set of striped pajamas behind a barbed wire fence

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

by John Boyne

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Bruno feels that Maria is part of the family. What does it show us about Bruno? How is Bruno contrasted with his father?

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The fact that Bruno considers Maria a member of the family shows that he has a good heart, like his father used to have.

Bruno is unhappy at Auschwitz.  He misses his cushy life in Berlin, but most of all he feels lonely.  He even resorts to talking to the maid, Maria, in desperation when she comes into his room with his laundry.  He asks her if she agrees that everything is terrible there.  He is too young to really understand what he is asking, and she is not sure how to respond.

Maria opened her mouth to say something and then closed it again just as quickly.  She seemed to be considering her response carefully, selecting the right words, preparing to say them, and then thinking better of it and discarding them altogether. (Ch. 6)

Bruno considers Maria part of the family, since she has been around since he was very little.  She respects Bruno’s father because he was kind to her and her family, and she warns Bruno not to say anything negative about her father.  She is clearly trying to protect him.  She appreciates that Bruno’s father used to be a good man.  She understands that somewhere deep inside him, the same man who helped her family is there.

“He has a lot of kindness in his soul, he truly does, which makes me wonder ….” (Ch. 6)

When Bruno says she is part of the family, Maria responds that his father does not feel the same way.  Yet she also is protective of Bruno’s father and considers him a good man.  She is worried that the Nazis might hear negative comments and Bruno’s father might face repercussions.

Bruno's father's cold nature seems to be a response to the war.  Sometimes good people have to do bad things, or look the other way, in order to survive.  Although Bruno is too young to understand what is going on, his observations seem to show us this.  During World War II, many Germans were swept up in the Nazi world without really wanting it.

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