Essay Sample: Boy In The Striped Pajamas

The fence is a physical separation between Bruno and Shmuel. What else does the fence represent in this story?

      The Boy In The Striped Pajamas is a book about Bruno, the son of a World War II commandant and his friendship with Shmuel, a Jewish captive in a concentration camp. Bruno and his family move to a new house where there are no other children to play with. Bruno decides to explore the area around his house and finds a boy around his age who is wearing striped pajamas. The two boys end up talking every day and become best friends, which a year later ends in a tragedy.  The barbed wire fence in this book stands as a powerful symbol.  It shows the concentration camp through the eyes of children, and powerfully shows the innocence of children.

      When Bruno first arrives at his new house, he is greatly disappointed.  There is nowhere for him to play, the house is small, and there are no other children for him to play with.  Out his window, however, he sees hundreds of people enclosed in a fence, but there was something strange to him about the fence.  “There wasn’t any grass after the fence; in fact there was no greenery anywhere to be seen” (The Boy In the Striped Pajamas, pg. 21).  That statement alone sends a very powerful message.  In a child’s eyes, the fact that there is no greenery shows that life beyond the fence is miserable and lifeless.  Right away he can tell that something is wrong with life on the other side of the fence, but he doesn’t know what and doesn’t understand why all these people are wearing the same clothes and are living in such a small space together.

      After he meets his friend Shmuel, the book takes a look into the innocence of children.  Bruno was told that the people on the other side of the fence were Jews, and he was also told many things about why they shouldn’t ever talk to them. He was told that they “weren’t even people at all.”  Even though he was told all of these horrible things, all Bruno could see was another little boy who was a person just like him, only on the other side of the fence.  “Children have no preconceived notions as they are not yet tainted by experience and they say things both honestly and sincerely” (Edienn, pg.1).  Bruno doesn’t see Shmuel as anything other than a new friend for him to play with.  The book really shows how children have a mind of innocence.  They do not see race, instead they just see another child.  The things that seem to bother adults about other people does not even register in the mind of a child.

      The barbed wire fence in the book obviously is a separation from the two characters, but it also represents other types of separation.  It represents the separation of the two different types of people during World War II.  There is also a huge difference in the living conditions of the people on opposite sides of the fence.  The book does a very good job in portraying that without having to give too gruesome of details.  The main theme in the book, however, is the portrayal of the innocence of children.  It shows that no matter what the circumstance is, a child will always just see another child; they do not see race, color, or any other of the prejudices that adults tend to have. Anne Frank once said,  “Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.”

Works Cited

Edienn The Beauty of a Child’s Innocence. (n.d.). Retrieved December 21, 2014, from

Boyne, J. (2006). “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas: A Fable.” Oxford: David Fickling Books.

Goodrich, F., & Hackett, A. (1956). The Diary of Anne Frank. New York: Random House.
“Symbolism: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas.” Ms Ogrady. N.p., 27 May 2013. Web. 21 Dec.   2014.

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