What is Bruno's father and mother's relationship like in John Boyne's novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In John Boyne's novel The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Bruno's mother and father have a very congenial yet somewhat distant relationship due to the fact that his mother has a very submissive, subordinate relationship to her husband.

One place in which we see her submissiveness is in Chapter Eight, which recounts the moment Bruno last saw his grandparents, at Christmas time. It was at this time that Bruno's father had just been made Commander and been given a new uniform. Bruno's paternal grandmother, Nathalie, however, apparently sees the new uniform for what it really is, an excuse to think of one's self as superior and to cause a great deal of death and destruction. She chastises her son for getting involved in the Nazi Party, and Bruno's mother tries to pacify the situation by saying, "But, Nathalie, ... don't you think Ralf looks very handsome in his new uniform?" (Ch. 8). The comment of Bruno's mother is very revealing because it shows how devoted she is to her husband but also shows she is a bit oblivious to things going on around her. All she knows about things going on around her is her husband's own perspective about events, which shows just how submissive she is towards him. Only a woman who accepts a submissive, subordinate role would be so naive.

She further shows submission when she so speedily prepares the house for a visit from The Führer in Chapter Eleven. Plus, in Chapter Seven, we see the distance in the relationship between the two parents when she decides to tell Bruno's father that she cleaned his wounds rather than that his Jewish servant Pavel did so.

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