set of striped pajamas behind a barbed wire fence

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne
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After talking to Maria, how has Bruno's opinion of her changed?

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After talking to Maria, Bruno discards his previous opinion of her as a non-entity. Previous to their interaction, Bruno had regarded the family maid as a one-dimensional character: she was just a household servant. To Bruno, Maria existed to clean the house, wash the clothes, shop for groceries, cook, and...

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After talking to Maria, Bruno discards his previous opinion of her as a non-entity. Previous to their interaction, Bruno had regarded the family maid as a one-dimensional character: she was just a household servant. To Bruno, Maria existed to clean the house, wash the clothes, shop for groceries, cook, and obey every command given to her by household members.

Until their conversation, Bruno never expected Maria to have a life beyond her duties.

So, when Bruno voices his displeasure with living at "Out-With," he is surprised at Maria's reaction. For her part, Maria chooses her words carefully and tells Bruno to submit himself to his father's decisions.

She tells Bruno that his father has a compassionate side. It was Bruno's father who took her in when she needed a job, a place to live, and food to eat. Maria tells Bruno not to be so quick to judge his father's rationale for moving the family to "Out-With."

While talking to her, Bruno begins to realize that Maria has feelings, as well, and that she probably misses her friends and family in Berlin as much as he does. Yet, she has enough self-possession to refrain from voicing her private opinions about her employer's decisions. It is at this point that Bruno gains a clearer conception of Maria's humanity and that she is an individual in her own right.

We can tell that Bruno's opinions about Maria have changed after he scolds his sister for her attitude of entitlement.

"Run me a bath, Maria, will you?" she asked.
"Why can't you run your own bath?" snapped Bruno.
"Because she's the maid," said Gretel, staring at him. "That's what
she's here for."
"That's not what she's here for," shouted Bruno, standing up and marching over to her. "She's not just here to do things for us all the time, you know. Especially things that we can do ourselves."

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In Chapter 6, Bruno approaches Maria and asks her if she hates living at Out-With as much as he does. Maria does not answer his question and talks about the old house when he asks her if she likes Out-With again. Bruno calls his father stupid, and Maria looks horrified. She tells him that he must never say that about his father again because he is a good man. Maria explains how Bruno's father gave her a job and took care of her mother's funeral. As Maria is explaining to Bruno her life story and background, Bruno begins to gain perspective into who Maria is as a person. He begins to see her as a person with a history and not just the family maid. Maria mentions that Bruno's father has a kind soul, and wonders how he could give orders to slaughter innocent Jewish people on an everyday basis. She keeps her thoughts to herself and tells Bruno it is best if he does not verbalize his feelings.

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Bruno comes to recognize Maria as a human being, with a past and stories of her own.  He no longer solely sees her as a "hired help" or as a mere servant.  This is why he admonishes Gretel who says that being a servant is "her job."  Bruno's scope of compassion widens when he hears Maria's story and for a moment he is able to see past his own frustration and state of being.  Bruno always had respect for Maria, and does see her as "one of the family."  However, her story compels him to have a deeper appreciation of who she is as a human being.  Bruno begins to understand her “with a life and history all of her own.”  This is what causes him to gain complexity and depth in how he sees her.  It is noteworthy because Bruno is starting to develop consciousness of the world around him and the people who compose that world.  He is starting to become more aware of their own narratives and how their lives are fundamentally more difficult than his. He also displays a sense of empathy with Maria that reflects Bruno's fundamental desire to forge social solidarity with others.  All of these traits are going to come into play with his friendship with Shmuel and are displayed towards Maria once he hears her story.

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