John Boyne’s Ideologically Victimised Children

Özsevgeç Y.

in: Same World, Different Voices Children and Childhood in British and American Fiction, Alper Tulgar,Meryem Odabaşı, Editor, Çizgi Kitabevi Yayınları, Konya, pp.135-160, 2022

  • Publication Type: Book Chapter / Chapter Research Book
  • Publication Date: 2022
  • Publisher: Çizgi Kitabevi Yayınları
  • City: Konya
  • Page Numbers: pp.135-160
  • Editors: Alper Tulgar,Meryem Odabaşı, Editor
  • Recep Tayyip Erdoğan University Affiliated: Yes


John Boyne’s Ideologically Victimised Children 1

This chapter examines John Boyne’s best-selling book The Boy in Striped Pyjamas (2006) and

claims that racist ideologies like Nazism lead to the downfall of children who at that age are

expected just to play and dream. John Boyne, one of the prolific writers in British literature, tells the

story of nine years old boys named Bruno and Shmuel in The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas. The son

of a Nazi commander, Bruno, has to move from Berlin to a very close house to Auschwitz-

Birkenau, where he befriends Shmuel, one of the camp residents. During their heroic friendship,

they are unaware of the social inequality and the sadistic and destructive ideological policy of

Nazism. Nazi’s racist ideology and the authoritarian bourgeois father try to convince Bruno that the

people on the other side of the barbed wires are guilty, belong to the lower class, and do not deserve

any sympathy from Germans. As stated by Karl Marx, the oppression of the Fatherland shows the

reader that literature has no separate space, and literary works are not isolated from social and

political conditions.

Moreover, literature is a form of ideology that legalises the ruling class’s power, as in the case of

the child narrator Bruno who struggles to free himself from nationalistic ideologies. Thus, the role

of the author is significant to prevent literature from serving the ideology of the dominant class, the

Nazis in this case, and to challenge societal norms, which play a vital role in the victimisation of the

concentration camp inmates. So this paper focuses on analysing John Boyne’s novel in light of

Marxist literary criticism to show the Nazis’ oppressive ideological attitudes towards other classes

in the story and the victimisation of the innocent Bruno and Shmuel during the Holocaust.