Boy in the Striped Pyjamas
January 13th, 2010 Nathan Harder
Shaving Bruno’s hair is a focal point in the novel and a main contribution to his death at the end of the book. It also illustrates how we are, ultimately, all humans. Through Bruno, we improve our understanding of just how equivalent and identical we truly are. When Bruno is infected with lice from nearby Auschwitz, his father shaves his son’s head, much like the prisoners must undergo upon entrance.
“It turned out that both Gretel and Bruno had lice in their hair,…..then Father decided that the best thing was for him to start afresh and he got a razor and shaved all Bruno’s hair off, which made Bruno cry.” (p.183)
“…there were crowds of people sitting together in groups….they all had one thing in common….they all had shaved heads, which Bruno thought must have meant there had been an outbreak of lice here too.” (p.206)
Not only does this make Bruno resemble the prisoners, but it condemns him to his ultimate demise when, upon entering the camp, he is mistaken for a prisoner. He would have been easily recognized by his full head of hair and would have been returned to his father. Perhaps, had his father been more attentive towards his son, Bruno may have escaped his horrible fate. Bruno’s shaven head contributed in making him look like all the other children in the camp. This represents how even the son of the Commandant can be altered by a simple hair cut, and how he comes to resemble the very people about to be exterminated. As a result of this symbolism, the reader begins to understand how similar we truly are. We all have heads, arms and legs, we all speak a language, and we all have emotions. Maybe our religion is different, or we have different shades of skin, but we are ultimately the same. The ultimate irony is that Bruno’s father not only contributed to his son’s death, but he also emphasized the “humaneness” in Bruno, and in all of us.