Study Guide

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Lies and Deceit

By John Boyne

Lies and Deceit

"Your father's job […] you know how important it is, don't you?" (1.16)

Bruno's mother asks Bruno this before they go to Auschwitz. He replies yes, but really he's thinking, uh, no. Bruno has no idea what his dad does except that he wears a uniform. Kind of strange for a nine-year-old not to know that, but then again, his mother is not exactly forthcoming.

"Out-With?" asked Bruno. "What's an Out-With?" (3.117)

We don't know about you, Shmoopers, but we have to wonder: Why can't Gretel pronounce the word Auschwitz? After all, she is German and it's not that hard of a word. When she makes the error, we realize that she's not a reliable source of information for Bruno.

"Ah, those people," said Father, nodding his head and smiling slightly. "Those people… well, they're not people at all, Bruno." (5.283)

Yikes. This pretty much sums up the Nazi ideology when it comes to Jews. Much like people enslaved in the United States, they weren't considered human beings, which made it justifiable (and logical) to get rid of them. Hearing it from Bruno's father definitely gives us the creeps, but it only serves to confuse Bruno even more.

"Just keep quiet about it, Bruno. Don't you know how much trouble you could cause? For all of us?" (6.342)

Maria's attitude toward Hitler, the Nazis, and everything going on at Auschwitz is feigned ignorance. She obviously knows the wrongs being committed, but prefers to stay silent rather than protest because Bruno's father helped her and her mother out. Does this make her silence justifiable, though? We'll let you sort this out for yourself.

"War is not a fit subject for conversation. I'm afraid we'll be spending too much time talking about it soon." (7.358)

Good one, Mom. In Bruno's household there is little to no talk about the war, unless it's done behind closed doors. Bruno hears his parents arguing about related issues, and Gretel studies the progress being made by Germany on her maps, but nobody ever sits down with Bruno to talk about war.

"Then this is what I am here to change […]. To get your head out of your storybooks and teach you more about where you come from. About the great wrongs that have been done to you." (9.508)

Thanks for nothing, teach. Herr Liszt claims that he'll teach Bruno all about the history of Germany and what's going on with the Jews, but Bruno stays very much in the dark. Either his teacher changed his mind, or Bruno is a really bad student.

Bruno was of the opinion that when it came to parents, and especially when it came to sisters, what they didn't know couldn't hurt them. (12.752)

Funny, because that's exactly the attitude Bruno's parents take toward him. Both mother and father think Bruno is better off not knowing what's happening at Auschwitz, even though atrocities are being committed right outside his window. What his family doesn't know is that his best friend is a Jewish kid in Auschwitz—which is kind of a big deal.

"They're very far away of course, but it looks like there are hundreds. All wearing the striped pajamas." (17.1160)

Here, Bruno explains to his father what he's seen from his window. This is the first time in which his father realizes that Auschwitz might not be the best place for a kid to grow up. Uh, ya think? We're amazed it took him over a year to come up with that brilliant opinion.

In his imagination he had thought that all the huts were full of happy families, some of whom sat outside on rocking chairs […]. (19.1270)

Bruno's naïveté and innocence are apparent in his thoughts here about Auschwitz. When he goes over to the other side to help Shmuel find his father, he sees up close how very wrong he's been. Nobody has prepared him to see deathly skinny people, the faces full of fear as soldiers point guns at prisoners.

[Bruno] didn't know what everyone looked so frightened about—after all, marching wasn't such a terrible thing-and he wanted to whisper to them that everything was all right […]. (19.1297)

In this moment, we really wish Bruno's parents (or some adult) had been honest with him. The fact that he feels no sense of danger while being marched by SS men certainly freaks us out. Not only do we know he's in a bad place, we know he's in for a bad ending.