In the following section, we introduce the most important characters in the novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne. We analyze their appearance as well as their traits and behaviors. Above all, we show their importance to the plot, and clarify their relationship.

The reader learns how Bruno experiences and describes the people in his life. He clearly expresses who he particularly likes and who he hates. He enjoys Shmuel’s company, even though he does not understand the other boy’s situation, and heavily dislikes Lieutenant Kurt Kotler and considers him frightening.

The characters in the novel are either supporters of Nazism, reject it, or are victims of this inhuman ideology. The father, for example, believes it is his patriotic duty to uphold the Nazi ideals. Bruno’s grandmother, on the other hand, openly disagrees with the father’s views and even cuts contact with the family. Pavel is a victim of the Nazi ideology, as he is a prisoner in the camp and is often mistreated. 

Bruno, the main character, occupies a special position in the novel, since he seems to have no idea what Nazism is. It quickly becomes apparent that all the characters are struggling with their own problems and pasts, but also have to adapt and find their way as part of society. Bruno’s mother is lonely and distracted and starts an affair with Kurt Kotler. Gretel, who is going through puberty, also has a crush on Kotler and distances herself from Bruno. The maid, Maria, supports Bruno, but also has a good opinion of his father and does not allow Bruno to say bad things about him. 

Other characters include Bruno’s grandfather, a former restaurant owner, and Herr Liszt, who is hired to teach Bruno and Gretel. Almost all the characters Bruno interacts with could have prevented his death.You can find an overview of all the characters in the novel on the character profiles page.

The text shown above is just an extract. Only members can read the full content.

Get access to the full Study Guide.

As a member of, you get access to all of the content.

Sign up now

Already a member? Log in