Lost Innocence in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne

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Evil can be glossed over by innocence but in the end subsumes it. This is vividly conveyed by John Boyne in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, a powerful narrative of lost innocence set in Nazi Germany. It all begins simply enough. Nine-year-old Bruno has to suddenly leave a familiar and beloved home where he could slide five floors down on a fine banister, and move with his parents and his twelve year old sister Gretel to a place called ‘Out With', where Father was going to be doing a very important job. ‘ The Fury' had dined with them the week before, and after that Bruno's father was given a brand new assignment, and as Bruno's mother told him, he would now have to wear a grander uniform than the one he had been wearing. So the family, with their entourage of staff and servants, leaves bustling Berlin. Sadly for Bruno, he has to also leave behind his three best friends, not to mention his beloved grandparents; he has to move far away to a much smaller, sequestered house with only Gretel (whom he thinks of as a Hopeless Case) for company. From his bedroom window, homesick Bruno can see groups of people in the distance, all in striped pyjamas moving about slowly behind a tall and endless wire fence. And because Bruno loves exploring, he soon sets out to find out more, although when he had asked his father who the people in the striped pyjamas were, his father had said that they were not people. The language and structure of this novel, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by the Irish writer John Boyne, labelled as young adult fiction in early editions, is deceptively simple. But this is definitely a book that adults must read; it is a fable set in living history that will jolt readers of all ages. Paradoxical While evil hiding among us is an ancient theme (as Agatha Christie once said), in this book evil is the base, glossed over by an innocence that is at one level redemptive, but at another level shocking. Bruno is the much loved child of a Nazi Commandant; but he is also an endearing little boy who adores his parents, is frustrated in typical sibling fashion with his pre-teen older sister, and in all aspects a solid little fellow; curious, full of energy and also trusting and innocent in a manner that sometimes seems a bit paradoxical for someone as intelligent as he is.

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