The Boy in the Striped Pajamas


How is the theme of ignorance/innocence portrayed in the story?

Asked by
Last updated by jill d #170087
Answers 1
Add Yours


The theme of innocence is tied to that of Bruno's childlike misunderstanding of the tragedy through which he is living. His innocence prevents him from understanding, in the last chapters, the fate he is about to experience in the gas chamber. As he is marched along with the other prisoners, "he wanted to whisper to them that everything was all right, that Father was the Commandant, and if this was the kind of thing that he wanted the people to do then it must be all right" (210). Bruno is, of course, completely wrong: this is the sort of thing Father wants the Jews to do, but there is nothing "all right" about it. The very character in whom Bruno has faith is the one who is bringing about the deaths of so many, his own son included.

Childlike Misunderstanding of Tragedy

One of the ways Boyne establishes that the third-person narration is from Bruno's childish point of view is through the use of capitalization and misnaming of specific, recognizable names. For example, Bruno refers to his father's boss as "the Fury"; the reader must extrapolate that this is actually "the Furor," or Adolf Hitler. When Father prompts him to shout "Heil Hitler!" upon leaving the office at the end of Chapter Five, Bruno assumes this notorious Nazi salute is just "another way of saying, 'Well, goodbye for now, have a pleasant afternoon'" (54). Bruno understands that Father's office is "Out Of Bounds At All Times And No Exceptions," a phrase that he has memorized after hearing it many times from his parents, the reader imagines. Bruno's sister, Gretel, is introduced as being "Trouble From Day One" (21). This way of thinking about things so concretely, of making sense of a rule and applying it to all situations, is a characteristic of Bruno that identifies him as a child. The reader is encouraged to take on this childlike point of view through the use of capitalization. Because of the limits of the narrator, the reader is able to approach the horrors of the Holocaust as if he or she has no prior knowledge - much like Bruno. The reader is required to put together details Bruno notices in order to make sense of the larger issues at play.