Study Guide

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas Freedom and Confinement

By John Boyne

Freedom and Confinement

Perhaps surprisingly, in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, freedom and confinement apply to Shmuel and Bruno. Both are in places they were forced to go to, and both can't leave. Of course the gigantic difference is that Shmuel is in a concentration camp and Bruno is in a house. Shmuel is drastically confined—first to his house, then to a shared room, then a train, and eventually in Auschwitz. Bruno, however, has the freedom to walk out of his house when he wants and does not fear for his life.

In their confinement, though, both boys struggle with loneliness. And in the unlikely friendship they form, they both find a bit of freedom from their isolation. Now if you'll excuse us, someone must be cutting onions in the vicinity.

Questions About Freedom and Confinement

  1. How does Bruno's confinement in Auschwitz differ from that of Shmuel's? Don't limit yourself to physical differences—use the text to dig into emotional and psychological differences, too.
  2. Would you say that Bruno lives in a sort of prison? Why or why not?
  3. What do you make of Bruno giving up his freedom to join Shmuel on his side of the fence? What is the author trying to say with this?
  4. Do you believe Shmuel ever has a chance at freedom? Explain.

Chew on This

Bruno and Shmuel's confinements are ultimately too different to be considered comparable.

Having Bruno as a friend is a way for Shmuel to mentally escape Auschwitz and attain a sort of freedom.