The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Bruno is never heard from again. Soldiers search every part of the house and the village, and his clothes are found at the fence, but it seems as if he has vanished off the face of the earth. Mother stays in Out-With for some time, hoping Bruno will turn up. When she does return to Berlin, Gretel notices that Mother spends most of her time crying, and Gretel, too, misses Bruno very much. Father stays at Out-With for a year, but orders around the soldiers mercilessly and becomes very disliked.
Bruno dies anonymously, along with the other victims of the concentration camp. As these victims’ bodies were either left in mass graves or burned, and Bruno was wearing the “striped pajamas” of the other prisoners, his body is never identified as different from the rest. This is another metaphor for how, despite all the Nazi’s anti-Semitic rhetoric, there is truly no difference between human lives, regardless of race or religion. Strangely, Boyne’s narrator continues to speak as if through Bruno’s perspective even after Bruno’s death—Auschwitz is still “Out-With,” and Mother and Father are still referred to as such.
Themes
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Nationalism  Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Complicity Theme Icon
One day Father forms a theory about what happened to Bruno. He goes to the part of the fence where Bruno’s clothing was found, and when Father puts all the facts and his theories together, he collapses from the weight of his realization. A few months later, “different” kinds of soldiers come to Out-With and order Father to go with them. Still distraught from his realization as to what happened to Bruno, Father goes happily, as he no longer cares what happens to him anymore. The narrator states that that is the end of the story of Bruno and his family. “Of course,” the narrator says, “all this happened a long time ago and nothing like that could ever happen again. Not in this day and age.”
The narrator continues in Bruno’s voice of purposeful innocence and naiveté, so the “different” soldiers are never specifically named as the Allies. All of Boyne’s vague language regarding the Holocaust is an attempt to make his fable universal, and this point is especially emphasized in the bitingly ironic last lines of the book—ironic, of course, because atrocities are taking place at any given time somewhere in the world, and people seem to have learned few real lessons from the Holocaust. Thus the lessons of this book—the dangers of nationalism, racism, sexism, complacency, and ignorance—are meant to be applied to present situations, so as to keep history from repeating itself. Within the narrative itself, we are given few details of the nature of Father’s moment of realization—it’s unclear if Bruno’s death made Father realize that his thousands of other victims were valuable humans as well, or if he was simply overcome with emotion and essentially lost his sanity. Father’s punishment is never stated in the book, but he was likely tried at the Nuremberg trials and sentenced to death for his war crimes.
Themes
Innocence and Ignorance  Theme Icon
Boundaries  Theme Icon
Family and Friendship  Theme Icon
Nationalism  Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Complicity Theme Icon