About the Book

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

Themes and Analysis

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

By John Boyne

John Boyne’s 'The Boy in the Striped Pajamas' is one of the most popular young adult novels of recent years. He explores various themes, like innocence, and symbols, like the striped pajamas, throughout.

The novel ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas‘ is written from the perspective of Bruno, a nine-year-old boy who cares about his friends, goes on adventures, and tries to keep out of trouble with his parents. His very normal youth is interrupted by the events of World War II, which culminate in his family moving to a home outside the Auschwitz concentration camp where his father is working as a new commandant.

Throughout, Bruno’s innocence is seen through the author’s style and use of language. He has no idea what’s going on or what the consequences of putting on the striped pajamas and going into the camp could be.



Innocence is one of the key themes of this novel. The main character is a nine-year-old who has little to no understanding of what’s going on in Germany and Poland during the events of the book. He is innocent of the discriminatory ideology that drives the Nazi Party and does not see people the same way his father does. But it’s because of his lack of knowledge regarding the state of the world and what exactly the camp is he lives next to that he dies at the end of the novel.


Friendship is another key theme in this novel. From the beginning, readers learn that Bruno is a kind-hearted young boy who loves spending time with his friends. He’s heartbroken when he learns he has to move away from his three best friends in Berlin. He expresses a desire to play with other children and jealousy for his friend Shmuel who gets to spend time with people his age. 


Nationalism is another important theme in the novel. Although Bruno is not aware of what’s going on in the world around him, his experience does provide the reader with some information about the Auschwitz concentration camp, Germany, and Poland during World War II. German nationalism, which is expressed through the actions of the Nazi party, is an unavoidably crucial part of this novel. 

Key Moments in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas 

  1. Bruno finds out he’s moving to Poland. 
  2. He and his family arrive at Auschwitz.
  3. He falls off a swing and meets Pavel, who used to be a doctor and is now a servant. 
  4. Bruno meets Shmuel while walking along the fence. 
  5. Bruno and his sister attend classes. 
  6. Bruno’s father decides to send his family back to Berlin.
  7. Bruno goes to tell Shmuel what’s happening and learns that his friend’s father has disappeared. 
  8. He puts on the striped pajamas and goes into the camp to help his friend find his father. 
  9. The two are brought into a dark room (a gas chamber), where they die together, holding hands. 

Tone and Style 

The author uses a child-like tone and style throughout the story of ‘The Boy in the Striped Pajamas.’ It is on early written from Bruno’s perspective. This means that people, places, and events are seen in a very different light from how they would be understood by an adult. Bruno uses language in a unique way, having no understanding of the actual nature of words. For example, calling Hitler “The Fury” and Auschwitz “Out-With.” 

It’s in because of the author’s unique stylistic choices that this young adult novel is as popular and effective as it is. While it would still be incredibly moving, if this novel was written from the perspective of an adult, it would be very different. Plus, John Boyne chose to compose the book from the perspective of a German child rather than a Jewish child.

Symbols in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas 

The Fence

The fence between Bruno’s home and the Auschwitz concentration camp is one of the first things that the young boy notices when they move into their new home. He doesn’t understand why it’s there or who the people are in the striped pajamas on the other side. It symbolizes the division that the Nazi party has created between those they believe are “not people at all” and the non-Jewish, German population.

The Pajamas

As a young boy, Bruno lacks a clear understanding of what’s going on in the world. This is perhaps seen no clearer than his belief that the people on the other side of the fence are wearing striped pajamas. At the end of the novel, he puts a pair on, with no knowledge of what that could mean for him, and slips under the fence into the concentration camp.


Bruno’s use of language, especially his mispronunciations, are symbols of his innocence and the incredible cruelty of bringing children into a situation like that in which Bruno finds himself. Similarly, Shmuel, the Jewish boy he becomes friends with, finds himself in a far more horrifying situation without a proper understanding of what’s going on. When his father and grandfather disappear, he doesn’t know where they’ve gone and believes that Bruno can help him find his lost family members somewhere in the camp. 


What is the conclusion of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

The conclusion of this young adult novel depicts Bruno and Shmuel dying in a gas chamber and, later, his father discovering what happened to his young son.

What lesson does The Boy in the Striped Pajamas teach us?

There are a few different lessons that one might take from this moving novel. One of the most important is that one should treat others as they would like to be treated for that, from a child’s perspective, everything is far simpler and has a more reasonable explanation than the truth.

What is ironic about The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

The novel contains a few examples of irony. One of the most important is the author’s use of dramatic irony. This occurs when a character in a novel, poem, or play doesn’t know something that the audience does. In this case, Bruno is completely in the dark about the nature of the Auschwitz concentration camp and who the people are on the other side of the fence.

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.
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