The boy in striped pyjamas written by John Boyne is a story about a young boy who is the son of a commandant in a German concentration camp

The boy in striped pyjamas written by John Boyne is a story about a young boy who is the son of a commandant in a German concentration camp. The story is told by Bruno, a nine year old boy, which concerns human brutality, followed by loyalty, courage, and love which are recurring themes read throughout the novel. Bruno is largely shielded from the reality of WWII, therefore displaying his childlike innocence, which is also one of the most important themes of the book.
One of the ways Boyne builds up that the third-person narration is from Bruno’s childish perspective by using capitalisation, using malapropisms which is the act or habit of misusing words ridiculously, especially by the confusion of words that are similar in sound¹/the incorrect naming of particular unmistakable names. For example, Bruno frequently refers to his Fathers boss as ” ‘the fury’ who once came for dinner”; Readers who know that Auschwitz was a Nazi German death camp must extrapolate that it is actually ‘the Führer’, or Adolf Hitler who was the man in charge of the shameful concentration camp. When Bruno’s Father prompts him to shout “Heil Hitler!” upon leaving his office, Bruno assumes this dishonourable Nazi salute was another way of saying “good-bye for now, have a pleasant afternoon.” Bruno’s older sister Gretel was first introduced as being “trouble from day one.” This way of cogitating things 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 his capitalisation. Because of the constraints of the narrator, the reader approaches the horrors of the holocaust as if she or he has no prior understanding- much like Bruno.
Since Bruno’s native language would presumably be German, Boyne’s ominous malapropisms would not make any sense, but in English, they do. Bruno’s cluelessness seems a bit overdone, even for a protected child like himself. Bruno seems more like a five or six year old, not a privately tutored nine year old. The reader is required to put together details Bruno describes in order to make sense of the larger issue at play. In chapter three Gretel tells Bruno that the place they are now living in is called “Out-With,” and this is what he continues to call it throughout the story. It is a clear misunderstanding of the name Auschwitz, but by not referring to the concentration camp by its proper name, John Boyne avoids specificity to a certain degree. More into the story, Bruno does not understand the harsh terms that Lieutenant Kotler called Pavel, and later Shmuel. By not specifically naming the word, Boyne allows the reader to take on Bruno’s childlike perspective and suggests the universality of this communication. Lieutenant Kotler could be any soldier during any time of war, shouting derogatory terms to dehumanise a victim of any genocide.
By using malapropisms and mistakes Bruno makes the circumstances even more ironic and gives an insight on how ignorance and innocence change the world completely. The irony of the situation, a child whose father runs a German death camp, creates emphasis on the ignorance of a child. Bruno’s misunderstandings of what is going on in the war causes curiosity in what ‘the fury’ and ‘Out-with’ is. If narrated by an adult, it wouldn’t be as intriguing and the theme of war would not emerge as much.
“It’s so unfair. I don’t see why I have to be stuck over here on this side of the fence where there is no one to talk with and no one to play with, and you get dozens of friends and are probably playing for hours every day. I’ll have to speak with father about it.” –Bruno
In his first conversation with Shmuel, Bruno uncovers how little he comprehends about the circumstances in Auschwitz. This quotation represents an instance of dramatic irony, in which the reader must comprehend that Bruno had a backwards conception of the way things were in the concentration camp. While the circumstance is uncalled for, it is Shmuel who is ‘trapped’ on the wrong side of the fence. This quote speaks about Bruno’s innocent misconception of the Holocaust and in addition his purity at that point of the story.
Bruno’s naïve misunderstanding of the tragedy through which he was living in proves his innocence which prevented him from understanding the fate he was about to experience in the gas chambers. ‘As he was marched along with the other prisoners, he wanted to whisper to them that everything was alright, that his father was the commandant, and if this was the kind of thing he wanted the people to do then it must be all right.’ Bruno is, of course, completely mistaken. This was the sort of thing his father wanted the Jews to do, but there was nothing ‘alright’ about it. The very character whom Bruno had faith in was the one bringing about the deaths of so many, his own son included.