The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

This study guide will help you analyze the novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2006) by John Boyne. You can also find a summary of the text, detailed characterizations, as well as inspiration for interpreting the novel and putting it into perspective.

Bitte beachten Sie, dass wir auch eine Lektürehilfe für die deutsche Übersetzung haben

John Boyne (b. 1971) is an Irish novelist. He wrote novels for both adults and children. Some of his work includes: The Thief of Time (2000), The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (2006), and A Traveller at the Gate of Wisdom (2020). His novels have been translated into over 50 languages.

The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne, however, offers a unique reading of this subject. Boyne has his main character, Bruno, the son of a Nazi commandant, grow up in a world shaped by Nazism, which he does not understand. 

The novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne tells the story of 9-year-old Bruno, who grows up during World War II. In 20 chapters, the narrator describes the impressions and experiences of the atrocities from the Third Reich from the perspective of a child. This makes this novel an important part of Holocaust literature.

The main character Bruno moves with his family from Berlin to a house right next to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Wavering between obedience to his parents, who have forbidden him to approach the camp fence, and his childlike curiosity, Bruno decides to explore the fence after all. In the process, he befriends Shmuel, a prisoner of the same age. 

The friendship cheers Bruno up, since his life in the house is characterized by boredom and austerity. His father never has time for him because he only works. His sister is going through puberty and no longer wants to play with him. Bruno's mother loves her boy very much, but starts an affair with a young soldier. Therefore, the meetings of the two boys go unnoticed and disaster takes its course.

The monstrous and chilling reality of the Nazi era is portrayed through Bruno's naive eyes. For Bruno, all children are just children and all people are just people without distinctions of religion or race. Boyne has not only written a moving and touching narrative, but has created an award-winning masterpiece.


Here, you can read an extract from our study guide: 

Incomprehensible language

The communication between the characters in the novel is often not direct. Sometimes, Bruno does not understand certain situations because the adult characters, such as his father and mother, use words and phrases whose meaning Bruno does not know.

An example of this is the phrase "foreseeable future". When his mother tells Bruno that the new house will be their home for the "foreseeable future" (Chapter 2, 50%), he cannot make sense of this phrase. He does not know whether his mother means that they will spend only a few weeks, months, or years in Out-With.

Another word that Bruno...

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The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

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