The Innocence of a Child

John Boyne first captured my attention by introducing me to a young boy whose father oversaw the work at Auschwitz in a novel called The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Not only did the setting of the book capture my attention, but Boyne’s unique storytelling ability grabbed me by the throat. His ability to tell a story from the innocent perspective of a child enthralled me. Maybe because I remember those moments in my own life when I realized that my childlike perspective was flawed and that there was a whole world waiting for me to discover. I remember one moment in particular. My mother was shopping for groceries, and of course I was tagging along, making sure she got all the right foods. My mother used to pay for groceries with checks; in fact, she paid for most things with checks. Imagine that! So, this particular day I really wanted something (I cannot remember what) from the store, and my mom said she did not have enough money. My childhood mind had not yet separated checks and money. To me, checks and money were interchangeable currencies. Therefore, my solution was that she write a check. Problem solved. I saw the situation for its face value and procedded to make my judgement. My mother then took the time to explain to me the difference between money and checks. I felt enlightened! When I look back at the moment, I sometimes wish I could continue to operate in that pre-enlightenment innocence; how simple would life be! Although, I suppose there would be some unforeseen detriment….

Segway: I recently read a book, from the afore mentioned author, where the reader experiences every situation from the innocence of the main character, a ten year old boy. Noah Barleywater Runs Away is another of John Boyne’s books. It operates within the constraints of a child’s perspective, and yet again his ability to use the third person limited view does not disappoint the reader, even when the story rides on the coatails of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas In both cases, Boyne takes an ordinary child’s perspective and uses it to bring the reader to a world where situations are skewed, judgment is lacking, and innocence is everywhere.

In Noah Barleywater Runs Away, the reader is introduced to a ten year old boy who is clearly running away fom home but for an unclear reason. Noah does not take food, money, or any other type of provision with him on his journey, he is a child and has not thought of the unknown world that strethes out before him. The reader sees him encounter numerous oddities, none of which make much sense to the boy or the reader. Each town that Noah passes through on his journey away from home is not the town where Noah can settle down; instead they have trees that put up a fight when Noah reaches for an apple. That is not the sort of place a young by should live. Finally, Noah stumbles upon a toy shop where puppets, dogs, and donkeys come to life. Literally. The reader begins to understand that there is some sort of magical force at work, but Noah never acknowledges that magic. He simply sees things for what they are without questioning their actuality. Finally we meet an old man, a puppet maker. The old man tells Noah of his childhood, one where he has a cricket for a companion and a father he lets down. The reader’s mind should reach for the story of Pinnochio from the back of his or her mind. The boy, of course, sees nothing but a unique man with the most interesting of stories.

It becomes clearer to the reader exactly what is going on as the boy tells the old man about his mother and the true reason he is running away. The boy does not seem to think his reasons for running away are bad, but at this point, the reader should desperately want the boy to return home, and quickly. The overall moral of the story is only discovered toward the end of the book when the old man, the boy and the reader realize what it is that the boy must do: go home and see his mother who, although she has been acting strangely, is filled with love for her boy. The only way this synonymus discovey between characters and reader can occur is through the use of Boyne’s techniqe which allows the reader to have a third person limited point of view. He does not use this tecnique lightly, but rather as his main resource for giving the reader a true sense of innocence and discovery. Not only that, but the magical elements of the story are breathtaking. As the boy is learning about the old man’s past, doors speak, floorboards and refrigerators have feelings, and puppets turn into real boys.

Overall, Boyne’s novel is a refreshing piece of childhood for any reader, old or young. He captures the elements of innocence and discovery, all the while making the book a magical place to be.

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