In The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, how does the author make you sympathize with Maria. Use details from the text.

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne reveals the personal tragedy that can result from a lack of communication, a poor understanding of a situation and from childhood ignorance. Bruno is a trusting boy and the reason why he does not realize what may be happening is because it would be inconceivable to him to be so cruel. He will make the ultimate sacrifice because of this. 

Maria is far more aware than Bruno of the situation but she, like Bruno, feels powerless to do anything about it. In chapter one and two, the reader is able to form an opinion of Maria's obvious subservient position as the "overpaid" maid as she "kept her head bowed and never looked up from the carpet," and reminded Bruno that it is not her "place" to comment on her father's new job. The manner in which Bruno's father speaks to her is also apparent. She fulfills her role as the family's maid as far as he is concerned and so, despite the fact that Maria has worked for the family for about six years, no personal relationship has ever developed.  

However, it is clear that she is loyal to the family. In fact, Bruno considers her to be part of the family and suggests that she should express her opinion but in chapter six, she reminds him that his father "knows what is for the best." She is horrified at Bruno's comments and will not hear any criticism because, when she needed help, it was Bruno's father who helped her, many years before. He also helped her mother who had previously worked for Bruno's grandmother.

The reader becomes increasingly aware, through Bruno's comments, how trapped she really is and how she feels indebted to Bruno's father. Bruno has never even seen Maria out of her maid's uniform. It seems that this is her whole life. She has no real "life and a history all of her own." Maria does wonder how a man, who showed such compassion for her and her mother can be involved in what is apparently taking place. 

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

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