lengths to keep the details of Bruno’s father’s secret from him.” 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” when Bruno crosses the boundary the author wanted to show the audience a sense of horror and empathy. Innocence reinforces the idea that hatred and prejudice are learned behaviors.

The theme of race is a major theme that is explored throughout the text. Race is everywhere in this novel since it was a major part of the Holocaust though there were many others, Jewish people were a primary target for the Nazis. In the novel, the defining difference between Bruno and Shmuel is that Shmuel is Jewish. 'Who are all those people? And what are they all doing there?' Bruno asks this question when he sees the prisoners for the first time on the other side of the fence. At this point in the novel, he does not know that the majority of them are Jews until close to the end of the novel

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Themes about Friendship and Loyalty in ‘The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas’: Critical Essay. (2023, August 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 30, 2023, from
“Themes about Friendship and Loyalty in ‘The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas’: Critical Essay.” Edubirdie, 17 Aug. 2023,
Themes about Friendship and Loyalty in ‘The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas’: Critical Essay. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 30 Nov. 2023].
Themes about Friendship and Loyalty in ‘The Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas’: Critical Essay [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Aug 17 [cited 2023 Nov 30]. Available from:
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