Symbolism: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

Latest Posts, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Year 8
Pavel- symbol of the victims of the holocaust
Boyne uses many symbols in his book  “The boy in the striped pyjamas” to highlight the cruelty of the Nazis or to describe in an interesting way life at Auschwitz. An example of the numerous symbols is the waiter Pavel. He symbolises the milions of Jews who were sent to concentration camps where hundreds died. Just like Pavel, who first was a doctor, these innocent people had to leave all their goods, houses and jobs to go and suffer in concentration camps. Many were also forced to work, especially towards the end of the Second World War when Germany had a lack of goods due to the continious war. Many died because of too much work and the small amount of food. Children and old people were weakest and many of them died, sometimes during the journies to the concentration camps. I think this is a very interesting symbol to describe the numerous Jews, victims of the horrible Holocaust. By Angelica Basso

In his book “The boy with the striped pyjamas” John Boyne uses many symbols, one of which particularly inspired me.  In contrast with other books on the Shoah ( (Hebrew for “destruction”), Boyne decides to put an idea as the main characterin his book. Many would say that it was Bruno, the commandant’s son, or Shmuel, the little polish boy in the camp. But what really Boyne wants is that innocence and ignorance are what the people think about after reading his book. This is demonstrated by the ignorance of little Bruno, who believes his father, and the innocence of both of them, neither knowing what really was going on and what was that people knew or not knew at those times. This symbolism has persuaded me to read further in the book; Boyne wants to emerge from what could be called a layer of banality and tragedy (the books of authors who tried to make a difference telling in stories about the Shoah). He wanted to open the readers eyes, by closing those  of two innocent little boys, not at all leaders in what was happening. By Zacc MassagrandeImage

In “The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas”, the author John Boyne uses many different symbols which convey various meanings. The one which mostly interested me, is the one played by Lieutenant Kotler. The soldier, in fact, is a sort of stereotype, meaning that, in the author’s mind, many of the high-graded soldiers were as cold, emotionless and horrible as this character of the book. Lieutenant Kotler represents the sort of prejudices which were thought of this type of men, which may really be true, but we don’t actually have the evidence that every single Lieutenant, Commandant, Tenant or other soldiers of greater importance, were as emotionless and pitiless as Kotler. Maybe some were exactly like this character, but maybe others were the exact opposite, hating their every action against innocent people, but being forced to behave in this way. We will never know, but I sincerely hope that so coldly hearted men existed in such great quantity. Giulia Spigai

In “The boy in the striped pyjama”, John Boyne uses many different symbols; one of these is the Star of David also known as Shield of David in Hebrew. There are many legends behind this symbol, the most common one talks about how a young warrior (which would eventually become King David) created his shield crossing two triangles and covering them with leather. At first it was used in Jewish religion, to wish good luck or to décor monuments, but during WW2 it became the symbol used by Nazis to recognise Jews, like a symbol of shame. John Boyne uses the Star of David in the book to highlight how even a little boy like Shmuel was discriminated because of his religion, showing how Jews had to live under the control of Nazis without having freedom.Allegra Guizzon

I think that one of the most significant symbol which I have found in this book is the “fence”. It symbolizes the destruction from the Holocaust when a mass of approximately six million Jews during World war II, led by Adolf Hitler, were killed in these horrible camps. It also symbolizes how the Nazis separated people (Jews). The house in Berlin represents the memories of Bruno – happy, sad, and tinted. Lots happened in that house and it is through the flashbacks of what happened in the house in Berlin that the reader is able to fit the mystery of the fence together themselves. Emanuele Angi

In John Boyne’s book ‘the Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’, the implication of symbolism is widely used.
Bruno represents the ignorance and innocence of the common German citizens during the 2nd World War, those who weren’t sure the extent of the ghastly deeds commited by German soldiers involving the genocide of the Jews.
In this case, as Bruno encounters puzzling events, he starts asking more questions, and he becomes more involved in his father’s job, whereas before he and his family moved to Auschwits, he never really questioned his father about his job and about what was happening with the Jews. Kalyan Wessendorp

In the boby in the striped pyjamas there is a lot of symbolism, for example the bench or the fence. In the boy in the striped pyjamas the fence for John Boyne represents the separation between two different worlds: the one of Bruno, ” happy “, ( he doesn’t really feel happy at Out With ) and the one of shmuel the boy that is the same age as Bruno but has been forced to live in horrible conditions and to grow up very quickly to adapt to a world of discrimination and racism, to “live” in the concentration camp on the other side of the fence. I also think that for Boyne the fence symbolises the innocence of both the boys, Bruno because he doesn’t know what shmuel represented in those days and Shmuel because he doesn’t know who Bruno’s father is. Both of the boys live in two separate worlds. Valentina Marini

I think that one of the most significant symbol which I have found in this book is the “fence”. It symbolizes the destruction from the Holocaust when a mass of approximately six million Jews during World war II, led by Adolf Hitler, were killed in these horrible camps. It also symbolizes how the Nazis separated people (Jews). The house in Berlin represents the memories of Bruno – happy, sad, and tinted. Lots happened in that house and it is through the flashbacks of what happened in the house in Berlin that the reader is able to fit the mystery of the fence together themselves. Greta Sbirziola

In ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ John Boyne uses many symbols which stand for bigger topics. A very interesting example of this is the symbolism he uses when he talks about the barbed wire because he wants to show us how the camp is divided from Bruno’s house, but even how the Jews were divided from the rest of the people. It shows the division that the Nazis wanted to have from Jewish people. Barbed wire is also a wire with clusters of short, sharp spikes set at intervals along it, used in this case, as a sort of obstacle. This shows the harsh way that the Nazis kept the Jews away from the rest of the population. Elena Nalon


5 thoughts on “Symbolism: The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

  1. In the book “The boy in the striped pajamas” the author uses various devices to transmit the story’s significance and convey strong emotions. One of these devices is symbolism. Throughout the whole book, there are many examples of symbolism. However, the one that mostly stands out regards the fence between Bruno’s new home and “Out-With”. Analyzing its meaning, we can see how it shows both division between the “German world” and the “Jewish world”; and the Jews’ forced isolation in an appalling, foreign place. Also, there is a connection between the building of the fence and the Holocaust: the fence was voluntarily positioned there and in the same way the Jews were deliberately persecuted and ruthlessly brought to destruction by a single man’s whim.
    Maddalena Rupnik

  2. The symbolism in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas goes far beyond the simple symbolism of the fence.

    I believe that one could make the assertion that Boyne specifically did not have Shmuel describe the horrors of the concentration camp with Bruno because

    1. He wanted the reader to imagine for themselves how horrible and ghastly the treatment could have been. He wanted the reader to fill in the blanks left by Shmuel when Bruno changes the subject on several occasions so that it would leave us wondering and possibly research and find out for ourselves unless we already know, and then the images come to mind and we are horrified.

    2. The gaps of information also represent the Jewish voice. Shmuel and Pavel represent the prisoners but Shmuel is basically silent and Pavel has no voice at all except for the kindness he shows to Bruno after Bruno falls and hurts his knee. The Jews’ experiences are not given voice as they were during the Holocaust.

    On page 130, Bruno and Shmuel are talking about his arrival at Auschwitz. He tells Bruno that his mama was taken away. Bruno reacts by thinking “it didn’t seem like such a terrible thing to him, and after all much the same thing had happened to him.”

    – Why wouldn’t Bruno ask where his mother went when they took her away? How could he liken Shmuel’s living in the Krakow ghetto to his being forced to move? The simple fact is, he chose to look the other way.

    On page 139, Shmuel tells Bruno the soldiers don’t like people getting better. Instead of asking what Shmuel means, he changes the subject once again.

    -Why wouldn’t a normally curious boy ask where in the world the boy’s mother went??

    On page 140, Shmuel tells Bruno “You don’t know what it’s like here.” Bruno responds by changing the subject and asking Shmuel if he has any sisters. “pretending that he hadn’t heard that because then he wouldn’t have to answer.”

    -Bruno chose to ignore Shmuel’s invitation to ask what it’s like on the other side of the fence. Again, unlike the curious boy that Bruno is. You could make the case that Bruno is ignoring this because he doesn’t want to believe his father could be in charge of the bad things going on over there.

    On page 149, Lieutenant Kotler has obviously beaten Pavel to death, but all that is described is “What happened then was both unexpected and extremely unpleasant. Lieutenant Kotler grew very angry with Pavel and no one- not Bruno, not Gretel, not Mother and not even Father- stepped in to stop him doing what he did next, even though none of them could watch. Even though it made Bruno cry and Gretel grow pale.
    -Again we are not given the details because the Jew’s experience is not given. Their voice is lost.

    Maria the maid is a symbol of all of the people who weren’t Jews but who were too afraid to do something.

    Grandmother represents the people who disagreed with the Nazis. Of course, she dies in the novel as did anyone who openly disagreed with the Nazis.

    I believe that if you read this book or use it in the classroom, it can be worthwhile if you point out and discuss the symbolism in this way.

    Otherwise, if you take it at face value, there are so many things that are inaccurate that it is extremely offensive to any Holocaust survivor.

  3. Dear teacher,
    It is a great feeling to be complimented by another teacher. That too about notes on literature. I find that your last post was a long time ago. Lazy? Not worth it. Write write and write.
    I have posted some more notes today on a poem which can be called the hardest in the text. Please read and comment and use it in any way you like.
    Bye the way where are you from and what do yo do?

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