The Boy in the Striped Pajamas | Study Guide

John Boyne

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas | Quotes


We don't have the luxury of thinking.

Mother, Chapter 2

Bruno's mother instills in Bruno the importance of blind obedience to powerful authority. She is sympathetic to Bruno, but she also attempts to train him to submit to those more powerful than himself. The themes of power and obedience are clearly evident. His mother's statement marks the beginning of Bruno's indoctrination into a way of life, which he will unknowingly subvert. He will not separate his heart from his mind. He will elevate friendship over blind obedience.


This isn't home and it never will be.

Bruno, Chapter 2

Bruno hates his new home at Out-With, mainly because he has left behind his close friends and grandparents. This statement emphasizes the theme of separation and foreshadows the situation in which Out-With will indeed cease to be a home for the family.


We should never have let the Fury come to dinner.

Mother, Chapter 5

Bruno's mother is outraged by Hitler's control over her family's life. Yet, no one dares to question him or exert agency even in their own home.


Those people ... well, they're not people at all, Bruno.

Father, Chapter 5

His father shares with Bruno, for the first time, something about the status of the people on the other side of the fence in the compound, which indicates the ferocity of Nazi anti-Semitism. Such judgment of and power over others accounts for the brutality of the guards toward the prisoners. Bruno's father tries to brainwash Bruno into understanding that some individuals are undeserving of compassion and consideration, which makes Bruno's visits to Shmuel all the more revolutionary. Bruno recognizes the similarities between himself and Shmuel, as well as their inherent equality.


Accept the situation in which you find yourself and everything will be so much easier.

Father, Chapter 5

Bruno's father encourages Bruno to be obedient and not break any rules. Again, the theme of power is evident, as Bruno's parents want him to avoid conflict in the household by submitting to power. However, while it is true that Bruno could have avoided death if he had never befriended Shmuel, he, also, would have denied his own humanity.


He has a lot of kindness in his soul, truly he does, which makes me wonder.

Maria, Chapter 6

Maria has serious trouble reconciling her employer's kind nature with the brutal work he does, though Bruno does not understand this comment. The theme of separation, in this instance, is metaphoric of the division of the public self from the private self.


Just because a man glances up at the sky at night does not make him an astronomer.

Pavel, Chapter 7

Pavel teaches Bruno not to judge a person simply by a task. This idea returns to the theme of separation. There can be different selves that manifest in different situations, just as Maria observes a separation between Bruno's father's innate kindness and his treatment of prisoners.


Standing there in your uniform ... Not even caring what it means really. What it stands for.

Nathalie, Chapter 8

Bruno's grandmother, Nathalie, admonishes Bruno's father (Ralf) for being part of the Nazi Party, which she rejects. Ralf's uniform is a glaring symbol of this part of his identity. Like Maria, Nathalie knows that the uniform does not reflect Ralf's better nature. Thus, the corrupting influence of power manifests in its ability to separate people from one another as well as someone from their own better nature.


We're superior.

Bruno, Chapter 10

Bruno rashly tells Shmuel that Germany is superior to all other countries. Bruno immediately regrets this statement, as he does not want to alienate his new friend. This idea comes directly from Bruno's tutor Herr Liszt, who furthers the brainwashing that permeates Bruno's home life. This statement is the only strong one made by Bruno that is related to the indoctrination he has received. Yet, he immediately regrets the statement. This quick change in attitude promotes the theme of friendship, and it shows Bruno's willingness to embrace others rather than separate from them.


We are correcting history here.

Father, Chapter 13

Father admonishes Bruno for his disinterest in studying history. He implies that because of the injustices done by enemies of the German state, namely the Jews, the family must be at Out-With to rid the German state of the problem. Bruno continues to receive indoctrination in the form of German nationalism. This continued attempt to convince Bruno that some must die so that others can prosper is a counterpoint to Bruno's visits to Shmuel, who clearly is not responsible for anyone's ills.


Because it's not healthy ... It's the first sign of madness.

Gretel, Chapter 14

Gretel responds to Bruno's weak excuse in trying to deflect from his accidental mention of his friend Shmuel. After Bruno refers to him as an imaginary friend, Gretel warns Bruno to be careful about talking that way. Gretel warns him that madness is viewed as a weakness and could get Bruno and his father in trouble with the authorities. Mental illness was just one more eugenic excuse to separate some individuals from the rest of society and exert power over, instead of compassion toward, an unwitting segment of the population.


What do you know of what goes on over there?

Father, Chapter 17

Bruno has been told by his father to accept the situation, that Germany is righting wrongs and that the inmates in the fenced area are not human. Nevertheless, Bruno's father is extremely worried that Bruno may know something about the activity of the camp. Bruno's father exhibits some shame in not wanting Bruno to associate him with the camp's true activity. Father wants to appear strong and ethical to his son, but the activities of the camp would undercut those values, causing a separation between his public self and his private self.


If I had a pair of striped pajamas ... I could come over on a visit.

Bruno, Chapter 18

Bruno recognizes the importance of clothing. It is a requirement for entry into Shmuel's world. Yet, in bearing Shmuel's persona, Bruno will also be subject to the horrors of the camp.


You wear the right outfit and you feel like the person you're pretending to be.

Bruno, Chapter 19

Bruno quotes his grandmother, who made the comment in relation to playacting. Bruno indicates that he feels as if he is like one of the people in Shmuel's community. Shmuel says, "A Jew, you mean" to which Bruno replies, "Yes." Out of friendship, Bruno, who recognizes for the first time that the prisoners are Jews, willingly puts himself in the same terrible conditions.


You're my best friend ... My best friend for life.

Bruno, Chapter 19

Bruno makes it clear to Shmuel that there is no friend more important than he is. Bruno may sense danger, and he wants Shmuel to know the depth of his appreciation for him. The triumph of friendship in the face of brutal authority occurs during this scene, which will cause the constructs of subservience to malevolent power to begin to crumble. Bruno's father's grief at the end of the story leaves him unable to continue with the killing at the camp.

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