The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Study Guide

Welcome to the LitCharts study guide on John Boyne's The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Created by the original team behind SparkNotes, LitCharts are the world's best literature guides.

Brief Biography of John Boyne
From a young age, Boyne was interested in major literary works such as The Count of Monte Cristo and Treasure Island. He studied English Literature at Trinity College, Dublin, and earned a master’s degree in creative writing at the University of East Anglia. While studying there, he won the prestigious Curtis Brown prize for his writing. Boyne initially began his writing career as a short story writer, and his story “Entertainment Jar” was shortlisted for the Hennessy Literary Award. After publishing around 70 short stories, Boyne began to write novels, and published The Thief of Time in 2000. He continued to write novels for adults until 2004, until he wrote The Boy in the Striped Pajamas as a children’s novel in 2006. He has since published nine novels for adults and five novels for children.
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Historical Context of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is a fictional fable about a boy whose father is a Commandant in the German army during World War II, under the regime of the Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler. “Out-With,” where Bruno and his family move, is Bruno’s word for “Auschwitz,” a concentration camp in German-annexed Poland where Jews were imprisoned and murdered during the war. The German Nazi Party, which operated on an Anti-Semitic rhetoric, used these camps to kill six million Jews between 1942 and 1945 (as well as almost five million non-Jewish people, including homosexuals, Romani people, and the mentally disabled). Auschwitz was one of the deadliest and most infamous of these camps. The Allies liberated the prisoners of the camps towards the end of the war, between 1944 and 1945.
Other Books Related to The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
The Boy at the Top of the Mountain, Boyne’s novel published in October 2015, is about an orphaned boy who is taken in by his aunt in Austria during World War II. Other contemporary Holocaust novels focused around young adults are The Book Thief by Markus Zusak (2007), All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr (2014), and The Devil’s Arithmetic by Jane Yolen (1988). Much of the historical accuracy in these works of fiction are based on memoirs about the Holocaust, such as The Diary of Anne Frank (1947), Night by Elie Wiesel (a work of both autobiography and historical fiction, published in the early 1960s), and The Boy on the Wooden Box by Leon Leyson (2015).
Key Facts about The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
  • Full Title: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas
  • When Written: April, 2004
  • Where Written: Dublin, Ireland
  • When Published: 2006
  • Literary Period: Contemporary Young Adult
  • Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Setting: Berlin, Germany and Auschwitz, Poland
  • Climax: When Bruno, who seeks to understand the world on the other side of the fence in which his friend Shmuel lives, changes into a pair of the “striped pajamas” and climbs under the fence.
  • Antagonist: Bruno’s Father
  • Point of View: Third person omniscient, mostly from the perspective of Bruno, a nine-year-old boy.
Extra Credit for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Quick work. Boyne wrote the first draft of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas in two and a half days, hardly sleeping until he finished.

Film. The novel became a movie in 2008 under the same name, directed by Mark Herman.