In the book The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Pavel reveals something about himself that Bruno finds truly astonishing. What is this piece of information? How do you think this change in circumstances came about for Pavel? 

Expert Answers

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After making a swing out of a tire and some rope, Bruno swings too high and falls out of the tire.  Pavel scoops him up and carries him to the kitchen for some first aid.  Naturally, Bruno wants his mother, but Pavel tells him that his mother hasn’t returned, so he will have to bandage the leg.  Bruno is really concerned.

Pavel washes the cut and assures Bruno that

“It won’t even need stitches.” (pg 80)

After he bandages the leg, he tells Bruno to sit for a while and rest the leg.  Bruno starts asking questions of Pavel.  Bruno thinks he may still have to go to the doctor, but Pavel says that will not be necessary.  Bruno says,

“How do you know? ... You’re not a doctor.” (pg 82)

That is when Pavel astonishes Bruno with the information that he is, indeed, a doctor.  Bruno doesn’t understand why a doctor would clean carrots and wait tables for the Commandant. 

The reader never totally finds out any more about Pavel.  He came from Poland and was a doctor in that country.  We learn from Shmuel that when the Germans invaded that country, they arrested all the Polish Jews and brought them to the prison camp by train.  It can be inferred that Pavel arrived the same way. When Bruno asks him when he arrived at “Out-With”, Pavel responds,

“I think I’ve always been here.”  (pg 84)

Bruno misinterprets it to mean that he was born at Auschwitz.  Pavel means that it feels like forever since he left his homeland.  Later in the story, Bruno asks Maria if Pavel was a doctor.  Maria tells him,

“Pavel is not a doctor any more.... But he was.  In another life. Before he came here.” (pg 137)

After Bruno promises not to tell anyone, Maria shares the story of Pavel with him.  Again, the reader is not privy to that conversation.

Then Bruno asks Shmuel if he knows of Pavel since they live in the same encampment.  Shmuel tells Bruno,

“The soldiers don’t normally like people getting better. usually works the other way round.” (pg 139)

That is the reason Pavel is not allowed to practice medicine in the encampment.

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