Study Guide

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas What's Up With the Ending?

By John Boyne

What's Up With the Ending?

Okay, so technically the ending is only one line, but we think it's better served in two, so here you go:

Of course all this happened a long time ago and nothing like that could ever happen again.

Not in this day and age. (20.1322-1323)

Hopeful much? Remember: At this point, we know Bruno has died during an act of friendship along with Shmuel, so we've seen the Holocaust literally destroy two completely innocent children. And this violence feels pretty exceptional, right? That seems to be what these last two lines are crossing their fingers for, anyway.

But while these last two lines read like reassurance, in doing so, they subtly encourage readers to question their validity. They're all, this is true… right? And as readers, as we try to affirm this, we find ourselves thinking ofother genocidal campaigns that have happened since the end of the Holocaust—in Darfur, for instance (though Darfur is only one of many examples). As this happens, we realize that while the scale of the Holocaust may not have been repeated, the violent instincts underlying it are alive and well.