This study guide will help you analyze the novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas (Pojken i randig pyjamas) (2006) by John Boyne. You can also find a summary of the text, detailed characterizations, as well as inspiration for interpreting the novel and putting it into perspective.
Excerpt from the study guide:
The fence of the camp "was very high, higher even than the house" (Chapter 4, 25%), and "there were huge wooden posts, like telegraph poles, dotted along it, holding it up" (Chapter 4, 25%). Therefore, it initially seems to be an impossible obstacle for Bruno after he has befriended Shmuel and wants to play with him. Initially, the fence is a spatial boundary that keeps Bruno and Shmuel apart.
But the fence also becomes a refuge and secret meeting place for the two boys. They have long conversations there and see these as a welcome distraction from their lives. During these numerous meetings with Shmuel, Bruno often expresses that he wants to come to Shmuel's side of the fence. He assumes he can play with other boys there.
Bruno wants to explore the other side. Shmuel, on the other hand, keeps trying to discourage him from this thought, protecting Bruno from a cruel reality. He only hints at what happens on his side of the fence and that there is nothing there that needs to be seen.
After his father disappears, however, Shmuel likes the idea of Bruno coming to the camp to help him with the search. He even supports Bruno's plan by bringing a pair of "pyjamas", as Bruno calls the prisoners' clothing.
The fence is not guarded. This makes passing the fence easier than previously thought. "Shmuel reached down and lifted the base of the fence" (Chapter 19, 43%), allowing Bruno to easily reach his side . The gap in the fence thus represents the gateway to another, hidden world whose secrets Bruno wants to explore. This leads to his death.
Shmuel, on the other hand, does not use the realization that there is a gap in the fence to escape from the camp and thus escape the humiliation and torture of the Nazis. In the end, both boys have no chance to leave the camp alive. Bruno's father, who wants to know what happened to his son, later also walks along the fence. There he finds the gap through which Bruno squeezed himself. The mystery of Bruno's disappearance is solved.
John Boyne himself expressed in 2006, when his book was published, " When you start reading this book, sooner or later you will arrive at a fence. Fences like this exist everywhere. We hope you never encounter such a fence."