About the Book

Book Protagonist: Bruno
Publication Date: 2006
Genre: Drama, Fable, Historical Fiction


The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

By John Boyne

'The Boy in the Striped Pajamas' by John Boyne focuses on two young boys as its main characters who are living very different lives. One is a prisoner in Auschwitz, and the other is the son of the camp’s commandant.

The novel is relatively short and filled with only a few fully-described characters. The story of ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is written primarily from the perspective of Bruno, a nine-year-old boy, and is therefore influenced by his youthful understanding of people and their intentions. He doesn’t understand what his father’s role truly is or what sets him apart from the people in the striped pajamas on the other side of the fence.


Bruno is the protagonist of the novel. He’s a nine-year-old boy from Germany who starts the novel living in Berlin with his mother, father, and sister. He has to leave his friends behind when his father gets a new job working in Poland. Bruno is a thoughtful child who loves adventure stories and tries, most of the time, to abide by his parent’s rules. He respects the authority of adults and always tries to treat people with respect. 


Shmuel is another protagonist of the story. He’s a young Jewish boy who is imprisoned at the Polish Auschwitz concentration camp. He’s there with his family, and he meets Bruno one day while walking along the fence between the camp and the home in which Bruno lives. 

The two boys become friends over the course of the novel, talking about their lives. Bruno notices that Shmuel gets thinner and thinner as time passes. Then, both Shmuel’s father and grandfather disappear. 

Bruno’s Father 

Bruno’s father is another important character in the novel. He’s known as “Father.” He loves his children but is a cold man who takes himself and his job very seriously. He is a Commandant, a role that Bruno doesn’t understand, and he is loyal to his duties. It’s because of his job as the new Commandant of Auschwitz that the family has to move from their large home in Berlin. 

Bruno’s Mother 

Bruno’s mother is another cold prescient in Bruno’s life. She cares for her children, but she’s deeply resentful of her husband’s job and his commitment to it. She is as unhappy as Bruno to leave their home in Berlin, and it’s eventually at her urging that they return. She also spends time with Lieutenant Kotler and drinks sherry to deal with her depression.


Bruno’s sister, Gretel, is a minor character in the novel. She’s three years older than her brother, and although she’s sorry to leave Berlin, her desire to act superior to her younger brother and her higher knowledge of the war sets her apart from him.

Lieutenant Kurt Kotler

The Lieutenant is a cruel Nazi officer who works for Bruno’s father at the camp. Bruno witnesses him speak harshly about the Jews in the camp and kill a dog. It’s also implied that he beats Shmuel after Bruno gives him some chicken. Bruno hates him and the way he speaks to Bruno, and how his sister, Gretel, flirts with him. Eventually, Kotler disappears after Bruno’s father learns more about his family lineage. 

The Fury 

The “Fury” is what Bruno knows “The Fuhrer” Adolf Hitler as. This is one example of Bruno’s youthful misunderstanding of words. Bruno met him once when he came to dinner at the family home, and Bruno did not like him. Bruno also meets Hitler’s wife, Ava, when they come to visit.


Pavel is a prisoner at Auschwitz who used to be a doctor. Bruno can’t figure out why Pavel would work as a servant if he is trained as a doctor. He serves the family meals during the day and prepares vegetables. 


Bruno’s grandmother, who he loves and misses when the family moves to Auschwitz. She is one of the only truly caring figures in Bruno’s life. She dislikes her son’s work ad tells him that directly. 


Bruno’s grandmother. He spends his life working in a restaurant in Berlin and is proud do his son’s role in the Nazi Party. 


A maid who works for Bruno’s family. She’s served his family for a long time and has a great deal of loyalty towards Bruno’s father, who helped her in the past. She won’t speak negatively about him or their new life in Poland. 

Herr Liszt 

The children’s tutor. He comes to the camp every day to teach the two children who would otherwise have no access to education. 

Herr Roller 

A neighbor from Berlin who fought in WWI and suffered from PTSD, which Bruno does not understand.

Karl, Daniel, and Martin 

Bruno’s best friends are from Berlin. Bruno is terribly sad to leave his friends behind when the family moves and even tells Shmuel that he’s jealous that the other boy gets to live alongside other children to play with. 


What is Bruno’s sister called?

Gretel is Bruno’s sister. She is three years older than him and feels like she is far superior to her younger brother. She’s more interested in and knowledgeable about the war. 

What is Bruno’s father’s full name?

Bruno’s father’s name is Ralf. He is a WWI soldier who is in favor of the new Nazi regime and is made the commandant of Auschwitz.

Who are the 3 main characters in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

The 3 main characters in ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas are Bruno, Shmuel, and Bruno’s father. The two young boys are by far the most interesting and well-described characters in the novel. 

Emma Baldwin
About Emma Baldwin
Emma graduated from East Carolina University with a BA in English, minor in Creative Writing, BFA in Fine Art, and BA in Art Histories. Literature is one of her greatest passions which she pursues on Book Analysis.
Copy link
Powered by Social Snap
Share to...